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Does grammar matter any more?

In times of Twitter, email, instant messaging, social networks and text messages, is it important or even relevant to adhere to the requirements of traditional grammar? 

Or is okay to try to get your message across without regard to the niceties of English?

Writing is more important than ever. The worldwide web is a web of words: searches are carried out using words; websites addresses are words; Twitter hashtags are words.

We are communicating through written text more than at any time. So getting the words right, making them understandable and unambiguous, has become more important than in the days when all we had to read was printed material.

Journalism has become more casual and more conversational, with the expectations of faster news and the appearance of citizen journalists and bloggers.

Subediting and copy correction has passed away, which means authors themselves have to take responsibility for their own grammar, punctuation and style.

New conventions

What has changed is that the conventions of grammar have expanded. What might be perfectly acceptable in a text message will read oddly in a technical brochure.

Conversely, the precise language of an instruction book may be unnecessary when a speedy response is required.

Online networks of professionals, such as LinkedIn, demand close attention to spelling and grammar.

“The misuse of LOL by the prime minister in text messages to the then editor of The Sun made him appear foolish and out of touch”

Just as job applications with misspellings and incorrectly used words are usually ignored, so poor grammar is seen as evidence of a lack of skills in other areas such as critical thinking, planning and general management.

In a sales letter or a business proposal, it’s essential to get things right; anything else will make you seem less than professional.

You might think that grammar and spelling are all but irrelevant in text messaging but don’t be too sure.

The misuse of LOL by the prime minister in text messages to the then editor of The Sun made him appear foolish and out of touch.

WTG and WTF are only one key apart on your keyboard but very different in what they mean. Using ‘later’ in a text message seems almost wilfully perverse when the convention is to use L8R.

Whichever medium you are using, it is important that its conventions are recognised and observed. The key is to meet your audience’s expectations by using their language and observing their grammar.

Old reasons

The three most pertinent reasons that grammar remains important in a digital age are the same as they have always been: clarity, credibility and legacy.

Grammar and punctuation errors can result in ambiguities or misunderstandings that reduce clarity and understanding.

Grammatical errors indicate ignorance or carelessness on the part of the writer, which may cause readers to question the credibility of the message.

Your errors can live on, continuing to show you and your company in a poor light, because very little truly disappears from the internet. The legacy of your poor grammar may last longer than you.

Rick Osman is a partner in Highwire Design, a design agency that specialises in the construction industry, and one of the team that created www.hotel-standards.com as well as being a CIMCIG committee member and a judge for the Construction Marketing Awards. You can find out about marketing in construction and upcoming events at www.cimcig.org

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