The Grammar Police Are Here To Serve
In this day and age of text speak and social media updates of less than 140 characters, do grammar and spelling actually matter any more? It’s true that technology has affected the way we write, so is it really that important to know how to use the apostrophe or the correct version of their, they’re or there?
Or am I just showing my age and being grumpy?
In truth, over the past decade the written word has made something of a comeback. It is thanks to digital technologies such as email, texting, social media and blogging software that reading (and for us, writing) is an important part of our daily lives.
I know a woman on Facebook who does not appear to possess the ability to post a status update without at least three grammatical or spelling errors. It irks me enormously. I want to take a red biro and mark the mistakes in the margin. That sentence alone may show my age, but the message I really want to get across is: YES, IT MATTERS!
The reason is this: the grammatical and spelling errors jump from the page and take over my thought process and I lose all interest in what the post is actually about. I have no idea about what is happening in her life across the ditch. Instead, reading her posts has become a game for me to see how many errors she can squeeze into a couple of inane sentences, and I wonder in awe how someone with a university degree can come across so uneducated. In essence, I’m no longer reading what she has written. Her communication is failing.
The same, of course, can be said about the importance of correct spelling, punctuation and grammar in our world of PR, content development and business communication. In our company, we’ve won new projects on the basis of the attention to detail in our communications (in addition to the incredibly strategic and insightful communications recommendations).
If you are starting out in the world of communications, right from the very first time you apply for a job, grammar, punctuation and spelling are vital. One spelling mistake or misplaced apostrophe can get your job application cast aside for someone with more attention to detail. I was once presented with a CV from someone at “the beginning of a Pubic Relations career.” I never knew how far they went in the industry because they didn’t make it to the first interview. In that particular instance, one misspelled word (and such an unfortunate spelling error) impacted the entire message negatively.
We all know that content is king, but the use of language, the breadth of vocabulary and attention to detail reflect not only your own competency, but also the reputation of your clients. A media release may have an outstanding angle on a newsworthy event, but if it is delivered badly with questionable grammar and syntax, the release is likely to be dismissed and the message will be lost.
Here at Spectrum Group, we work really hard to develop and execute strategic communications solutions and tactics to maximise impact for our clients. Our internal processes mean grammatical or spelling slip-ups in any communication material including presentations, media releases, internal communications, or pitch letters, are corrected before they leave the building.
The reasons why we ensure such attention to detail can best be summed up by Andrew Hindes, writing in PRNewsOnline, whilst examining the importance of the “seemingly antiquated rules” of grammar, punctuation and correct spelling still being important.
There are six reasons:
- Credibility: press material with grammatical errors indicates ignorance or carelessness on the part of the writer, which may cause journalists to question the accuracy of the content.
- Professionalism: sloppily written materials can create a negative impression on clients and their colleagues.
- Respect: underpaid and overworked journalists may resent receiving a document filled with errors that would earn them a slamming rebuke from their editors.
- Clarity: grammar and punctuation errors can result in ambiguities or misunderstandings.
- Convenience: harried journalists often opt to copy whole sentences or even paragraphs of PR materials verbatim. If your grammatical gaffes slip through, it can make them look bad.
- Posterity: press materials distributed across the Internet live on forever- along with any mistakes they contain.
Someday, technology may make grammar, or even language as we know it, obsolete. Until then, being meticulous in our writing reflects on us as writing professionals and increases the chances of gaining media coverage for our clients.