Does Grammar Matter Anymore?
As we share our ideas more rapidly than ever across multiple digital mediums every day, professionals everywhere are wondering: How important is grammar in business, really?
We write fast — for business purposes — on Slack, LinkedIn, and other informal platforms that help us collaborate with colleagues and grow our networks. So with all this speed of communication...does grammar still matter?
The latest research on the importance of grammar in business reveals that despite technological advances like autocorrect, spell check, and Grammarly, professionals still struggle to write correctly and effectively at work. Yet our writing skills (or lack thereof) drastically impact our ability to be understood. Respected. Heard. If we want professional respect and enthusiasm for our ideas, we must invest in our writing skills.
Strong writing skills are directly tied to our personal promotion potential and to our company's financial success. According to employers, writing is a top-three most desirable quality of employees and job candidates.
A recent study by The National Commission on Writing found that more than half of 120 American corporations took writing skills into account when making promotion decisions, and a completely different study found that employees who were not promoted into leadership positions within the first ten years of their careers made two and a half times as many grammar mistakes as those who were promoted.
Let's zoom out, too, and think about the importance of writing from a company perspective. If the stakes are high for individuals, the stakes are even higher at the organizational level. Grammar mistakes and lack of clarity cost companies thousands, even millions, of dollars. The Society for Human Resource Management released a study indicating that for small businesses, the average loss for miscommunication each year is $420,000. For big companies, the average loss is $62 million, all because of poor internal communication.
Looking externally, BBC News reported that businesses lose millions of dollars every year due to typos and grammar mistakes. One case study that we discovered at Untold Content revealed that a small online business improved their sales by two and a half times just by fixing a grammar mistake on their homepage. Grammar and style matter to earning potential. Employers', managers', colleagues', and customers’ views of competence and performance are also shaped by perception of grammar skills.
We all know that people make decisions and judge impressions very quickly. We get about seven seconds to make a good first impression when we're meeting someone in person. The same goes for the writing that we produce. Customers and colleagues are more likely to call into question our authority, our competence, and the quality of our ideas when they see mistakes or feel confused by our writing. In other words, if you aren't writing with confidence and strength, you're holding yourself back from making the fullest impacts possible with your professional life and time.
With stakes this high, we need to rely on more than spell-checkers for our communication needs. Instead, we need to build writing skills that set the foundation for clear and confident communications of our insights, ideas, and innovations.
As writing consultants for some of the world’s most innovative organizations, our team at Untold Content identified best practices for strengthening writing skills at work. The following grammar “rules” hold the potential to get you hired or promoted:
- Write correctly: Grammar know-how can ensure that you come across as knowledgeable. Grammar mistakes may not be easy to correct, but they can be easy to spot. Be sure to know how to use commas, semicolons, and apostrophes with confidence!
- Write clearly: Grammar know-how can help you get your point across the first time. The way we frame our ideas impacts how they are understood. Pay close attention to how you structure your sentences and share the most important information first and last.
- Write concisely: Grammar know-how can make sure your writing process is efficient and your deliverables are easy to understand. Get your point across more quickly by eliminating excessive wording and passive voice in your writing.
- Write with context in mind: Grammar know-how can deliver your message to a multitude of audiences. Pay close attention to your audience and write with their perspective in mind to ensure understanding.
- Write with culture in mind: Grammar know-how can make your writing more inclusive. Reach more people with your writing by prioritizing your audience’s cultural contexts.
To grow in our ability to write correctly, clearly, concisely, and with awareness of context and culture, we must practice and equip ourselves with the best strategies. We can take a proven self-paced online course to refresh and level-up our skills. We can set time aside to work on our writing.
We can also take an experimental approach to our writing — intentionally changing up the storyline, characters, setting, and climax so that we can see what is most impactful with different audiences. Sharing content deliverables with colleagues internally and customers externally helps us shift and refine our story lines. Don’t be afraid to share first drafts, and refine based on feedback. The best writers constantly seek feedback and show up to the work of writing every day.
Equipping our workforce to write with speed and impact is more important now than ever before, thanks to the speed of digital transformation. Self-paced online trainings to improve our writing speed and confidence are particularly critical now as we work from home and communicate with colleagues and customers verbally and in writing constantly throughout the day.
Our advice is to choose courses created by PhD-level experts in professional writing who have significant industry experience. The goal is to become better, faster, more deliberate writers and communicators so we can increase the impact and influence of our insights and ideas. It is for this worthy reason that grammar still, very much, matters.
Katie Taylor is the CEO of Untold Content. She just launched a podcast, Untold Stories of Innovation, where she interviews top innovation leaders about why storytelling matters to the art of innovation.
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