Good Grammar Don’t Matter (LOL!)

John McWhorter, a Columbia University linguistics professor and contributing editor at The New Republic, recently posted an article in the opinion pages of The New York Times declaring grammar to be “a matter of fashion.”

He argued that, in linguistics, it’s incorrect to designate any kind of English “proper” because language is constantly changing. McWhorter illuminated what we’d call poor grammar in celebrated works from authors like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and William Shakespeare to support his argument.

The next week, Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and founder of Dozuki, published “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.” on the Harvard Business Review. In his post, Wiens said job seekers in any industry who can’t pass a grammar test deserve to be passed on for jobs—even if they are otherwise qualified.

Grammar has become somewhat of a controversial issue in today’s job search. Many recruiters immediately discard resumes that contain grammar, punctuation, or spelling mistakes, yet 23 percent of job seekers complain about spelling mistakes in job ads. What’s more, job seekers know that grammar isn’t perfect inside the workplace, so why should it matter that their job applications contain a typo or an LOL or two?

In the job search, grammar is not a laughing matter. Excellent grammar is essential in the job search process regardless of industry. Job seekers who correctly apply grammar, spelling, and punctuation to their job search tools, including cover letters, resumes, CVs, and online profiles, are more likely to impress HR, be brought in for an interview, and get the job. Here’s why:

Good Grammar is Respectful

With some 12.7 million job seekers across the nation, HR is receiving an increased number of cover letters and resumes. HR professionals spend hours navigating these resumes attempting to find the perfect candidate for the job. They see written job search materials with poor grammar, spelling, or punctuation and think one thing: You’re wasting their time.

Job seekers who truly want to be considered for the positions they’re applying to wouldn’t dare misuse “there,” “their,” and “they’re” in a sentence or, worse, misspell the HR representative’s name. Job seekers who use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation in all of their job search materials are seen as serious and respectful professionals who are likely to excel within a company.

Correct Grammar Establishes Credibility

We’re first taught basic grammar in elementary school, and proficient grammar is expected by the time we accept our high school diplomas. When HR professionals receive cover letters littered with grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes, they wince and wonder if the job seeker in question really graduated high school. They also wonder the last time the job seeker read a publication more credible than a Facebook status.

Until you’re able to get in front of an HR representative at a company, your words are all you have in a job search. They are a prediction of who you are as a professional in your physical absence. Job seekers serious about work wouldn’t dare dress sloppily to a job interview, so why allow written introductions to contain errors?

Good Grammar is Just Good Sense

Professionals who advocate the necessity of grammar proclaim that job seekers who use good grammar, spelling, and punctuation are more detail-oriented than job seekers who haphazardly write, edit, and hit send. It’s likely that job seekers who pay close attention to how they write will also pay close attention to the details of their future potential jobs. But using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation is more than understanding tricky homonyms like “affect” and “effect;” it’s just good sense.

Finding a great job nowadays is tough, and good grammar, spelling, and punctuation is one tool HR is using to separate the good candidates from the great ones. Why throw away a chance at a career you love over silly mistakes?

If you’re a job seeking professional who struggles with grammar, spelling, or punctuation, have a grammar stickler friend review your written materials before submission, or brush up your skills online in or in a business writing class.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Jackalope Jobs!

About the Author:  Sudy Bharadwaj is a co-founder and the CEO of Jackalope Jobs, a job seeker focused platform, making the job search social, fast and easy. Learn how Sudy and Jackalope Jobs obsess over job seekers by connecting with them on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.




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