Why Good Grammar is Important to Your Personal Brand

I was curious what I was writing about this time last year, so I went back through my posts. Here is a post from July 29, 2012 on the importance of good grammar. It could have been written five years ago or fifteen years from now and still be very relevant. 

A blog post with a provocative title caught my eye recently. A Harvard Business Review post by Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and founder of Dozuki, was titled "I Won't Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar Here's Why." Wiens uses a grammar test to screen potential employees at his companies. Writing is central to effective performance at both firms - Wiens describes iFixit as "the world's largest online repair manual" and Dozuki helps clients write product documentation such as user manuals. For Wiens, proper grammar usage is not about achieving perfection as much as it is about demonstrating professionalism.

Response to Wiens' post was surprising. Although many people agreed with Wiens' stance that good grammar is good business, many people critiqued his use of grammar and questioned his audacity to have what he described as a zero tolerance policy against grammar mistakes. Interestingly, some of the more than 2,300 comments devolved into evaluation of grammar usage in other persons' comments. The Grammar Police had a mighty presence on Wiens' blog post!

The article resonated with me as I see firsthand the effects of poor spelling and grammar on the quality of students' written communications. A correlation exists between grammar skills and perceived credibility of the communicator. For Kyle Wiens' companies, the quality of his brands hinges on proper presentation of information. He cannot afford to take a laissez-faire approach to his employees' writing craft. Nor can you or I. Our written and oral communication is a part of our product. Inferior product quality of our personal brand is not an option in a highly competitive market.

Command of spelling and grammar has three benefits:
1. It demonstrates a commitment to learning. Kyle Wiens says if a person has not mastered spelling and grammar after 20 years is it indicative of his or her learning curve in general?

2. It reveals attention to detail. Good grammar usage sends a positive signal about the communicator, just as poor grammar raises questions about the communicator's message quality and even credibility.

3. It can be a source of competitive advantage. Commit to sharpening this element of your personal brand. Think about how many job announcements seek a candidate with outstanding communication skills. Make it a point to stand out in this area.

You do not have to be an English professor to use grammar effectively. You only have to adopt a mindset of continuous improvement, pushing yourself to become more skilled at communication. Make your communications skills a strength that gets you hired or promoted, not allow it to be a liability that holds you back.