My name’s Lucy, and poor spelling, punctuation and grammar make me very angry.
Lately, some promotional signage for a local healthy eating restaurant has been driving me mad. It refers to Abs (as in abdominals) as AB-S. A hyphen? Not even the usual rogue apostrophe? It makes me do the rolling-eyed emoji face every time I drive past, swiftly followed by the red angry face. To me, this is just careless.
Do business owners care how even minor mistakes can impact people’s perceptions of their business?
I’ve been pondering the question of declining writing standards for a while. I am hearing and seeing evidence from a variety of sources that suggests general standards of written communications in the workplace are slipping. The problem is not specific to a size or sector of business either. It’s an issue across the board. This must be a huge drain on managers’ time. They’re generally the ones who have to correct documentation and proof articles before they can enter the public domain.
I’ve learnt that written communication is not the only culprit. In some cases managers don’t trust their employees to speak directly with customers because their interpersonal skills aren’t up to scratch.
Would you trust every person in your team to communicate with your most valued customers?
I take pride in and care over my emails, sometimes checking them several times before I press Send. Just this afternoon, I received an email from a potential new client and noted two typos in it straight away. When this happens I ask myself:
Did they see the mistakes and just not bother to amend them?
Did they see the mistakes and think ‘it’s not my job to change it’?
Did they just not see the mistakes at all?
Do I really want to work with a company that doesn’t care?
Are my own standards too high/unrealistic?
The rise in popularity of spellchecking tools like Grammarly tells me there’s a clear issue here. As a communicator, it’s an issue I feel duty-bound to investigate further. These are my initial thoughts on the source of the problem. Do you agree?
A time poor generation
A big part of the problem is lack of time. We’re all under so much pressure to deliver projects quickly; the onus is placed on saving time and money, rather than attention to detail. Emails are rushed, reports hurried and presentations compiled at the last minute. None of this makes for accurate and considered communication.
School, college and university leavers perhaps don’t have the luxury of work experience at a business-to-business level these days. This breeds a lack of experience and confidence in writing for a business audience. After all, people tend to write and behave the only way they know. The great news for business owners is that these skills can be developed.
Typos, bad grammar and poor punctuation don’t appear to matter on social media. It’s a quick-fire and instantly gratifying form of communication and users are taking these poor writing habits into the workplace. People don’t check what they write before posting. Using the right hashtag seems to be more important than writing words in the right order in your post. Then there’s the rise of the Instagram generation where pictures are more important than words. Emails arrive littered with kisses, emojis, and a little gif attached. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are times and places to use emojis at work, just not in a client proposal document! Social gratification must not come at the detriment of the English language.
Can you help me?
I’m on a one-woman mission to understand the reasons behind our apparent decline in communications standards. If you have a personal view on the subject, or you’ve experienced challenges in your own workplace, please get in touch for a confidential chat. Whether you agree with me or not, I’d love to have your input. Please leave me a comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07810 528517.
People I’d love to hear from
Teachers in higher education, especially those involved in preparing students for the workplace.
Business owners with good and bad experiences of managing inexperienced employees, such as apprentices.
HR, training, and communications managers at all levels.
Those involved in training and placing apprentices in the workplace.
Apprentices and school/college leavers who are about to start, or have just started, their first job.
Mark my (accurately written) words, this won’t be the last you hear of this!