Quick grammar lesson from The Grammar Guru. Wait - don't go away, it'll be fun!
There's a common subject/object error I hear every single day. It seems to be more of a verbal thing than written, and something that can lead to judgment about the quality of the speaker's education or intelligence. (Yes, I know judgment is usually a bad thing, however in professional circumstances you still need to be professionally correct.)
"Steve and me had a meeting." Wrong! Here's why. Go back to your elementary school English class for a minute. Steve is the subject of the sentence. The word "me" holds the place of a subject, but the word "me" is never, ever a subject word - only an object.
Here's how to test it. Take away the "me" and see what you're left with. "Steve had a meeting." Cool! Replace "Steve" with "me" - "Me had a meeting." Not so much! So, that test teaches you that the sentence should be "Steve and I had a meeting." When you take either subject away, it still makes sense.
The opposite error is made just as often...subjects in the place of objects. "My parents came to visit John and I." Use that test again. "My parents came to visit John." Great! "My parents came to visit I." Again, not so much!
Now, if you're chatting with a friend and make one of these common errors, it's not all that important (except I'll cringe if I hear it). But if you're writing a report, or speaking with a colleague, or asking for a job, you will likely sound uneducated. Sounds harsh, but it's true.
Practice noticing your speech and train yourself to avoid these common errors, and you won't need to be concerned about it in a professional setting!
I'll bet you know a couple of people who are very gifted in some way...a superb artist or singer, a powerful healer, a talented mechanic. We could debate for hours on what "gift" means, whether it's a gift from God/Universe as a trait from birth, or whether it's something learned...that old nature/nurture debate.
The fact remains, though, that although we all may know how to do something (use a paintbrush or a screwdriver), we may not be able to do it well, or intuitively.
In these cases, the gift is the intuition, the effortlessness of the action. When you use your gift, you don't have to think hard about what needs to be done, you just do it.
I've finally come to realize that my gift (yes, I'm tooting my own horn) is in editing. Aside from understanding the right/wrong of proofreading, when I edit I just somehow know what words could be changed or phrasing tweaked to perfectly express an author's idea. I can actually feel the energy of words. I couldn't begin to explain it or teach it...it's an innate ability in my brain and my spirit. Words are my "thing" and I'm blessed to be able to share that gift with others.
I'd love to hear your examples and stories of how gifted people you know use their talents. Please share!
Even speaking as an editor/proofreader and as The Grammar Guru, I have to say in all honesty that grammatical perfection is overrated. "Always" is, in my estimation, an impossible goal, and usually is inappropriate.
Let me explain.
If you follow me on social media, you know that I constantly urge followers to carefully spell check and proofread their business writing, regardless of the medium. Whether a social media post, blog post, article, or email, you will be judged (right or wrong, like it or not) on how you come across to prospects. You may appear careless or ignorant when neither is true.
And yet your authentic style of communicating may be casual, friendly, and all your own. Using ellipses (...) rather than dashes or commas may be your "thing" and there is nothing wrong with that. Using words and phrases in a way that is authentic to you but not necessarily perfect AP style is just fine. You will reach those people who are drawn to not only what you say, but how you say it. Bottom line: be authentic!
There are basic rules of conduct, however: using their/they're/there correctly, lay vs. lie, proper punctuation and sentence structure, etc. Ignoring these customs is what gets writers in trouble. There's a big difference between stylistic and simply incorrect. "Incorrect" leads to not only judgment, but mis-interpretation of your message.
When you're writing casually for friends and family, as long as your message is clear I can't see why it must be perfect...unless you're even more of a Grammar Guru than I am! But as I've stated so often, in business writing, perfection balanced with authenticity is the way to go.
Wisdom...or a great proofreader...understands the balance!
"I just had a baby looking for a job to work at home anybody let me I have great Information technology and networking skills."
This request came from a social media post I ran across. Granted it's social media, this young woman was requesting job leads, and yet her post was so poorly written I can't imagine she got many leads from it.
You never know where your words will go, or who might see and react to them. Especially in the energy / focus of employment, writing must be clear, precise, and error-free to present a professional appearance to any prospective employer. Regardless of the kind of position sought, your writing style gives the first impression of your intelligence, work ethic, and motivation.
You may be tempted to dismiss this thought as trivial, but think about it objectively. Let's say that someone who read this request copied it verbatim and sent it to someone who needed those services. That person will be reviewing many similar requests and resumes. and will evaluate next steps based on first impressions. The first impression of this writer is not professional.
The same applies to prospecting for new clients in your business. You want to help more people by having them hire you. What then is your first impression on others? Do your social media and blog posts appear professional? Do they clearly share the teaching and message you want to convey? Are they error-free?
