Writers, editors and word lovers the world over will soon be celebrating National Grammar Day on March 4. (Yes, we totally celebrate this glorious day.) It’s OK to think we’re crazy for doing so.
After all, grammar has seemingly taken a back seat in recent years, and we’re all guilty of becoming lax. We send emails that aren’t properly punctuated. We use text language and slang. (SMH.) We forget to read over our communications before hitting “Post.” Hell, even the staff at Webster’s has given in to the masses by including “irregardless” in the dictionary. (Don’t get me started on that one.)
At AVC, we’re not complete sticklers. In general, we’re OK with breaking the occasional grammar rule. If it fits within a client’s voice, for instance, we’ll absolutely end a sentence with a preposition.
But grammar does still matter — especially in business. In fact, it can mean the difference between your audience understanding you or not understanding you. Trusting you or not trusting you. Buying from you or someone else.
Why Grammar Matters
At the end of the day, it comes down to this: Grammar exists because it helps with understanding. That’s it; that’s the whole point. Without grammar, we risk people not understanding what we’re trying to get across.
Periods, commas and semicolons help readers understand what you’re trying to convey. When you properly use that and which, it’s easier for readers to understand what or who you’re talking about. When you use properly placed modifiers, your audience gets a more vivid picture of what you’re describing. When you use the correct tenses, your readers don’t have to guess when events are happening.
See for Yourself
If you’ve ever tried to teach a child English, you know exactly how ambiguous our language can be. But to drive home our point, consider these disastrous examples of exactly why grammar matters:
He smells bad.
He smells badly.
Is the man malodorous, as the first sentence suggests, or does he have a poor sense of smell?
Erica gave Melissa her perfume.
Did Erica give Melissa Erica’s perfume or did Erica give Melissa Melissa’s perfume?
He took the little boys’ toys away and sold them.
We sure hope he sold the toys and not the boys.
Come on, let’s eat grandpa.
Come on, let’s eat, grandpa.
This is the difference between dining with grandpa and, well, cannibalism.
I would rather die then go on a date with him.
I would rather die than go on a date with him.
Here’s another life-and-death difference. The first sentence says you want to send your corpse on a date, whereas the second one makes it clear you don’t want to go on a date with that fella.
We update our site continuously.
We update our site continually.
Don’t make any promises you can’t keep. Continuously means constantly, meaning you’re updating your site all the time. Continually means at regular intervals, such as weekly or biweekly.
I like to illicit reactions.
Unless you really enjoy reacting with street drugs or identity theft, you probably meant to say “elicit reactions.”
Yes, Grammar Matters
As you can see, some seemingly minor nuances can have huge differences in meaning. You certainly don’t want your brand to become a meme after announcing that you’ll insure your customers when you meant you’ll “ensure” them.
Punctuation, word usage, sentence structure and syntax … These things matter because having readers who understand your message matters. So for as long as readers matter, grammar still matters.