Over the past couple of decades, I believe grammar has taken a beating–and not just in an “LOL” kind of way, but in a “I’m too lazy to learn the difference between ‘to’ and ‘too'” kind of way. So when the CEO of iFixit.com stood up for grammar in a recent piece he wrote for the Harvard Business Review (“I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.“), I started applauding from my desk.
Grammar isn’t just something you learn just to appease your high school English teachers; it’s a valuable skill that more people should take seriously. And Kyle Wiens (iFixit’s CEO) really does an excellent job of explaining why:
But grammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn’t make grammar unimportant. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.
Good grammar makes good business sense — and not just when it comes to hiring writers. Writing isn’t in the official job description of most people in our office. Still, we give our grammar test to everybody, including our salespeople, our operations staff, and our programmers.
On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?
Wrong. If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use “it’s,” then that’s not a learning curve I’m comfortable with. So, even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great programmer who cannot write.
I believe that if more people in places of power speak out in support of strong grammar skills–and define it in these terms–then more folks will start to recognize how valuable good writers (who pay close attention to these kinds of details) really are.
It’s nice to know that this CEO gets it. And I applaud him for that.
More on Grammar: Looking to beef up on your grammar knowledge and set yourself apart from the many who don’t? Check out Grammar Girl’s article on The 13 Trickiest Grammar Hang Ups (& How to Get Them Right).