Bad Writing: the Ultimate Office Torture


Cool cats proofread their business documents.

The right interrogator could get me to confess to anything. First, fingernails on a chalkboard.

“Alright, I took 62 minutes for lunch!”

Next, bring in a woman to talk nonstop about her husband’s shortcomings, using the phrase “Bless his heart” over and over until I want to stick a pencil in each ear. “Yes, I surfed the Internet on company time!”

Finally, make me read the following:

Employee’s, We had a great physical year even better then last year, you should be proud. Choosing Employee of The Year has been a difficult task for Carl and I because their was so many accomplishments  from all of you making it hard to choose from,  little on name just one. Your all valuable employee’s, myself and Carl takes this award seriously.

“Stop! I confess to whatever you want. Just take that poorly written memo away from me!”

Not everyone feels this way. Most people do not critique menus and plumbers’ truck decals. They don’t have fond memories of learning to diagram a sentence in grade school.

Attention to grammar, punctuation and spelling is a skill that often has no real value in the office. When was the last time you missed a promotion because you could not properly conjugate a verb? Can you remember your company suffering a terrible quarter because the CEO used too many dangling participles?  The worst grammar offenders can be the most business-savvy, intelligent leaders of the company.

So, why bother proofreading your interoffice emails? Because even though 99 percent of your coworkers may not notice your bad grammar, there’s always one nerd in the office who cares. It may not be fair, but some of us can’t help but lose a little professional respect for someone who cannot compose a correct sentence. And maybe, just maybe, a customer cares. What if that new client just can’t justify paying thousands of dollars to someone whose emails make him sound like he slept through elementary school? Good writing is not pretentious and snooty. It’s efficient and it communicates your message without confusion, while poor writing is actually much more difficult to decipher.

If you want to work on your written communication but can’t remember the name of a single English teacher you ever had, it’s ok. Look around your office. There’s always someone. Maybe it’s that guy who reads thick books on his lunch break. Didn’t he mention an English degree? Ask him to proofread those really important messages before you hit “send.”

If you don’t want to enlist others in your quest for better communication, there are plenty of resources out there. Although you can buy reference books, all you really need is to surf the Net. Yes, on company time. One of my favorite sites is that of Chicago writer and editor, Erin Wright. Her blog playfully tackles common grammar issues, making the English language fun. That way, when they finally bust you for surfing the Web on company time, you have a valid excuse. Just be careful in telling the boss that he could benefit from some grammar tips.


5 thoughts on “Bad Writing: the Ultimate Office Torture

  1. Thank you so much for the mention! You are absolutely right–grammar is frequently overlooked in the office. Sadly, many businesses forget that their written communication (both external and internal) is a reflection of their attention to detail.

    Happily, not everyone has to be a professional grammarian because there are plenty of independent contractors (like me!) who are more than willing to swoop in with snappy copywriting and eagle-eyed editing 🙂

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