English Grammar Dying in the Workplace

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Grammar gone astrayGrammar in the workplace has been on a slow decline for years, but it’s no longer the domain of temp-working valley girls. As the younger generations grow older and take up positions higher and higher in the workforce, more grammatical mistakes become apparent. Many of the older generations worry that it is borderline illiteracy.

Meanwhile, young professionals are content that the English language is changing and that conveying your ideas in a short format — 140 character texts and tweets for example — is more important than perfect grammatical structure to every sentence. Some issues are so deeply ingrained in people they don’t know they’re doing it; using “like” constantly is one example. Another is using “I could care less” when you really mean “couldn’t”.

Other grammatical errors are more contentious, and cause fairly severe fights among sticklers and the ‘loose cannons’ of grammar. The “Oxford Comma” is one of the worst. The sentence, “My best friends are my brothers, David, and Susan” is quite different from “My best friends are my brothers, David and Susan.” The latter is the preferred method for the most-used AP style, but implies that the speaker’s brothers are named David and Susan, which is incorrect. The former is technically incorrect, but gets the meaning across much more clearly.

Different companies handle the issue of grammar differently. Some are beginning to require that new hires pass a grammar test, no matter what their job would be. Others institute penalties like a swear jar for grammar mistakes. Still others require that every important memo, letter or e-mail be proofread twice before it’s sent.

On the other hand, new companies populated more with the younger generation treat grammar much more lightly. Effective communication through social media and short format writing is more important than perfect grammar to them.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal.