Kyle Wiens, the CEO of the online, global repair manual, iFixit, is one such employer who places grammar at the top of the list of must-have qualities in employees. In an article he wrote to validate the importance of grammar in the work place, he says, “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.”
Because of this view, Wiens requires that each potential employee, regardless of his or her prospective department in the company, take a grammar test before being hired. He also states in his article, “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.” As this CEO points out, good grammar can be indicative of other beneficial attributes of job candidates. It shows that you have the ability to learn something that may be difficult for you. Everyone has a learning curve, and it’s important that employers have faith in yours. However, it does not necessarily follow that poor grammar indicates the lack of necessary or desired skill sets. For some, writing grammatically-correct sentences is simply challenging. It’s accepted in many lines of work that some people aren’t great at math, and it’s often a non-issue for those people; those who suffer through grammar lessons, however, typically aren’t extended the same amount of understanding.
… But it Might Not Matter to Everyone
A New York Times writer, John McWhorter, argues against Wiens’ idea that proper grammar is a necessary attribute in employees of all job descriptions. Though he recognizes the importance of good grammar when it is necessary to do a specific job well, he says in an article, “After we pat ourselves on the back for upholding grammar standards, how many of us can really justify barring someone from a decent job because he or she isn’t always clear on the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re?’”
If you’re on the fence about whether you should pay more attention to grammar, below are some examples of how grammar can help you succeed in the work place no matter what type of work you do:
We aren’t always successful at saying what we’re trying to convey. When reading an email, note, or memo, it’s easy to get caught up on a sentence that isn’t structured properly or that has misused or misplaced words or punctuation. To be sure that the people we’re trying to reach understand what we’re saying, it’s necessary to pay attention to how we say it. If what we write is confusing and difficult to understand, then, often times, the people reading what we have to say will feel as if they’re translating text.
Proper grammar can help ensure messages are delivered and received promptly. Good grammar helps to lessen confusion when an employee decides to file a complaint, send a message to colleague, or voice his or her opinion in a presentation or meeting. Delivering a grammatically-correct message can also reduce time wasted on translation and follow-up, potentially leading to higher productivity.
However, the ability to send a brief, concise message can now be just as valuable as sending one that follows strict grammar rules. As long as a message is clear, the ability to quickly convey meaning using shorthand has become important in the workplace, especially as communication mediums such as Twitter become commonplace forms of professional communication.
Shows a sense of responsibility
Employees who are entrusted with the task of representing a company through any form of the written word are assumed to have a higher level of responsibility and therefore must be what you might call grammatically responsible. A company’s image is crucial to its operations, relationships, and success, and whoever is responsible for taking care of that image must be able to meet the standards required by other organizations in addition to his or her own employer.
Those who utilize proper grammar may be more likely to succeed in the workplace, as the way that they communicate reflects a high level of professionalism that clients, employers and colleagues will notice. Demonstrating strong communication skills could be one of the main factors that leads to a promotion in title or pay in the future.
Attention to detail
Those who pay attention to the details of grammar are expected to pay close attention to and care about details of assigned tasks. While the misuse of grammar does not necessarily indicate that a person does not pay close attention to detail in other instances, using proper grammar is proof that a person is detail-oriented.
Grammar doesn’t always have the final say in whether you land a job or are passed over. It depends entirely on the views of each employer, and it’s up to you to decide whether or not you pay extensive heed to grammar. Though it’s nowhere near the only thing that matters when applying for jobs, it may be safest to take the time to improve or touch up grammar skills, as you can never be sure whether you’re applying at a company that cares about your use of apostrophes and commas or not.
Whether you decide to pay closer attention to grammar or not, I would recommend that everyone know how to correctly use the following, as they are some of the most frequently-made grammatical errors:
It’s = Contraction of “it is” / Its = Possessive
Example: “It’s raining today.” / “The company sold its product.”
Their = Possessive pronoun / There = A place or pronoun / They’re = Contraction of “they are”
Example: “Their phones had no service.” / “There is a coffee shop over there.” / “They’re professional.”
Your = Possessive pronoun / You’re = Contraction of “you are”
Example: “Your car broke down.” / “You’re working on your grammar.”
What do you think about the use of proper grammar in the workplace? Is it necessary for people in all fields of work to have good grammar?