Certain employers say it’s important to them that their workers exhibit good grammar. But is bad grammar a valid reason to bar someone from a job?
Recently, in the Harvard Business Review, Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and founder of Dozuki, wrote an article called “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar.” In the article, Wiens argues that it is important to take into account an applicant’s grammatical abilities, regardless of the job they are applying for. Wiens says, “I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing—like stocking shelves or labeling parts.”
In other words, Wiens believes that people who are diligent about their grammar tend to be diligent about everything they do. But is good grammar really an indicator of concentration and care?
In an essay for the New York Times, John McWhorter argued against Wiens’ claim that grammar is essential in the workplace. McWhorter said that grammar is not indicative of intelligence or attention to detail but rather a product of one’s education and upbringing. As a result, McWhorter says, those from disadvantaged communities are disproportionately excluded from jobs because of grammar: “Anyone concerned about applicants’ grammar is probably dismayed at the state of public education today, and understands that the people most poorly served by this system find it increasingly challenging to find work providing a living wage or upward mobility, much less satisfaction.” In other words, very intelligent people may be barred from jobs because they grew up in a community that did not provide them with the resources to learn traditional grammar as well as those who grew up in more privileged communities.
Beyond this, McWhorter argues that, for many professions, grammar is not an essential skill. For example, does a computer programmer need to know the difference between “discreet” and “discrete?” Does an X-ray technician need worry about split infinitives? Obviously grammar is important for jobs where one is writing prose, but McWhorter suggests, it may not be that important for every job.
So, which is it: is grammar really necessary for every profession, or is it an irrelevant measurement of one’s efficacy in the workplace?
I believe one’s grammar should not be judged in a workplace, unless you are a teacher or anything along those lines. The only situation I can see, is if my grammar and vocabulary are so awful to the point were the job cannot be done efficiently. It just seems to me that I have met many hard working intelligent people that I can understand, but there are obvious flaws in their speech. I don’t have much of a vocabulary myself. If an employer didn’t hire me solely because they thought my grammar was incompetent, I would be highly offended. I would lose all respect for that person honestly.
I feel it is irrelevant measurement of one’s efficacy in the work place. The teachers and students of literature are essentially expected to be thorough with grammar.
Heaven help those computer programmers that don’t know the difference between discrete and discreet mathematics!
It should be obvious to any reasoning person that good grammar is not a requirement for many jobs. Unfortunately, and even though one’s speech and usages may reflect nothing more than the type of home one came from, bad grammar may incline a reader or listener to think that the speaker/writer is possessed of small intelligence, regardless of the truth of the matter.
Grammar is an outward manifestation of ability and intelligence (education and environment) and without probing more deeply is the one overt means to decide on a person’s fitness for a particular position.
Every job requires communication – written and verbal. Although certain jobs do not require grammatical competence, communicating with people in the job area or fraternity definitely requires grammar skills and would enhance one’s chances of growing to higher positions. An X-ray technician would want to grow in his career, and he will not be able to do that without getting his grammar right.
Poor grammar can lead to unclear communication, which is the cause of many problems at at work (as well as elsewhere).o
I value good grammar, but notice that as I age and use more technology, my spelling and grammar skills are weakening. I try to counteract this by reading, a lot, and getting my daily dose of Dictionary.com.
True, when a co-worker uses poor grammar, I feel it reflects poorly on them.
I agree with Mr. Wiens. I do not have a college degree and I have always been very sensitive about it. I feel communications is key in every conversation and in relationship whether it be personal or professional. It is important to know how to write well, have good grammar (subject and very agreement) etc.. The presence is important. Mr. McWhorter does not have a good argulment. Sadly we are judged on how we look, behave, speak, and interact with others. Professionally we live in constant ‘change’. If you do not embrace it you will perish. One position may not require that your grammar and writing skills are not detrimental. However, the next job may. The road to progress, productivity means saturate yourself with as much knowledge and ‘correctness’ no matter what it entails. Thank you.
I think it is important for TV news people to use the correct form (objective or nominative) of “I” or “me” in a sentence. They often do not.
Yes, grammar is really necessary for every true PROFESSION, if you accept the idea that a profession is a learned calling in which public service is the primary goal and the chance of monetary gain is secondary. It is not necessary for every job
Grammar is indeed important, but not to that extreme. Employers need to take it on a case-by-case basis.
