Don’t panic about grammar – it’s not SO important

If you went to a school where they were particularly keen on English grammar, you will almost certainly have been taught a number of rules.

These may or may not have included the following:

  • Don’t split infinitives.
  • Don’t put a comma before the word “and”.
  • Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.
  • Don’t start a sentence with the words “And”, “So”, “But”, “Because” and so on.

These kind of rules played a huge part, I believe, in putting people off grammar. They basically gave the impression that writing grammatically incorrect sentences like “I was going to quickly grab a cup of tea before I went out” should be punishable by death. Or worse.

As a result – and again, this is just in my humble opinion – people decided that they weren’t going to worry about grammar AT ALL. And that if anybody corrected bad grammar, they would call them the “grammar police”.

I have been called “the grammar police” more than once. I don’t care.

However, I would say one thing in my defence, which is this:

I’m not the grammar police.

In a seminar I gave earlier this year, I found the words “Grammar’s not that important” coming out of my mouth. I know, right?

I regularly start sentences with the words “And”, “Because”, “So” and “But”. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to do so. I’m not fussed if anybody says that I shouldn’t. I like it.

Of course, grammar is important, especially in business. But for the main reason that it helps you get your message across clearly.

In business, we need our customers and potential customers to know what we’re talking about.

That’s fairly important. And if we get our grammar wrong, then there’s a chance they won’t.

Clearly, sentences like “I’s been a photographer since I were a little lad and me dad told us I take cracking pictures” make your site look unprofessional in the extreme.

The photographer in question might still get bookings if his photographs really are as cracking as his dad said, but some people might well be put off.

But nobody’s going to rule out using a photographer who says they take “fantastic wedding photographs you will be enormously proud of” because the sentence ends with a preposition.

Or refuse to work with an accountant who writes “I’m different to other accountants. Why? Because I’m not boring – and also because when you call me, you know you’ll be getting me. You won’t be getting an inexperienced trainee who’s fresh out of university.”

That last paragraph included a sentence starting with “because” and also the verb “get”, which my mum really didn’t like. And I think it should be “different from” not “different to.”

The fact is, grammar is important. But not THAT important. Look professional; get your message across clearly. The rest is kind of window dressing.

If you’re on LinkedIn, connect with me using the button on the right. If you’d like to read all my LinkedIn posts about grammar and spelling, follow the hashtag #andrewonwriting by clicking this link here and selecting “follow”

 

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