Thanks to online networking, more businesspeople are writing more frequently than just a decade ago. Most of us are conscientious about the content we make public but how many of us take time to consider the way we structure our social posts and emails? How conscious are we about grammar?
While it is widely accepted that social media is casual, the difference between colloquialisms and incorrect grammar is usually obvious, and the latter could chip at your professional credibility.
This is not to say that all businesspeople need to be professional writers or creative writers. Some basic grammar rules, however, seem to be turned upside-down and repeated so often that they are becoming normal. I wonder if this is a result of our tendency to trust what we see in print. Either way, it is always a good idea to keep a grammar reference guide handy and to subscribe to a credible grammar publication for continual edification. I share a few at the end of this brief article.
Although I have written about this on several occasions over the years, the single grammar faux pas that I see in print almost as much as I hear in verbal exchanges involves confusion around subjects and objects.
Grab a ruler and let’s diagram a sentence! Before you roll your eyes, read further.
Misplacement of “I” and “me” in a sentence can make you seem less credible. Consider these sentences:
“I am grateful for your invitation.”
“Your invitation surprised me.”
I’m sure you agree that these sentences are written correctly. Watch what happens when we add John Doe to the first-person pronoun.
“John Doe and I are grateful for your invitation.”
No harm there, right?
The problem comes when the compound subject becomes a compound object. Just as “Your invitation surprised I” sounds and is incorrect, so too is “Your invitation surprised John Doe and I” yet this mistake is rampant.
The first-person pronoun, whether compounded or not, is always “I” as the subject of a sentence and “me” as the object of a sentence. It is correct to say, “Your invitation surprised John Doe and me.”
If as a child you recall being corrected when you said, “John and me,” it was likely because the duo was the subject of a sentence rather than the object. This is why it is important to understand the parts of a sentence. Time spent diagramming sentences in the sixth grade was not wasted after all. No need to worry if you can no longer find your old notebooks. We have access at our fingertips to a bevy of excellent resources. Here are a few of my go-to grammar/writing sites:
· Grammar Girl (aka Quick and Dirty Tips)
In the immortal words of Columbo, just one more thing…
Understand that writing is a process. Whether crafting a simple social post, an email, or a white paper, the process involves thought, drafts, edits, and rewrites. Make sure to include a writing refresher course in the professional development plan you outline for yourself or your team.