Of course, potential employees should want to put their best foot forward.
This is an elitist attitude. This opinion is made by some one who may have benifited from his inherited place of entitlement. Look at our society and history what has really changed? This in my opinion is wide spread if not openly privately.
I submit that attention to grammar is an attention to detail AND accuracy. Using the “correct” word to replace a wordy sentence is important and especially computer programmers whose job requires a concision , syntax , and specialized vocabulary that leave no room for conjecture and interpretation. I will admit there is room for street language and quaint ethnic affectations which add greatly to society and contribute to libraries of humor but they can become a code for laziness and mediocrity. But getting employed by an company with worldwide clients requires accurate language skills; for many of its customers English is a second learned language and encounters with companies whose employee’s language skills are quaint and local is not good business.
I understand McWhorter for whom I have the highest regard regard for his language skills but I also have to argue that job seekers who know they lack accurate language skills can learn these essentials. And employers too could assist in the learning process by conditionally hiring a potential employee (all other things being equal) retention of whom is based on successfully getting up to speed, so to speak.
I am no language expert and feel that some of grammatical rules are arbitrary, contrived, and pedantic but there are others that demand accuracy. One of my cringes is double negatives, “not hardly” , “not never” for example. These gems are wrong because they are ambiguous and illogical. Like math double negatives are positive.
Who can argue with McWhorter who states that very intelligent people often use bad grammar because of lack of parenting, opportunities, community. I wonder if these folks that have the intellectual horsepower and learn quicker and easier than most of us recognize that they need better language skills. If there are requirements for the job – meet them. If I wanted to work for a French owned company I would start to learn French.
I don’t think intelligence sanctifies the person, to freely paraphrase a famous British politician; It is just the groundwork for learning. The prisons contain many smart people who didn’t bother.
Grammar is extremely important in our lives. If we don’t bother to learn to speak our own language efficiently, how will we address other learning tasks that come our way? I am known in my family as the “grammar police” because I do care so much about the subject. I will not say that every job should depend upon using excellent grammar, but it will always be important. Look what is already happening to our country as it dumbs down. If we remain complacent about grammar, we may leave the use of the English language and engage only in our own American slanguage. Our public schools are pathetic; where will our country end up?
I think that this passage contains enough substance to prove that grammer ISN’T important for every job… with what I mean, it IS important if your profession is teaching or your a professor or something, but its not considered or should not be considered as an important thing when applying for a job!
* when applying for another kinda jobs.
[...] ‘Workplace-Grammar’ — We wish that you could retire. — The fact that you’re only 35 — It don’t mean your time expire. — You might be a Great Grammar before you’re fifty — Great Great by sixty-five — Eligible for Medicare — Thank God your still alive. — Planned Parenthood is silly. — Thanks for helping Populate the Earth. — We need more babies Willy-Nilly. — Praise Jesus for Child Birth. — Isolate us idiots and don’t let us reproduce. — Our Story Grammars were old Ladies working for apple Juice. — Please retire Grammar from the workplace. — How can we learn that Grammar’s good Ifn y’all never let her loose — into the general population — To teach the Wisdom of most any situation — Privatize regulation — And Grammar just in case. –>>L.T.Rhyme [...]
The mentioned article in NYT is a beautiful response to this.
Personally, I feel that grammar is obviously important. My blood used to boil upon hearing “there is” as a indiscriminate substitution for “there are.”
But as I’ve realized more about my own shortcomings and the realistic difficulties of life, it has come to bother me less.
What is most important in a job applicant, in my opinion is integrity in the form of a world-conscious, pliable work ethic. That is, a mindset willing to learn-on-the job and work hard at it for the betterment of culture and society. Prioritizing particular technical skills (grammar is one of these) should vary from place to place, and be secondary.
I believe proper grammar is important, albeit certain jobs merit greater awareness and grammatical discipline than others. As several commenters above so rightly advocate, communication is very important in most jobs and in one’s personal life. One of my favorite expressions, as my colleagues would no doubt attest, is, “the devil is in the definitions.” Using words that aren’t defined often leads to misunderstandings, which leads to another aphorism, “If something is open to interpretation, it is open to misinterpretation.”
I am in banking. If we fail to clearly convey our meaning in a communication to a customer or in a write-up that is presented to a loan committee reviewing and approving a loan request, we could either lose business or accept an unknown risk through miscommunication. I read many documents a day that require me to read more than once to either understand what is being conveyed or, unfortunately, to make my best guess at what is being conveyed. This is both frustrating and inefficient.
