Keys to Being Social: Grammar

Grammar matters — we are all judged by it in the professional world.
Bridget Willard

I cannot even tell you how many blog posts I’ve come across over the years whose first paragraphs had so severely injured my eyes that I could not continue reading.

I’ve offered to proofread people’s posts and instead of thanking me for the free help, they’re offended.

Guess what? You’re standing in the middle of the room with your pants down and everyone sees it. I’m the one offering a belt. It’s your choice whether the belt is viewed as a tool to inflict punishment or a much-needed support system.

Yes, grammar matters.

True, a well-written post about nothing is like a waterless cloud. The need for content does not outweigh the need for its presentation to be, well, presentable.

Yes, we all screw up, too. This is not an indictment on your person. I am not condemning you to a life lived in solitary on a deserted island with only a dictionary to read. You shouldn’t be offended by the post, you should be motivated to improve your writing.

Heck! Spell check is my friend. Google helps me learn words. The issue isn’t the struggle; it’s the results.

English is hard. 85% of the words in our lexicon were borrowed without conforming their spelling to our rules. I get that. It’s for that reason that English is the only language with Spelling Bees and posts like this one from Copyblogger, “15 grammar goofs that make you look silly,” are written.

Difficulty is Not an Acceptable Excuse

Do you want to be taken seriously or do you want your ideas to be dismissed?

Sure, the idea is important, and I partially blame the education system that swings from one extreme to the other for the nonsensical belief that getting our thoughts on paper is the only priority. But I digress. Your idea, as good as it may be, is merely the first draft. You still need to proofread.

Here are my grammar and proofreading tips.

  • Formatting can be a distraction to the writing and editing process. Another part of your brain is engaged when you are concerned with the aesthetics of the presentation. This is the case with brochures, websites, and fancy emails. Compose in a plain text file then paste the final version into the appropriate document after proofreading.
  • Improve your skills. Buy a Secretarial Handbook, follow Grammar Girl, take a class online or in Adult School. The truth is that we have so many resources available to us, more often than not for a very low price (or free), there is no excuse to avoid learning and self-improvement.
  • If you always struggle with the same error (you’re / your), put a sticky note on your computer to remind yourself.
  • Avoid contractions. This way you won’t mix up you’re and your or its and it’s.
  • Print out your draft and read the post backward.
  • Read the text out loud. Yep. You sound crazy. This method brings your ears into the work party and you may hear a mistake your eyes missed. You can combine this step with the first and read the post backward and aloud.
  • Get another set of eyes to read your post. This isn’t always practical for the person who works at home. Do not choose a nice person. You want the detail-oriented friend who will tell you that you have cilantro stuck in your teeth. This is their role in your life.
  • Wait: Copyblogger suggests, “Sit on what you think is your final draft for 24 hours.”  This is something I need to do more often. Since my drafts wait so long to be posted, it rarely happens.

All of these tips aren’t required; but they may be helpful.

Sound Off:

Am I wrong? Have I finally gone off the deep end? Let me know in the comments or send me a tweet.

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