It’s common for people to underestimate the impact of an obvious writing mistake in the workplace. Even if you are someone who isn’t bothered by a misplaced comma or a misspelled word, you inevitably have coworkers that will notice and judge your quality of work by these mistakes. In the world of spell-check, Google, and countless Internet resources, there is no excuse for obvious errors in your business writing. This article by Grammarly CEO Brad Hoover provides some interesting facts on the impact of grammar in the workplace.
People argue both sides of whether grammar is really an important skill in the workplace. Many feel that it depends on the job. Dictionary.com asks whether it is really important for a computer programmer to display meticulous grammar skills. Perhaps not, but, no matter your job title, it can’t hurt you to brush up on common grammar mistakes and improve your writing.
In today’s politically correct workplace, avoid using male pronouns exclusively when the subject could be male or female. This mistake may be interpreted as sexist or narrow-minded. The more appropriate approach is to either use “him or her,” “his or hers,” or alternate between the two. For more on this tip and other common mistakes, check out this article on LifeScript.com.
Be smarter than you were in primary school.
Avoid common mistakes that you most likely learned about in elementary school. Maybe perfect grammar isn’t expected, but mixing up “your” and “you’re” is sure to give someone pause when evaluating your professionalism.
Here is a list of similarly common and inexcusable word mix-ups:
- There / they’re / their
- Its / it’s
- Effect / affect
- Except / accept
- Between / among
- A lot / alot (tip: “alot” is not a word!)
For a more complete set of mistakes that make you look silly, check out this handy list from CopyBlogger.com.
Watch your language in email.
Emailing at work is not the same as emailing your friends. Improper capitalization (e.g., “i can’t wait to see you tonight!”) may be okay when making plans with your best friend, but at work (e.g., “i finished the product manual and will send over soon.”) it makes you look lazy and sloppy. The same goes for informal abbreviations, failing to write a salutation at the top of an email, and writing in incomplete sentences.
Of course, if you’re an executive, you may see sloppiness in emails as a power play.
In most cases, it’s best to use correct grammar, spelling, and formatting at work. Take a breath and write professionally. It doesn’t have to be overly formal, but taking the time to write a salutation and use correct capitalization will do wonders for your reputation at work (compared to the alternative). For more about proper email etiquette at work, check out this article on language in corporate emails.
Watch out for CAPS LOCK and extra punctuation. In written form, writing in all upper case is considered “yelling” and is almost never appropriate in the workplace. Similarly, multiple exclamation points or question marks can often send the wrong message. Ask yourself why you’ve chosen to use more than one exclamation point, and whether it’s necessary. Chances are, it’s not. Remember, you’re not messaging your best friend. You’re at work.
Don’t forget to proofread. Reread your messages before hitting “Send.” If the message is particularly important (i.e., if it’s going to clients or your boss’s boss), leave it in your Outbox for a few minutes, go to the bathroom, and then reread it. Better yet, have a coworker take a look.
Take pride in your writing. After all, each day more and more of our communication is in written form. It’s worth the extra thought and time to check for mistakes and make a better impression at work.