Does grammar matter in 2013?
The subject and service it’s advertising are relevant at the moment; this should be a huge winner for them. Visually the page is appealing, the information presented is mission-critical, highly relevant to a huge number of businesses and there is a very clear call to action. On the face of it, it’s a clear winner and I hope it will convert well for them.
However, as I read, some pet hates started to niggle me. Then, two-thirds of the way down the page, the big blunder jumped out at me… there – their – they’re.
Now text-speak is commonplace, does grammar matter?
Now I’m the first to admit, I can’t spell. I wish I could, but my brain just isn’t wired that way. I personally struggle with grammar, I need to look things up frequently. I’m also not a particularly good writer – I have a tendency to waffle-on; this post may be a case in point. I’m aware of this so I’m careful to double-check myself. As a career-long typesetter and designer I’m also aware that many people are blind to their own mistakes, ones which they would spot straight away in someone else’s writing (it’s a phenomenon of reading what you expect to see, not what is actually on the page) so when possible I get other people to proof my writing.
Nowadays text-speak is generally accepted. It can be justified, saving characters and maybe even the time it takes to capitalise ‘i’. The same goes for micro blogging where character count is critical, people can be forgiven for using shorthand. A web page doesn’t have such constraints, so is it acceptable to allow ‘sloppy writing’ to creep in there too?
I’ve included a screen-shot of the page in question but taken care to blur anything that could identify the site; it’s not my intention to embarrass anyone, I notified them of the typo immediately.
My point is this; if I am going to hire an agency to outsource my marketing and I see glaring errors in their published copy, I’m going to think twice. If they can’t even be bothered to proof their own work, will they care about mine?
It’s time to confess a couple of my pet hates. Capitalising words that are not proper nouns for emphasis, and inconsistency of writing style (if you are going to use title case, make sure you understand which of the 20+ conventions you are using, then be consistent.) By my pet-hate rules I counted over sixty ‘errors’ on this page just with cursory scan and at least three indisputable grammatical mistakes. How many can you find and would it put you off employing this agency?
I firmly believe that the correct use of grammar will never offend people who don’t know or care. However it’s incorrect use will definitely be noticed by those who do, and it can send sticklers into an apoplectic rage; they will never do business with you. Of these two camps, the carers are more likely to be in senior decision-making roles, so my unbiased answer to the question “does grammar matter in 2013?” is a resounding “Yes!”, and long may it continue to do so.
Or is the ‘Grammar-Nazi’ backlash valid?
A quick search on Google shows me that not everyone shares my opinion, indeed poor grammar seems to be a badge of honour now. I wouldn’t comment on personal social media profiles, but in business it must still count.
I realise that this post is opening up a can of worms. On the 1-10 stickler scale I’m about eight and I know there are many nines and tens out there, so I’ll just say this. If you feel inclined to proof read my entire website and send me feedback, please do! I’ll love you for it, because I really do care and I’m aware of my shortcomings.
One of my favourite resources is The Economist Style Guide.