Grammar: some of us are good at it, while others need a little more practice remembering the rules. As a former journalist and now a writing graduate student, good grammar has always been a must. If I lacked grammatical skills, finding a job would be nearly impossible. But after interning in several different offices, I’m surprised by the number of bosses who have said, “We really need a grammar guru on staff.”
There seems to be a misconception that good grammar only matters if you are a writer. Some people think good grammar doesn’t apply to e-mails, Facebook posts or text messages. But grammar is not becoming less important to managers or potential clients — it’s actually becoming more important in the digital age. The CEO of iFixit and founder of Dozuki, Kyle Wiens, says he won’t hire anyone who uses poor grammar, including web programmers. Every employee who works for him takes a grammar test:
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.”
So why does it matter if a graphic designer or web programmer has good grammar, when most likely they’d just be sending e-mails? According to Wiens, good grammar says a lot about who you are and what you pay attention to:
I hire people who care about those details. Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important. And I guarantee that even if other companies aren’t issuing grammar tests, they pay attention to sloppy mistakes on resumes. After all, sloppy is as sloppy does.”
All of us can understand the occasional slip on an e-mail or web post, but when it comes to your resume and communication with major clients, take some time to read over your work. If you’re someone who works in a creative industry and uses social media to build a platform, make sure what you’re posting adequately reflects your attention to detail. In a competitive job market, the little things matter.
I wasn’t always great with grammar and sometimes I still make mistakes. Fortunately, I’ve spent six years in school studying grammar, so I’ve had practice. If you need to brush up on your skills, there are plenty of textbooks and college courses out there that can help. I keep all of my undergraduate and graduate grammar and style books near my desk. My favorites are A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker and Rhetorical Grammar by Martha Kolln and Loretta Gray. If you don’t have a book nearby and are not sure about something, try searching it on Google. There are a lot of great grammar sites out there, like Grammar Girl.
Grammar doesn’t need to be your strongest skill, but you shouldn’t ignore it and hope it won’t ever be an issue. Even with technological advances, we have to write to communicate, and to communicate well you have to write well. Just as you should present your best self in your appearance and speech, you should present your best self in your writing.
To hear more of how a CEO feels about grammar, read Mr. Wiens full blog post on the importance of good grammar.