Friday, June 22, 2012

Grammar in the Office

Question: Why are bosses becoming so concerned about mistakes in grammar in the office?

Note: The following are excerpts from Sue Shellenbarger’s column entitled “This Embarasses You and I,” from the Wall Street Journal, Internet edition, June 20, 2012, published in the newspaper on page D1.

Answer/Quote: Grammar Gaffes Invade the Office in an Age of Informal Email, Texting and Twitter

·         By SUE SHELLENBARGER of the Wall Street Journal.
Quote: When Caren Berg told colleagues at a recent staff meeting, "There's new people you should meet," her boss Don Silver broke in, says Ms. Berg, a senior vice president at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., marketing and crisis-communications company.

Quote: "I cringe every time I hear" people misuse "is" for "are," Mr. Silver says. The company's chief operations officer, Mr. Silver also hammers interns to stop peppering sentences with "like." For years, he imposed a 25-cent fine on new hires for each offense. "I am losing the battle," he says.
Quote: Managers are fighting an epidemic of grammar gaffes in the workplace. Many of them attribute slipping skills to the informality of email, texting and Twitter where slang and shortcuts are common. Such looseness with language can create bad impressions with clients, ruin marketing materials and cause communications errors, many managers say.

Quote: Leslie Ferrier says she was aghast at letters employees were sending to customers at a Jersey City, N.J., hair- and skin-product marketer when she joined the firm in 2009. The letters included grammar and style mistakes and were written "as if they were speaking to a friend," says Ms. Ferrier, a human-resources executive. She had employees use templates to eliminate mistakes and started training programs in business writing.
Quote: In workplace-training programs run by Jack Appleman, a Monroe, N.Y., corporate writing instructor, "people are banging the table," yelling or high-fiving each other during grammar contests he stages, he says. "People get passionate about grammar," says Mr. Appleman, author of a book on business writing.

Quote: Mr. Garner, the usage expert, requires all job applicants at his nine-employee firm—including people who just want to pack boxes—to pass spelling and grammar tests before he will hire them. And he requires employees to have at least two other people copy-edit and make corrections to every important email and letter that goes out.
Write to Sue Shellenbarger at

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page D1, June 20,2012.

A version of this article appeared June 20, 2012, on page D1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: This Embarrasses You and I*.

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