When someone uses poor grammar it does affect my opinion of their intelligence or discipline. I do understand we are all human and make mistakes, but if there is a pattern my willingness to ignore the mistakes ebbs.
I find it funny that an article about bad grammar has errors in it…just saying…
As a rule, the more strictness my superiors have demanded of their work force’s grammar, the more likely we were to receive crazed sounding emails from them that were not only incoherent but also based on obvious falsehoods contributed by that superior’s inability to read well.
If grammar is important to your job, how important is grampar? What’s sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.
Beyond this, McWhorter argues that, for many professions, grammar is not an essential skill. For example, does a computer programmer need to know the difference between “discreet” and “discrete?” Does an X-ray technician need worry about split infinitives?
These examples donot belong to grammar,but rather belong to dictation!!!
The comma following the word “prose” should not be there.
(“another kinda jobs”??? Really?)
Actually, there is quite a bit of poor grammar–and spelling–in the above responses, including the “pro-grammar” responses. I believe that one problem is that grammatical rules will change over time; another isuue is regional dialects.
Oops–bad proofing! *issue. (*shamefaced and laughing at myself*)
I must be a snob, because I look down on anyone in a professional position who does not know the difference between “to” and “too” or “your” and “you’re”. Getting the job done technically correct is most important, but communication is a significant part of any professional job. When I see teachers and writers make these mistakes, it is hard to have respect for them. (I make exception for English as a second language writers.) Even if you do not know good grammar when you start work, there is no excuse for not learning it on the job — that is what I had to do.
I think grammar is very important. Many people who know me, refer to me as a grammar-cop. However, I don’t think grammar should be used as an entrance requirement to a job unless the job requires communication skills. Stocking shelves does not require proper grammar. If the job will be performed while interacting with clients or customers, then communication skills do become relevant, but how often will a store patron care about the grammar used?
While we’re on this subject, all of you who have expressed the importance of good grammar, should probably go proof-read your posts. Most of you would not meet Mr. Wiens’ standards.
Dwayne Wade said, “We was trying hard,” and “They was winning.”
The guy is worth tens of millions… so i gusse its doesnt’ madder if grammer is cognitive…
I think that people should hire based on grammar; with all the people out of work, we should give jobs to the best and the brightest. And that means the ones who speak and write properly.
This should not even be a question.
Persons communicate in some lingistic form: spoken, written, drawn, audio-/ video-recorded, et al. The linguistic form, taken in its entirety, is one’s language, and any language is a construct of numerous components, one of which is grammer. By definition, grammer exists by common consent, that is, by consistent adherence among practitioners of any given language.
It is from grammer than communications are vested with syntax. It is from syntax than communications derive reciprocal meaning. (THAT’S WHY IT IS CALLED ‘COMMUNICATION’ –BECAUSE ISSUER AND RECIPIENT ARE ABLE TO RECONGIZE / AGREE UPON AN INTENDED IMPORTANCE, VIZ, MESSAGE.)
The best possible grammer is essential to everyone/anyone, because grammer assists in conferring meaning. If one is going to be bothered with language at all, presumably it is for the conveyance of import / meaning. Why would anyone segregate grammar from the ability of a person to meaningfully participate in the workplace, or any other environment? That’s absurd. Of course grammar, a fundmental instrument of meaning, is essential in all walks of life.
By the way, I have been a computer programmer. Do people really think programmers just sit in their cubicles and bask in geek-chic? Believe me, most of my time was spent negotiating priorities with conflicting project teams and project managers through seemingly unending rounds of meetings. Speaking (and listening-then speaking) was most of my work. Everyone has to get your message the first time you say it in those situations–and I saw more of conference rooms than the private universe of a cubicle.
Also by the way, I am sure this is so unsympathetic as to be politically incorrect, but is it too insensitive to mention that people who want to make themselves better (or best) understood actually make the effort to acquire proper grammer, or is that too much like work(?), which is obviously passe. If it “takes a village to raise a child” (which it doesn’t), then it is everyone else’s fault if one’s grammar is deficient. Of course.
(YES, I DID USE THE WORD ‘DEFICIENT.’ IT IS SO MUCH EFFICIENT A TERM THAN “SOCIO-ECONOMIC VICTIM,’ WHICH IS A BIT LONG WINDED, AS I HOPE EVERYONE CAN AGREE.)
