Why proper grammar ranks high among job skills

On September 7, 2015, at a One Direction concert, singer Harry Styles proved that he is more than a rock star. Noticing a poster being held by a sixteen-year-old fan, the singer asked that the poster be brought to him. He then took a marker and corrected the spelling and grammar, autographed the item and returned it to the teen who tweeted her appreciation.

One Direction's Harry Styles corrected a fan's grammar during a concert. (Credit: BBC.co.uk)

One Direction’s Harry Styles corrected a fan’s grammar during a concert. (Credit: BBC.co.uk)

It’s a good idea to develop good communication skills as part of our repertoire of job skills. Knowing how to write and use proper spelling, punctuation and grammar can make a big difference in your career success. Let’s look at how to improve your writing skills.

Good communication skills

Luckily most of us won’t embarrass ourselves so publicly as in the case of sixteen-year-old Taelor Ford. Happily, Styles was very kind when making the correction and Ms. Ford was gracious in her response on Twitter.

The more likely scenario in which you might find yourself is making a mistake on a resume or cover letter to a potential employer. Oftentimes, when applying for a job your first point of contact is in writing. Even emails require a sufficient level of editing before you hit the Send button.

According to Susan Adams of Forbes.com, employers are losing patience with grammar errors especially among the younger employees. What works so well on Twitter with its limit of 140 characters does not work at all when you’re charged with communicating important information with depth and nuance.

In her July 20, 2012, post for Forbes.com, “Why Grammar Counts At Work,” Adams provided examples of grammatical offenses.

  • Improper use of “lay” and “lie”
  • Overuse of the word “like”
  • Misuse of pronouns such as “I” and “me”

To further illustrate her points Adams cited an article by Kyle Weins, CEO of iFixit, an online repair manual. When making hiring decisions Wiens considers grammar skills most important for two reasons.

“One, he points out, is that in this digital age, when we communicate increasingly in written texts and posts, ‘your words are all you have.’ We project ourselves through our written words, he notes. Another reason is that poor grammar shows a kind of sloppiness. Wiens wants to hire people who pay attention to detail,” Adams explained.

Learn how to write

A great resource to help you hone your writing skills is at Questia. If you haven’t already done so, take a tour of Questia’s online library, citation and bibliography tools and the writing center. Not only will Questia’s tools help you to find a topic, research, write and cite your papers, you’ll also find sources to help you learn more about grammar.

A prime example is The Good Grammar Guide by Richard Palmer. Through exercises and humor, Palmer pointed out common errors and misconceptions. He gently guides the reader to a new understanding of grammar and usage without getting bogged down in rules and details.

Another helpful resource is the book, Grammar for Grownups: A Self-Paced Training Program, by Janis Fisher Chan and Diane Lutovich. This book contains explanations, examples and exercises to help the reader practice and learn. Each lesson also has suggestions for applying what you learned to your own writing and on continuing to improve your understanding of the rules of grammar and punctuation.

DIY grammar

Melissa Donovan listed “10 Good Grammar Resources,” in a March 27, 2014, article for WritingForward.com.

Donovan’s list included:

  • Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
  • Schoolhouse Rock videos on YouTube.com
  • Guide to Grammar and Writing by Dr. Charles Darling (available online)

“There’s an app for that! Depending on your platform or device, you can find tons of grammar apps, so the answers to your grammar questions will be at your fingertips, anytime, anywhere! I’m a fan of the app ‘Grammar Guide’ (for iPhone),” Donovan added.

Hone your writing and communication skills with the resources and tutorials available at Questia.

Have you ever had an embarrassing moment because of a mistake in spelling or grammar? Tell us about it in the comments.

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