It’s taken me years to get over my compulsive need to correct other peoples’ grammar and spelling. It’s the hallmark of a snobby English major to walk around, oversized vocabulary on his sleeve, interjecting himself into conversations with a smug “Actually…” before making some banal statement about how something should be written or said. I loved being that guy for a few years in college. Loved it.
By now, though, I’ve learned that it’s just not cool. Nobody likes that guy. I hate remembering that guy. More than that, though, it’s an endless uphill battle to be the person trying to keep everyone around you communicating “correctly,” especially in the business world. That said, it’s remarkable how just a little bit of effort in brushing up on your basic writing skills can make the difference between a meaningful connection and somebody skipping right over what you have to say because they’re too hung up on how you said it.
Because on the Internet, everybody is a writer. I’m not just talking about things like copywriting or blogging or posting social media updates. You can hire professionals to do things like that for you. But in those moments when any given professional has to write an email to a customer, or whip together a proposal, or write slides for a presentation, there’s no outsourcing to be had.
In those moments when you can’t help but write something, here are a few reasons why you should actually embrace your inner grammar snob:
1. Clarity in writing is crucial for quick communication.
When you have to write an email or a report for your boss, it’s probably the last thing you want to be doing with your time. There’s a reason we all struggle so much with responding to emails in a timely manner, or even reading lengthy office memos and reports and RFPs. That means you have an opportunity to make sure your emails–regardless of how short or long they might be–are quickly absorbed. Proper grammar exists to help make sure readers understand a writer’s meaning, and good punctuation makes it quicker for reader and writer to move on.
2. If someone can’t understand your meaning, you may lose their attention.
On that topic, it’s important to understand how crucial things like commas and proper word choice are in making sure your reader understands exactly what it is you have to say. I can’t tell you how often I’ve received emails from people that are just one long, comma-free, period-free run-on sentence. It’s mentally exhausting to have to read emails like that one word at a time to understand what the writer actually meant to say. You’d better believe that if someone has to exert a lot of time or energy in deciphering your bad writing, that’s time and energy they won’t be spending doing whatever it is you’re asking them to do in the first place.
3. If your team is misrepresenting your ideas with bad writing, it reflects poorly on you.
Bad writing in business is even more difficult to accept when it isn’t yours. Leaders and members of work teams will spend a lot of time working on something together: maybe it’s an approach to an RFP, or a pitch for a new client, or an HR policy for the whole company. When somebody leaves that meeting with the responsibility to communicate that work to other people, you shouldn’t have to worry that bad grammar will result in your prospects or employees misunderstanding your intent. Instead of just the writer, the whole team ends up in a tight spot.
If you and your team are in need of a quick refresher in the basics of good writing (whether it’s copywriting or something more general), check out our Writing Workshops. We’ve designed our Grammar and Style Crash Course to help anybody improve their writing skills in just a few short hours.