Good Grammar vs. Personality in Your Writing

I read an article last week on hbr.com titled “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.” While many of my clients, colleagues and friends took offense and justified their feelings by saying grammar isn’t that important anymore, I applaud the author. Grammar mistakes do make you look stupid.
Yes, writing and speech has become more casual and that’s not a bad thing. But poor speech is.

Here’s why it’s important. When you want to improve client retention or say thank you to your loyal customers, you need to use tools that build strong relationships with them. Some of those tools may be newsletters, blogs and thank you notes. It’s important to use good grammar in your writing so that your audience takes you seriously and sees you as a credible source. My financial adviser, real estate agent or attorney doesn’t need to be a legendary novelist, but I do want to work with someone who knows how to properly use language. I’m not so trusting of the one who ain’t got no need to be real good at words ‘n sh*t.

That said, I also believe there’s room for incorporating your personality. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Writing how you speak, infusing your personal style into your communications, is one fantastic means of differentiating yourself from others in your field. Writing with personality makes you more interesting and helps build stronger relationships with your audiences.

There is a difference between using regional colloquialisms that are ingrained and define who you are vs. flat out poor grammar such as “I got some ice cream for her and I.”

Maybe you weren’t as “lucky” as I was to have parents and grandparents who consistently corrected your speech from the time you started talking. Perhaps Ms. Huertas didn’t teach English at your high school and you weren’t forced to learn “The 10 Offenders.” (#1-Do not end your sentences with a preposition.)

If that was the case, there are great resources you can use to educate yourself. Lynne Truss’s book “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” is a good start, as is Strunk & White’s classic “The Elements of Style.” Definitely do not turn to today’s radio and television broadcasters, save for anomaly Brian Williams.

For those of you reading this post and making note that I’ve started a sentence with the word and or but, let me say this, “you have to know the rules to break the rules.”