Delegates on the workshop I’m co-running in Bristol today (media skills and press release writing, in case you were wondering) might notice there’s a real spring in my step.
After my birthday, Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, and any day Watford win, today is my favourite day in the calendar. It’s National Grammar Day, the day that highlights the importance of correct grammar and punctuation. The day when it’s OK to be a grammar nerd, for 24 hours at least.
I cover common grammar mistakes and how to avoid them in many Sentence Works courses. Before we start, I always ask workshop delegates whether grammar really matters in the twenty-first century. I’ve always been prepared for someone to say it doesn’t, so I can argue my corner, but in two years of running these courses, no-one has ever said it doesn’t.
Grammar (and I include punctuation under its banner) matters for a number of reasons. Good grammar simply makes writing easier to understand. Punctuation exists solely to make meaning clear. Speech marks show who’s talking. Apostrophes identify who something belongs to. Commas help with the general clarity of a sentence.
Take this example:
· I’d like to thank my parents, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
· I’d like to thank my parents, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton.
That extra comma in the second sentence may be subtle but it really changes the meaning. It makes clear it’s a list of people being thanked, rather than suggesting that the parents are Donald and Hillary.
The title of the excellent book “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” by Lynne Truss is another example of the power of the comma. With no comma, we might assume we are learning about the finer points of a panda’s diet. But if the panda eats, shoots and leaves then we can imagine it wandering into a bar, having a nice dinner and then picking up its rifle and shooting something before strolling out. The comma can be a powerful tool.
Grammar also matters because other people think it matters. If your grammar is inaccurate, you won’t impress the potential employer looking at your CV. A website riddled with grammatical mistakes makes you look sloppy and unprofessional – as if you don’t care. And research shows that grammatical errors on your dating profile can reduce your chances of finding love. Proof reading company Grammarly found that 88% of women and 75% would judge someone based on their grammar. That’s more than would judge someone for having bad teeth.
So make sure your grammar and punctuation are tip-top. You could transform your love life and your job prospects in one go.