Calculators and spell-check and careless teachers have enabled many to ignore learning of basic skills. While I understand that this may sound elitist, these skills are not only academic achievements, but train the brain to develop thinking skills in critical areas. One teacher recently said, “Algebra is irrelevent and should not be taught any more – it is never used in life”. Indeed it is.
I am reminded of the police report that stated, “The driver had his foot decapitated…”
Grammar is always important, as are all other social skills. The managers I have known that lacked grammatical correctness also lacked in all other areas as well.
Some people need linguistic development and refinement. It is nothing to be ashamed of but self-improvement in all areas should be seen as an important goal.
I once had a boss who often spoke in public. He would frequently used the word “tangential,” except that he would always pronounce it “tan-genital.”
Does anyone out there realize that “hysterical” or any related word is a sexist slur? In the same way, “suck” in most current usages is a homophobic slur. Is that how we really want to present ourselves in public? Is there really any excuse for such coarse and incorrect speech?
I have to question whether the person who uses “computer programmer” as an example for whether grammar is important actually knows anything at all about programming. Syntax, the rules for a language, in other words grammar, is essential for proper programming, and I mean absolutely essential. One error can make the entire program malfunction, and when your code is thousands of lines long, you want to make sure that error never happens. So yes. Grammar is important for computer programmers because it practices the very basis of their trade, proper syntax.
And obviously nobody really needs to worry about split-infinitives because that’s more of a preference in style than a clearly defined rule of grammar.
Personally, my problem with McWhorter’s argument is that it seems to be asserting that an intelligent person and responsible adult is unable or unwilling to find the means to improve their grammatical skills (and they are skills, anyone can improve them with effort). There are hundreds of stories of motivated and intelligent people raising themselves up from poor communities. To list education and upbringing as a factor indicates to me that these supposedly intelligent people are completely unable to find ways to educate themselves. Doesn’t that notion strike you as a bit ridiculous if they really are intelligent people?
Another way to look at it is this: Suppose you are a very wealthy entrepreneur. However, you look like a dirty hobo who hasn’t washed or changed in years. Are people more likely to assume you are a dirty hobo, or a wealthy entrepreneur? Obviously they will think you are a hobo. It may be wrong, but from the information you presented, it’s the conclusion to draw. It’s the same with grammar. You may be smart, but if you have bad grammar, you look like a dirty hobo. Of course, the problem with this is that someone may be able to have the appearance of a wealthy entrepreneur without actually being one. You have to admit that the chances of what looks like a wealthy entrepreneur actually being a hobo are a lot lower than the chances of what looks like a hobo actually being a wealthy entrepreneur, though.
on the net, no-one cairs about grammer and spellling! (except the people who have commented on this post! Also too many exclamation points with kids these days!
I submit that the words “good” and “poor” be replaced with the words standard and non-standard respectively (as in that is the correct description). I’m a native speaker of English, my grammar is good (again, NATIVE speaker of English). However, if you learned English later in life and say something like: I found three birds blues (for blue birds), that is bad grammar. All native speakers have good grammar, it’s just how standard is it.
P.S. When they say grammar, I hope they mean the rules that determine structure in standard English, and that they don’t mean spelling and punctuation.
Actually, I thought about it for a bit, and my analogy is a little flawed at the end. You’re actually more likely to encounter someone faking being a wealthy entrepreneur (maybe not a hobo, though), than you are to encounter an entrepreneur faking being a hobo.
The point I was driving at is that you’re more likely to hire an actual wealthy entrepreneur by hiring the people that look like wealthy entrepreneurs than if you go around hiring people that look like hobos in the hopes that one of them is actually an entrepreneur just pretending to be a hobo.
Oh no! Think of China! lol apparently, in my case, as a budding lawyer, I think I do need to have a good command of English, however, I would not say entirely that grammar actually helps for some other jobs out there besides law. Anyway, if they kinda are bad at it, but can work efficiently in some other ways, that is good. Some people respect other for different aspects, not always English has to be considered important. I wish I could write this in Russian, but I would make the Russians mad if my grammar stink.
