By Hilary Kaye
Some days I think I’m the only one who cares.
That is, the only one* who cares about grammar and punctuation – those pesky commas, and semi-colons; the Preponderance Of Unnecessary Capitals; and of course, misspellings and just plain misuse of words.
Every day we are bombarded with error-filled writing. Sure, I have come to expect casual communications to be lax on the rules. Emails, texts, instant messages, tweets, posts – it’s pretty much a free-for-all these days. Doesn’t make it right, but it sure is today’s reality. Unfortunately, sloppy writing has infiltrated the written word from top to bottom, from newspapers and magazines to letters and signs. When I was in the newspaper world, we used to gleefully hang onto mistakes we found for “blooper” collections. These days, the bloopers sometimes outnumber the rest.
But I took heart the other day when I read a blog post by Shel Holtz, a fellow PR pro: “Spelling and grammar do matter, according to consumers.” Shel wrote about a study from Disruptive Communications among consumers in the UK that queried what they liked, and disliked, about the brands they followed with social media. To my surprise – and probably to yours, too – 42 percent said they hated poor spelling and grammar, and this was more than double the next-most annoying behavior (being too “salesy”). Huh? I guess they care after all.
You might think the study was skewed to, um, old folks. You know, the ones who learned the rules of grammar before the Internet arrived. But au contraire. Even the youngest subset, 18-24 year-olds, ranked bad spelling and grammar as the second-most annoying behavior from companies they follow. Surprisingly, it came in second (only 1.2 percentage points) behind their number one gripe: companies that don’t post often enough.
Another finding, men and women are equally peeved with bad grammar and spelling: less than one percentage point apart.
Language is an ever-changing communication tool. I get that. And there are innumerable styles of writing, from casual to formal. But Shel’s parting comments deserve repeating here, in case you don’t have the time or energy to click the link to his column: “Based on the Disruptive Communications study, you can’t just shrug it off by labeling misuse as ‘authentic’ or proclaiming that social media doesn’t require attention to formality. It’s pissing off your fans. That should be enough to make you want to start making sure you’re getting it right.”
*apologies to Kevin, who perhaps cares even more than me (and I’m sure he’ll remind me it is "I," not "me")!