I've had a few rebuttals when I share these ideas from people stating that skills and intent should be what matter. Perhaps, yes...however if your first impression creates a block in that path, then it's time to change!
(I know a great proofreader!)
On my Grammar Guru Facebook page, I love to poke fun at examples of really poor grammar and writing. Some are funny cartoons, and others are - unfortunately - examples of really bad writing in the public eye.
And that's where good grammar is REALLY important - in the public eye! Here's why.
1. No matter what you do or how you do it, you need to present a professional, educated image to your prospects and clients. When your blog or social media post is full of mis-spellings or missing punctuation, you appear to others to be either careless or ignorant - neither of which, of course, is good for business! Neither may be true, but you wouldn't want a prospect to believe you are careless based on your online presence. ESPECIALLY in this holistic, heart-based game we're all in, you want your clients and prospects to trust in your skills, your intention, and your ability to fulfill your promises.
2. When you write poorly, your meaning can be lost. I have read items with little (or mistaken) punctuation, and found myself wondering what the writer was trying to convey. Or articles in which an incorrect word with different meaning was mistakenly used for the correct word. If your meaning is not clear, your reader will quickly give up and move on, and will judge that you are not as capable as you really are.
Don't dismiss proper writing etiquette as unimportant. Use spellcheckers, Grammerly and other apps, and proofreaders. Want a great referral? ME!
Here's another business writing lesson for you from The Grammar Queen! Whether formal or informal, be careful with the shortcuts you use in your writing. Overuse can set the wrong tone.
For example, use of shortcut ordinal numbers as bullets for a listing (1st, 2nd, 3rd) is casual but acceptable, if that's your writing style. Personally I prefer just using straight numbers (1, 2, 3). However, except in very casual communication, ordinal numbers used in copy that is NOT list format, just straight text like this, are written out (first, second, etc.).
1st: Open the door.
2nd: Walk through the door.
3rd: Close the door
First, open the door. Second, walk through the door. Third, close the door.
I've written before about another shortcut I see often: the use of "&" in business writing (outside of titles and such). It is no harder to type the three letters "and" than it is to shift-7 to create the &, and it is far more professional.
Greater grammar Nazis than I am are predicting a decline in proper grammar and spelling due to the huge younger population accustomed to tweeting and texting. These shortcuts can be viewed as the destruction of proper English (yes, I tend to this view) or to a new written dialect. I certainly wouldn't want to see a resume that says, "I wud luv 2 work w u bcuz im g8 at it ru hiring?" Key is to understand the use of each in context.
Sometimes I think I will.
Five simple words with simple meaning. Yet just like magic, the meaning drastically changes when a bit of punctuation or phrasing changes.
Sometimes, I think, I will.
Sometimes I think; I will.
Sometimes, I think I will.
I think, sometimes, I will.
I will think, sometimes.
Do you see how a few tweaks can change the meaning of a simple sentence?
As an editor and proofreader, it is my role to make these sorts of tweaks to an author's writing, while still preserving the original meaning and intent. I often see phrasing or punctuation
Take this meme, for example - notice how drastically the meaning changes with the addition of a simple comma.
However you write, and in whatever format, read through what you've written to ensure that your meaning is clear and as intended.
And when you need objective, experienced outside support, call me!
Anyone who knows me or has read my material knows that I am the "Grammar Nazi" - I have periodic rants about the level of error I see in professionally created content, and how UNprofessional it makes the writer appear. So, what needs to happen to appear professional if you don't know squat about proofreading?
It all goes back to what we learned in school: check your work! As I often say, anything you're typing in has some form of spell check - use it! However because spell checkers are far from infallible, your need to review the writing as well. Here's how I do it.
I'll begin reading a paragraph out loud because it triggers the brain to notice an error more easily than reading silently. I watch for words that are spelled correctly but are incorrect in context - the usual culprits of there/they're/their, your/you're, and so on, as well as other homonyms like threw/through, here/hear, etc. I watch for verb tenses, plural vs. possessive, grammar errors, and overall style.
But just as important is what editors call "line editing." I look at whether the writer's style is easy to understand. I look at the structure of the writing: Should that sentence be two pages further on with the rest of the discussion of that topic? Should this paragraph be broken apart? Should this be a new section or chapter?
Test yourself when you next have a writing assignment. See how well you can proofread yourself - have a dictionary nearby as backup! Taking the time to do it correctly means you can make a great impression on your readers.
And when you need a pro, you know who to call - Holly@LightseedsOffice.com!
Welcome! These stories, tips and tricks are intended to help you save time, and be more organized and effective in your work. New items will be added frequently so check back often.