Is poor grammar affecting your career?

Is poor grammar affecting your career?


Some businesses are introducing  language and grammar lessons for their employees. Picture: Thinkstock Source:

POOR spelling and grammar can affect (not effect) your career, your business  and how you’re perceived as a professional.

The lack of basic literacy skills among some younger employees and recent  graduates has become such a problem for businesses that some are introducing  language and grammar lessons.

Anna Underhill, a consultant at HR firm Maxumise, said poor spelling and  grammar use by employees had become a serious issue for employers.

Ms Underhill said organisations spend large sums of money on corporate  branding in logos and marketing only to have the good work undone by sloppy  correspondence from employees.

“If that message isn’t coming across in all correspondence then that’s  wasted,” she said.

“A lot of the abbreviated wording is done in social media but you can’t  assume the person receiving it in a business sense knows what you’re talking  about.”

Experts say grammar gaffes and poor spelling reflect badly not just on  employers but also on employees.

Public Relations Institute of Australia head of marketing Kate Johns said  many university graduates had a fundamental lack of understanding of basic  grammar principles.

“It’s not their fault but that fundamental foundation is missing,” she  said.

“I think it has become one of these things; it’s considered attention to  detail where it should be part of the fundamental process.”

Ms Underhill said email correspondence was particularly a problem for many  employers because it sets the tone for the culture of the company.

But while employees were often given extensive inductions into company  processes, basic grammar and spelling were ignored.

“Receptionists get inductions telling them ‘This is how you answer phones’ but if it’s not monitored in emails that can totally destroy it,” she said.

Ms Johns agreed saying email was often the only form of communication  employees had with clients and therefore it was important to make a good  impression.

“You can be really well articulated offline, but if you can’t translate that  online then there’s a gap,” Ms Johns said.

“If things are sloppy from that email correspondence that’s the impression  they’re going to get.”

Marcus Ludriks, a manager at Essential Energy, recently organised language,  spelling and grammar courses for 25 of the company’s engineers.

“The issue is we have a number of land owner consultations by phone, letter  or email and every one of those needs to be documented and be able to be relied  upon in a court of law,” Mr Ludriks said.

“We want our people to have better written skills and grammar so any  communication with our customers is clear – there shouldn’t be any  ambiguity.”

Mr Ludriks said the main issue was that his employees assumed readers would  understand complicated statements.

“When you’re writing a letter to an organisation or a customer, language  needs to be a lot more formal and easily understood,” he said.

Spelling and grammar coach Mary Morel said people understood grammar  intuitively from listening and reading, but often didn’t know the “nuts and  bolts”.

“People are more forgiving of typos in emails,” said Ms Morel, founder of

“We all make mistakes, but when [emails] become laden with mistakes it’s  bad.”

Most common errors

  • Mixing up “it’s” and “its”
  • Mixing up “effects” and “affects”
  • Misuse of “which” and “that”
  • Putting apostrophes in the plurals of acronyms, for example “KPI’s” instead  of “KPIs”
  • Switching between singular and plural when referring to company names, for  example “Westpac are” instead of “Westpac is”

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