Anyway, I totally agree with the last two paras about computers and stuff, because I have a younger brother who barely grasps the concept of grammar, but he can fix computers and yadi yada, and I can’t. My grammar has nothing to do with a heavy piece of metal @__@” In life, it always boils down to fact that ‘it depends’ on the job. Everything we do are worked according to ‘a certain extent’ of out field. *peace :3
Grammar should be a main factor when it comes to applying for a job because jobs require GOOD communication. If you can’t understand the other person, then the business can’t run smoothly.
The ability to communicate effectively is crucial in the development of a professional career. As mentioned above, bad grammar or style could potentially leads to miscommunication.
However, being a second language speaker, who were not given the opportunities of proper grammar up bringing, and not getting helps from native speakers by correct any of the speaking error. We, as non native speakers, will never know we have used the wrong word, style or grammar.
It is important that community as a whole is willing to help each other learn, and correct them as needed, just like a parent teach their kids to speak properly. This will help everyone improve in their grammar and excel in their career development.
Certainly, a person who is willing to learn require a helping hand.
Once everyone’s grammar improved, then there will be no more bad grammar and would make communication more clearly and concise.
I think that there are 2 pairs of major mistakes in much of today’s grammar:
(forementioned) ‘me’ and ‘I’
fewer and less- this is a lesser known one- less is not as easily counted, e.g. less germs, fewer is more easily counted, e.g. fewer students in schools.
I apologise for any grammar mistakes. I am part of the commonwealth so this is how I spell.
I *heart* this website, it provokes a lot of collaboration and arguments(if that makes sense) and provides a lot of controversial topics that get people thinking about something that we use [pretty much] everyday, but may not know much about it’s history et cetera. I hate it when people say something like “I ain’t never gonna ……” It’s rather annoying…..
thank you dictionary.reference.com!!!
Search: interrobang for interesting punctuation…
The contention of Weins is that good gramar is an indicator of a persons attitude. In this case an attitude to accuracy, attention to detail or dilligence in the workplace. When you have only a few minutes in an interview or a written application on which to judge someone’s suitability for a job, then grammar could be a useful tool to separate candidates. To say that we should not use such indicators when choosing potential employees suggests that managers or employers should use other factors. Would DNA or a blood test be better? I think not. One commenter here said “Sadly we are judged on how we look, behave, speak, and interact with others.” Of course we are and so we should. Should I assume that when someone turns up for a job interview looking like they’ve been dragged through the hedge backwards that they’ll turn up for work clean and neat on Monday. No I won’t. Should I assume that if they’re rude and ill mannered on their way through my office to an interview that they’ll be polite and helpful to customers next week. No I won’t. When people are competing for a job in a tight market they must try and improve their chances as much as possible. If this means taking a little more time to either write an application with attention to good gramar, or seek help with gramar, then please advise them to do so. Tell them to make every effort to make the best of every chance they have.
…and yes I’ll check my spelling more better good next time.
Good grammar is important for many professional jobs. If you’re in the media, deal with CEOs and other high level people, you should speak well. Certain fields, of course, would require different levels of grammar. I expect more out of a writer than I would out of my doctor. People working with the public in professional fields should also have good grammar.
Does the cashier at Wal-Mart, the dishwasher at a restaurant, or the person working the drive-through at McDonald’s need to have excellent grammar? Not really. Nobody really expects it of them, although it is a bonus if they can spell well. Similarly, the guy stocking the shelves in a factory, or the guy welding parts on my car, don’t work with the public; I don’t think they should have to have perfect grammar either.
Once you get into factory management, I would expect better grammar. These people generally work with others, and poor grammar could hurt the image of the company.
Pzedd:a great musician and the choosen one
The grammar requirements may depend on the job role. In a professional environment I find bad grammar reflects upon the individual as well as the corporate image.
As a non-native speaker/writer, I am acutely aware of the need to change your communication method targeted towards a varied audience. Clarity is key to efficacy and efficiency. It serves to demonstrate a sense of competency in your given role.
If I were to create selection testing, I would include the grammatical and lateral thinking tests. Verbal or physical interview would be the clincher in my decision making process, not just a test paper.
Germmar is not a wrong word who told you pls don provoke me,what are you talking about.you shall tell them to teach those who don known how to speak good english or garmmar.
If the job does not require the incumbent to communicate verbally or in writing, or to read in the course of employment, then grammatical proficiency is irrelevant……….
