Throw a party, pop the champagne and get ready to celebrate! It’s National Grammar Day! (What? Doesn’t everyone celebrate this glorious holiday? Is that just us word nerds?)
OK, maybe we don’t party like it’s 1999 (or ’99 — both are acceptable!). But we do like to spread our love and excitement of grammar this time of year. So in celebration of National Grammar Day, we wanted to take a moment to remind everyone exactly why grammar does indeed matter and share our tips for how you can improve your grammar.
First, grammar is important in marketing and communications because it helps with understanding. Also, good grammar makes you look like the polished, professional brand you are. But mostly, it’s that whole understanding thing. Because that’s the whole point of our job as communicators, isn’t it? Our job is to convey our messages in ways our audiences will understand, and grammar helps with that.
So, how can you become a better grammarian? Here are six ways:
1. Skim the AP style guide.
We love our AP style guide! It is the foundation for most corporate style guides and is what every journalist and public relations professional relies on to ensure their copy is clear and consistent. Of course, your company style doesn’t have to follow AP implicitly, but it does help to have somewhere to start. Plus, it’s full of fabulous resources, including a punctuation section in the back with all the basics.
Skimming the AP style guide when you have some time will help you get familiar with what’s inside and make it easier to find what you’re looking for when you’re in crunch mode and need to know, fast, whether your reader survey is designed to “elicit responses” or “illicit responses.” (“Elicit responses” is correct, by the way.)
2. Order a copy of the Elements of Style.
What writer doesn’t love their Strunk and White?! Originally published in 1918 — and updated several times since — this is the de facto bible of English grammar. It’s packed with basics, easy to understand (probably because they wrote it using proper grammar!), and it’s well organized, which makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. It’s also physically slim, so you can easily drop it into your purse or laptop bag.
3. Pick up a grammar textbook.
Check out used bookstores and rummage sales for grammar textbooks. AP and Strunk and White are still your best bets as far as desk references go, but if you’re looking for more explanation as well as some practice sentences, a college grammar textbook will give you more of an educational experience.
4. Work with a writing coach.
Getting better at writing and learning grammar sometimes is best served by having a really great editor or proofreader work on your copy. I learn new things all the time from our proofreaders and pick up tricks to remember the rules (like when to use palate, palette and pallet). If you are hiring a proofreader, whether it’s full-time or contract, make sure you hire one who is able to help you understand why they made the edits they did. That ensures your copy gets better — and so do you.
5. Read the Active Voice Communications newsletter.
Shameless plug? You betcha. But we offer a tip per month to help you grow your understanding of language and grammar all year long. We promise not to overwhelm you, and we bet you’ll appreciate our to-the-point approach.
6. Bookmark Grammar Girl.
Mignon Fogarty’s website — which has been expanded to offer “quick and dirty” tips on all sorts of topics — and podcast are great resources, whether you want to binge or simply look up something specific. She explains grammar in simple terms and shares our sense of humor, which is obviously top-notch.
Remember, good grammar isn’t about the writer — it’s about the reader and ensuring they understand your message. Learning more about grammar will empower you to be a more effective communicator. It’ll also get you invited to all the National Grammar Day celebrations — and trust us, you don’t want to miss those!