This guy won’t hire you if you use poor grammar

Personally, I’m not a grammar Nazi. Well actually, I am a bit of stickler…

Are you a Grammar Nazi?

But I’m more in the descriptivist camp rather than on the prescriptionist side of things. What I mean is that I’m more interested in what people actually say and do rather than what some stupid rule says. Latin grammar rules just don’t work that well for English. Not these days anyway (Whoops… sentence fragment).

Anyway, I cannot stand seeing bad grammar and poor spelling in a couple of areas that I consider to be “high stakes”. These are:

  • Job applications
  • CVs and resumes
  • Academic essays and reports
  • Newspaper articles

Typos I can forgive. I make typos… In fact, I’m getting worse thanks to predictive texting on my iPhone. Kids are excused too. Some adults I guess as well… Also, this doesn’t apply to people with dyslexia, ESOL learners, or if you have other extenuating circumstances.

Now, all caveats aside, this guy won’t even look at your CV if he finds poor grammar. I can sympathize. In fact, this sentiment makes me feel all warm inside… I don’t mean to be a jerk, but he’s right on a lot of levels.

Here’s a summary below. These are my reasons why you need to get it right, and why you need to teach other people to spell and use correct grammar. Even if you’re American.

  1. Grammar mistakes make you look stupid.
  2. Poor grammar won’t get you killed but it might get you passed over for a promotion or a job.
  3. You might have to answer grammar questions as part of a literacy assessment when you apply for a job.
  4. It’s pretty hard to make a living without doing some kind of writing.
  5. The internet including blog posts, emails, websites, status updates on Facebook, tweets etc actually make grammar more important.
  6. Your words are a projection of you. You’re not there, but your crappy grammar is. Or the reverse.
  7. People judge you if you can’t tell the difference between words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings.

  8. Good grammar makes good business sense.
  9. Good grammar correlates with job performance, creativity, and intelligence. Woah… That’s a big call. But I think he’s right. It’s OK, I didn’t have many friends before anyway.
  10. People who can write well, can do lots of other things well. Like write great computer code and run businesses. Bob Jones comments on this every couple of years. He typically hires BAs rather than business graduates.
  11. People who think writing is important care about details. And the devil’s in the details.
  12. People who are about writing tend to care about other things too.

So there you go. Grammatical stickler-ness totally justified… G is for Grammar Nazi. Please make a note of all my mistakes in the comments below.


Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

8 thoughts

  1. I love it when a grammar Nazi corrects someone and inadvertently makes a grammar error. Angry, frustrated, yet now unable to comment further! Doh! Rage…

    There is a great article by “Green”(?) who discusses BVE (Black Vernacular English) and this sentence, “My puppy, he be always followin me”. He puts up a great argument that this is a superior English sentence to “My puppy is always following me”. Very compelling argument about how ‘correct grammar’ is a fallacy. I’ll dig out the reference.

      1. I dug it out. Its by J.P Gee (who I always find challenging) and is called ‘Ideology and theory’ (1990). Even at 22 years old (!!Cripes!)) this article is very good. Gee always challenges me because I generally disagree with his view on sociolinguistics but he is so darn clever. I always come away from reading his material far richer than I went in.
        I can’t find it online unfortunately. Here is the link to his other work.

        Anyway, he would argue that Grammar Nazis are using a culturally imposed (and misinformed) hierarchy to keep others down and them on top.

        Loving the site by the way. Where are all the other commentators? Sittingbull seeks robust debate!

  2. Yes… so sounds like the descriptivist camp… thanks for the links. Actually, I think you are the only one who reads this blog other than me, but thanks for the continued comments. Cheers, G

  3. For someone who essentially “colours in” for a living – literacy proficiently has been a hard learnt skill. When bad spelling costs the company money in missed errors you tend to buck up your ideas quickly.

    Ironically, for all its impetus on the three ‘R’s, I feel none of my literary skills were learnt in primary, secondary or tertiary education. The reality is that proficiency in literacy is a difficult skill to master. There are many genre and for each a specific set of subtleties that are obvious to an insider and mysterious to everyone else.

    Three things have helped my skills improve:

    1) Mistakes equaling lost income
    2) Getting older – I just didn’t get it before
    3) Vicariously writing a Masters dissertation through my partner. This i think was the single most important contributing factor in my literary education. Essentially having spent a year reading, speaking, breathing and critiquing post graduate level writing amounted to an apprenticeship of sorts.

    Its not easy – but you do get there – even if you did skip English to take art.

  4. Simon, how right you are. My dear wife had to read hundreds of draft copies of my masters. She is now a legend. Considering how badly I write she has now graduated as a literacy teacher.

    Writing really does take a long time to develop. We should actually measure it in hours practiced, as we do music or flying. I think that writing equals thinking (in many cases) and hence is very hard work. I’ve never lost money to a spelling error (that I’m aware of) but I have had cringe moments when a document has been published with spelling errors. Its probably more about a robust editing process than poor spelling.

    I have read the video games book and loved it. He talks about role playing games and how they are using the top instructional designers to speed up the learning curve it takes to learn how to play a game. Anything by Gee is good.

  5. I think we need to establish some kind of recognition of current competency assessment to confer honorary degrees on partners and others who are subjected to reading post-grad dissertations… My wife would also qualify. She read my entire Masters thesis out loud from beginning to end so I could hear how it sounded and check for all sorts of problems with the writing…

    I agree. Writing = thinking and more importantly, teaching writing = teaching thinking. This was my main take away from university.

    Re Gee: I’ll have to track down the book… Sounds great. Thanks guys for the interactions.

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