Grammar Is for the Front Office and the Back Office

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I have to agree with the managers quoted in Sue Shellenbarger’s June 19, 2012, Wall Street Journal article, “This Embarrasses You and I*” – practicing good grammar in the back office can help ensure that a company’s external communications are boo-boo free.

Internal proposals and communications – especially when pitching a strategy or explaining a decision – need to be as clearly presented as anything a client can see.

It’s part of building a culture that keeps the customer’s needs in mind.

That said, I’m a fan of satirically ungrammatical yet efficiently terse IMs among team mates (i.e., “R u ok w dat?”), depending on how chummy the team is. A fast, funny note can keep a team together and ultimately save time.

Some peg social media and texting as bad influences on today’s speech and writing. I think those technologies are only amplifying misunderstandings that were already there. The roots of those misunderstandings are vast and deep.

More people are writing – and that’s great – but with increased volume, we should expect more errors. Also, the constraints of the technologies themselves – character limits, expectations for speed – invite shortcuts on what some treat as the self-righteous path of good grammar. And let’s separate true errors from texting syntax – it’s a legitimate language (though rarely appropriate for communicating with customers).

As the article mentions, arguments in the office about grammar can be scary when management endorses errors – especially on a deadline. But having a grammar referee can help, whether it’s a style guide or an outside expert.

Grammarians – do you refuse to use texting syntax, even in jest?  In communications with clients, have you been pressured to ignore or impose errors?

Grammatically challenged folks – have you ever wanted to throw a grammarian out the window? Or offered a grammarian your first-born child as a reward for a critical, last-minute edit?

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