Spelling

Spelling and Editing

Guidance for Standards Participants

The thing I’m worst at, but try the hardest to conquer. Is that true for you? Huffpost reviewed 100 LinkedIn profiles and found evidence suggesting [1] that professionals whose profiles contained fewer mistakes also achieved higher positions. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to many in the workforce who silently grumble each time they receive an email with no introduction, no punctuation, and what seems to be a significant lack of civility. What is interesting is evidence suggests that those who stay with an employer for 10 or more years make a higher percentage of spelling mistakes. Almost as if, they actually get worse at spelling.

Personally, I don’t think people slowly lose their ability to spell – Image of edited pageespecially when most word processing programs include spellcheck. I do think that a lack of accountability contributes to bad grammar, bad sentence formation, and a general lackadaisical approach to communication. A willingness by management to ignore the problem is also a key contributor. True, they won’t promote you into the corner office and you’ll wonder why, but how often does your boss call you out for using the wrong ‘their’ in a sentence. In reality, they’ve accepted in their own way an understanding that you don’t plan on improving, can’t improve, or they are unwilling to help you do it. 

I want you to succeed and I hope your friends would too. So, we’d call you out. And hopefully you have a manager who will do so as well. Here are a few tips to help you improve your writing and maybe catch the eye of the execs.

    1. Your vs You’re, Its vs It’s, There vs Their, affect vs effect – write them down with descriptions on when to use them and tape it to the wall. Really, until you get this right, write it down and refer to it often. [2]
    2. Commas – If your entire paragraph of text is one sentence with six commas, rewrite it. Too many commas create confusion. Also, if you’re using them to make a list and that list has more than 3 things in it, make a bulleted list. It’s easier to see and absorb and less likely someone will skim over and miss something on the list. Finally, do not use semicolons to make a list unless that list also includes commas. [3]
    3. Read more – seriously, read a variety of publications. Learn new words and approaches to saying the same thing. It’ll make your writing more robust and broaden your flexibility in writing.
    4. Period – use them. I have seen numerous emails where sentences are separated by lines, but not ending in periods. It’s the worst possible outcome. No period, means no end, means no separation, means anarchy. I’m exaggerating, but just use periods. 
    5. Don’t respond immediately to emails – There will be lots of differing opinions on this, but if you are rushing and you’re not focused, your emails will suffer. When working on a project, I turn off my email. I can’t possibly write a polite coherent email when I consider the email an interruption. Set aside time for email where you can think through responses, double check your work, and ensure the information you’re providing answers the question that was asked. [4]

Clearly, mistakes will be made and this article isn’t meant to make you the best writer in the world. Quite frankly, for email you don’t need to be. You just need to be clear, concise, and devoid of obvious mistakes. If you rush to send something off and don’t double check it, your reader will be able to tell. So, take a few extra seconds to double check, consider how the reader might interpret the words you’ve used, and make adjustments. It’s that extra care that will get you ahead at work and will improve your communication with others.    

[1] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/think-grammar-doesnt-matter-it-could-be-holding-you-back-from-a-promotion_b_6932718
[2] https://www.copyblogger.com/5-common-mistakes-that-make-you-look-dumb/
[3] https://theweek.com/articles/466720/7-grammar-rules-really-should-pay-attention
[4] https://www.grammarly.com/blog/work-productivity-tips/

Add a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment