One semester when I was teaching a media-writing course, I handed a quiz back and one of the students blurted out, with a mix of exasperation and fear, “I didn’t know grammar counted.” I replied, of course it counts, because if you are going to write for a living, your writing needs to look professional.
Since then, I’ve encountered a few articles and studies that emphasize the importance of clear, clean writing in the professional world – and provide valuable advice to students (or anyone who writes).
The advice coalesces into three main points:
- Good grammar is good for your career.
- Good grammar is good for your business.
- Good grammar is good for your love life.
1. Helping your career. A Harvard Business Review article, “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why,” is self-explanatory. But here’s author Kyle Wiens’s bottom line: “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.”
He’s right: Like it or not, fair or not, people DO judge you by your language, hence the proliferation of snarky websites making fun of people who misspell words, misuse apostrophes and use far too many quotation marks.
Wiens is not the only hiring manager who cares about correct language, though. Writing for Forbes, Brent Beshore lists 13 Little Things You’re Doing to Sabotage Your Success. No 1.? Grammar. “Misspellings, lack of capitalization, and generally poor grammar say you’re uneducated, inattentive to detail, or, frankly, just don’t care, ” Beshore says. “Poor grammar is like a giant fluorescent warning sign that says: ‘Steer clear.’”
And employers do steer clear: a poll of U.K. employers found that typos on a resume are judged more harshly than showing up late, dressing sloppily or even swearing during an interview.
Mark O’Toole has put together a neat slideshow called Congratulations Graduate! Eleven Reasons Why I Will Never Hire You that helps students recognize the pitfalls that will lose them a job. No. 8? You didn’t proofread. “If you can’t eliminate bad grammar or misspellings from your resume or cover letter,” the next slide says, “how can I expect you to write an error-free report for a client?”
2. Helping your business. Once you have a job, grammar doesn’t fly out the window. For people to trust your business, your communication needs to be polished to a high gloss. A British study found that a majority of people wouldn’t buy from a website that had grammar or spelling errors on its website or marketing communication; they said they wouldn’t trust such a company to provide good quality service. A survey of real-estate buyers found that nearly half would be less inclined to look at a house for sale if its online listing contained spelling or grammar mistakes. And in a social media survey, bad spelling and grammar was listed by users as the No. 1 turn-off.
3. Helping your love life. The “romantically” in the headline wasn’t just clickbait: Good grammar is a plus in online dating. A poll of 1,700 online daters found that 35 percent of respondents thought good grammar was sexy and 43 percent thought bad grammar was a turn-off. And a survey of 5,000 single people by Match.com found that after personal hygiene, online daters – 88% of women and 75% of men – judged potential matches by grammar.
So, if you are job-hunting, hoping to increase your business, or trying to find love, make sure your writing is error-free for the best chances at success.
UPDATED Feb. 29, 2016