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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Good grammar is important for everyone, not just journalists

There is a notion that it is important to have good writing skills, which would include a sound knowledge of the rules of grammar, only if one wants to become a journalist.

Here is a brilliant post on the Harvard Business Review website that puts paid to that notion. Titled "I Won't Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here's Why" and written by entrepreneur Kyle Wiens, who calls himself a grammar stickler, the piece will come as an eye-opener to many young people who have only a passing acquaintance with grammar. Wiens writes:

Everyone who applies for a position at either of my companies ... takes a mandatory grammar test. Extenuating circumstances aside (dyslexia, English language learners, etc.), if job hopefuls can't distinguish between "to" and "too," their applications go into the bin.

And then he explains, in words that warm the cockles of my heart, why good grammar is important for everyone:

[G]rammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn't make grammar unimportant. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can't tell the difference between their, there, and they're.

Good grammar makes good business sense — and not just when it comes to hiring writers. Writing isn't in the official job description of most people in our office. Still, we give our grammar test to everybody, including our salespeople, our operations staff, and our programmers.

On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?

Wrong. If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use "it's," then that's not a learning curve I'm comfortable with. So, even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great programmer who cannot write.

Read the article in its entirety here.

ADDITIONAL READING: On Ragan's PR Daily, "12 unforgivable writing mistakes".

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