Do you feel that grammatical and spelling errors have become more commonplace in the office over the years? Does it drive you crazy when you hear an employee say “I could care less” instead of “I couldn’t care less” or when you read overly casual business emails from co-workers?
If you feel you have taken on the role of the “grammar police” in your organization, you are not alone. Many managers feel that communications standards have slipped in recent years, a trend that can have a negative impact on professionalism in the workplace.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal examines these repercussions:
Managers are fighting an epidemic of grammar gaffes in the workplace. Many of them attribute slipping skills to the informality of email, texting and Twitter where slang and shortcuts are common. Such looseness with language can create bad impressions with clients, ruin marketing materials and cause communications errors, many managers say.
There’s no easy fix. Some bosses and co-workers step in to correct mistakes, while others consult business-grammar guides for help. In a survey conducted earlier this year, about 45% of 430 employers said they were increasing employee-training programs to improve employees’ grammar and other skills, according to the Society for Human Resource Management and AARP.
Most participants in the SHRM-AARP survey blame generational differences in the workplace, believing that younger workers don’t have the same communication skills as their older counterparts. Others disagree that communication is evolving and it is not a sign that younger employees lack professional presence.
From the WSJ article:
Tamara Erickson, an author and consultant on generational issues, says the problem isn’t a lack of skill among 20- and 30-somethings. Accustomed to texting and social networking, “they’ve developed a new norm,” Ms. Erickson says.
At RescueTime, for example, grammar rules have never come up. At the Seattle-based maker of personal-productivity software, most employees are in their 30s. Sincerity and clarity expressed in “140 characters and sound bytes” are seen as hallmarks of good communication—not “the king’s grammar,” says Jason Grimes, 38, vice president of product marketing. “Those who can be sincere, and still text and Twitter and communicate on Facebook—those are the ones who are going to succeed.”
Technology may be changing the way we communicate, but it is still important to write and speak clearly and correctly in a business setting. Here are a few simple tips for improving business communication and professionalism in the workplace:
1. Be clear and concise.
Use simple language that conveys your message — avoid jargon or long words just to sound more intelligent.
2. Get to the point.
Make sure that whatever you write — whether it’s a quick email or a detailed proposal — answers the question, “what is the goal of this message?” Get to your main idea from the very first paragraph.
3. Keep references handy.
Some common mistakes can be fixed simply by making more information available. Is it “send the email to Ann and myself” or “send the email to Ann and me”? Do I use “its” or “it’s” in this sentence? Print up a few “top 10 common grammar questions” checklists and distribute them to the office, or buy a couple of business writing reference books to share.
4. Standardize style.
If there are ongoing debates in your office about certain grammatical or style issues, create an organizational style guide that you add to as questions arise.
What do you think about office grammar wars Is it a sign of declining professional presence or generational differences in the workplace? Share your comments.