In Portland, Maine, a judge awarded a dairy company’s employees $5 million in retroactive overtime pay because the wording of the overtime exemptions wasn’t clear. But why? How?
It was missing an OXFORD COMMA.
What am I talking about? Poor grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
I’m an editor and self-professed grammar Nazi (before that wasn’t politically correct, anyway – now I’m the grammar police). I edit everything, including people when they’re talking. (Mostly in my head, but not always.)
There are errors everywhere, and they drive me crazy. Last week I ate at Outback Steakhouse – they had a sign on their door saying they’re closed for Thanksgiving so their employees can spend time with their families, and they wish [you and your’s] a happy Thanksgiving.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
And Edible Arrangements. My mom loves Edible Arrangements. They’re expensive, but hell – built-in Mother’s Day and birthday gifts? Easy thank-you-for-watching-my-poorly-behaved-dog gift? Yes, please!
But their emails. I cringe when I see them in my inbox because I’ve never gotten one without at least one error; the email to the left has TWO! And I know what you’re thinking: “She’s an editor – of course it’s easy for her to find errors.” And since that’s true, I didn’t include the email about “freshly-crafted gifts.” (Because hyphens are hard, even for editors.)
But the two errors on the left? Glaring.
Guys. I’m not an editor because I like being right. It’s not that my boss likes paying me to point out his mistakes. (Although I enjoy both those things.) It’s that grammar, punctuation, and spelling are still a thing.
Good grammar is credibility. Your dazzling personality isn’t portrayable online – all you have to represent yourself is your content. In blogs, in emails, on websites, on social media, your words ARE YOU. They tell prospects and customers that you’re detail-oriented (or not) and care about the quality of your work (or not).
And whether or not you think it’s important, people judge you when you use their, there, and they’re and to, two, and too wrong. (Just go to the comments of literally any article online to see what I mean.)
There’s a lot of conjecture about bad grammar and how it affects business. Most people agree it’s a negative effect, but no one knows how negative. Supposedly, 59% of people reported they wouldn’t buy from a company that doesn’t take time to edit, but look at me … I take screenshots of Edible Arrangements’ emails, post laments about them on Facebook, and write blogs about their poor grammar ... and yet, I still buy from them.
For small businesses, however, it’s not so easy. The photo of the chalkboard to the left, for example, was taken at a BBQ joint with two locations. When I saw the mistakes (two of them), I told the hostess ... and she was embarrassed and immediately went outside to fix them. Would Edible Arrangements notice if I stopped buying from them? No. But how many of your customers can you afford to lose because you can’t be bothered to care about the quality of your content?
You’re not in school anymore, but you’re still being graded on your grammar, punctuation, and spelling – just now, your final grade is the business you lose.
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