In business, it’s all about who you know. Or is it all about whom you know? If you communicate with your clients in person or print, it’s important that your grammar is correct. According to Business Insider, people decide in the first three seconds whether they like you and if you seem trustworthy. If you are standing before them, they base that decision on what you say, your tone, and how you look. If your introduction is through an email, flyer, or advertisement, their assumptions are based on what is on the printed page.
What does the grammar in your communication reveal about your business?
Whether or Not You Are Meticulous
George A. Custer reportedly said, “ It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.” We all make mistakes. By the time a business document get to print, it should have been scrutinized, revised, and corrected so many times that it is grammatically perfect. An error at that stage might suggest to your clients that you are careless.
Whether or Not You Have A Good Team
The more eyes you have to proofread a document, the less likely you are to have errors slip into the final draft. Why didn’t someone notice and correct that error? Clients may wonder if your coworkers are disorganized or inept. They may doubt if your team can provide quality services. If your team needs a little support, equip them with Grammarly proofreading software. Over time, the software’s feedback will help them to understand grammar better.
Whether or Not You Are a Smart Cookie
Poor grammar does not necessarily correlate with low intelligence. Writing skills probably have more to do with education and personal preferences than IQ. However, some people do judge other people’s grammar. It would be a shame to lose a good customer because of a misspelled word or a grammar gaffe.
Let’s look at some cautionary tales that might motivate you to check your documents more than once or twice.
The Case of the Missing Apostrophe
In 2011, Old Navy featured a “Superfan Nation” T-shirt intended to help sports enthusiasts celebrate their favorite teams. Unfortunately, shortly after its release, the parent company Gap Inc. was apologizing to its customers via a spokesperson: “We’re sorry about the error in some of our Superfan Nation graphic T-shirts. To ensure Old Navy customers can enjoy this collection fully, we’re replacing the faulty [T-shirts] at our stores and online as soon as possible.” The only thing wrong with the shirts was a missing apostrophe after the T in Let’s Go! It cost them money to recall and replace the shirts, besides what it cost their reputation.
A teen noticed something a little off with his orange juice one morning. It wasn’t spoiled; no, it was perfectly tasty. However, the carton claimed that it was the “most tastiest” orange juice. The Guardian.com reports his surprise: “That’s just wrong, and I was so astonished, especially as Tesco is such a large company. . . I don’t think supermarket packaging should be wholly responsible for teaching young people English grammar – but I can’t help thinking that ‘every little helps.” The youngster wrote a letter to Tesco supermarket to let them know what he thought of their double superlative. He even gave them suggestions for improvement (tastiest or most tasty). The supermarket chain promised to correct the packaging at its next reprinting.
What do you learn from the mistakes of these companies? People, even young ones, notice errors in punctuation and grammar. Reports of your poor writing might end up on the news or in social media. The saying goes, “No publicity is bad publicity.” However, wouldn’t you rather be known for your quality products and services? How can you ensure that proper grammar is associated with your business?
Remember the three “tells” of speech and writing:
1. Be Meticulous
The adjective means to take or show extreme care about small details; to be precise and thorough.
2. Get a Great Team
Strong leadership is central to a great team. Set the example by showing that your investment in every aspect of your company’s success. Reward your employees when they pull together to accomplish a task. Be approachable. You want them to come to you if they see an error, even if it’s your fault.
3. Be a Smart Cookie
If you work alone, you are the team. You will have to be responsible for each step of the process. Give yourself sufficient time and resources to complete each step. You might consider bringing in outside help for writing projects if that is outside your area of expertise. A wise person knows his weaknesses.
Let’s get back to the original question. In business, is it all about who or whom you know? If you can’t answer that question, you need to give consideration to your mastery of grammar. What you release in print will make an impact on your clients. Take advantage of that first three seconds, and you might find that you can make a very good first impression indeed.