For Professional Communication, Check Your Grammar and Punctuation
I try to be relaxed about grammar and punctuation in texts and tweets, especially given that autocorrect seems to be determined to turn fine-tuned thoughts into gibberish. Otherwise, I’m something of a nit-picker about the proper use of grammar and punctuation.
If you want to be taken seriously, both elements deserve careful attention in proposals, important messages, instructions, presentations, blogs, resumes—pretty much any important written communication.
Admittedly, using correct grammar and punctuation can be challenging. The Chicago Manual of Style, now in its 17th edition, is 1,144 pages long and includes 40 rules concerning commas! But using or not using a comma can make a difference. Consider “Let’s eat, Grandma” versus “Let’s eat Grandma!” By the way, I came across a description of The Chicago Manual of Style in Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark, a book that proves no punctuation is too arcane to write about.
At a company I once worked for, two managers were masters of run-on sentences, often sending out IT-wide reports with entire sentences separated by commas. Their credibility took a hit every time. But whether you’re in a position of leadership or not, properly used grammar and punctuation help to create clarity, minimize ambiguity, show respect for the recipient, and simplify communication with non-native speakers.
For example, among the more common punctuation mistakes are extraneous apostrophes, unnecessary quotation marks, and too few or too many commas. It’s also important to avoid the most common word mix-ups, such as effect and affect, except and accept, you’re and your, and confusing trios, such as their, there, and they’re and to, two, and too. Numerous websites, such as this one and this one, offer helpful reminders of the most common mistakes.
For my TechWell stories, I have an eagled-eyed editor who examines my articles with a heavy-duty fine-tooth comb, ensuring that my grammar and punctuation are correct (and follow TechWell’s preferred style). But when editing expertise isn’t available, as is often the case for our writing, we have to guard against errors that will make us seem foolish or downright unprofessional.
It’s amusing to notice instances of grammar, spelling, and punctuation misuse in public places. But when you do, ask yourself if you’re ever guilty of similar blunders. Your credibility will be glad you did.