I completely agree with one netizen who argued how we all possess ‘good’ grammar. The fact of the matter is that every native speaker of English will use the language according to his/her particular dialectal variation and, as such, will be using the language grammatically. We must distinguish between standard and non-standard, descriptive and prescriptive. Someone spoke about ‘quaint and local’. Studies have shown that speakers of African American Vernacular English are not speaking a second rate English dialect, but rather a ‘grammatical dialect’ with specific norms of encoding information syntactically. Many prescriptivist speakers of British English wouldn’t hire Wiens if he said “I just came” rather than “I’ve just come” on the basis of his argument. Such pretentious arrogance is natural, but be warned- language does consist of variation and will change.
With this many comments, I doubt mine will be read (I had difficulty making myself read every one ahead of me before posting this).
The importance of grammar, taken in total context of life, is probably insignificant. The reason it gains importance in written communication is that that medium is “frozen”–locked in place, without tone, timing, etc. to add nuance of meaning. Thus it is “important” if you want to be taken serious in that medium to take the time to edit. (Even then, we all make mistakes, as some above have noted about the original article.)
As to meaning, I am reminded of the dictionary writer or editor (I can’t locate the quote to verify) who, when told by a very proper lady that his feet smelled, commented, “Madam, my feet don’t smell–they stink!”
Two comparisons to grammar in “real life” are clothing and molding. Clothing (as noted in the hobo/entrepreneur comparison above) is important in some arenas, not so in others. One person who realized that clothing could be a real key to success was Bill Strickland, author of MAKE THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE. He went and purchased a $400 suit (years ago, when that was a lot) to gain access into arenas of wealth and influence that that type suit would enable. His thinking was, if I want to succeed massively, I have to play the game on the turf specified by the rules mandated. And he did, as the book tells.
If you simply want a job, grammar may not matter. And if you succeed massively, you can flaunt grammar at will–I am reminded of Henry Ford’s comment when in a trial and being grilled by a lawyer on his lack of knowledge of trivia and facts (which the lawyer was trying to equate with lack of intelligence). Ford’s response was classic (and I paraphrase): “If I wanted to know all those things, I can easily pay someone to find them out for me. Why would I want to try to learn all those things?)
The molding-to-grammar analogy is this: Molding done by a find woodworking craftsman will cover a lot of flaws that basic carpentry will not. However, it will not ultimately cover such flaws such as hazardous electrical wiring, inadequate plumbing, or poor drainage or termite damage. Grammar may cover the basic use of language, but it will not eliminate faulty logic, poor analysis, or simple stupidity or ignorance. Molding (and grammar) are the finishing touches–and, done well, they make a building elegant and presentable.
To sum up: Does grammar matter? No, and yes. As the saying goes, “If you don’t care where you’re going, any road will take you there.” But if you really want to go somewhere, making the grammar correct is one of the many and varied inputs that can, properly utilized, take you there.
>.< I'm pretty sure a programmer needs to know the difference between discrete and discreet. Good grammar might not be necessary for every single job, but I wouldn't fault any employer from choosing a candidate who can speak correctly over one that can't.
…for which they are applying…I would think a person who writes for a living would be one for whom correct grammar would be somewhat important?
It is silly to believe that grammar is unimportant in most workplaces — especially given how nowadays we’re almost all expected to communicate hundreds of times a day and write our own “letters” (typically in the form of e-mails). In fact, it’s very often silly and counterproductive to believe that anything we’re not good at isn’t worth paying attention to and improving (a common attitude among people with poor grammar skills). Typically the standard of grammar needed at work certainly isn’t of an advanced academic level, but it must serve clearer and therefore more effective communication with clients and colleagues. Every day I witness several misunderstandings because someone has poorly constructed a sentence, misused a verb or even misspelled something in a way that accidentally suggests alternative meanings or intentions.
It’s otherwise quite easy to observe that people who have the ability to be accurate and subtle in how they speak or write are typically sharper and more accurate in everything they do (however reluctant or uncomfortable some people with weaker skills may be to acknowledge this). The opposite is also true — sloppy writers are often “scrambled” thinkers and poor communicators overall. It is not correct to believe this can’t matter for programmers or “techies”, as their frequently poor writing skills are very often the source of serious confusion. I’ve observed this throughout several companies I’ve worked for.
Because communication is so vital in the workplace, proper grammar is also vital. Yes, software developers, in fact, must know the difference between “discreet” and “discrete”. Discrete is a word used in programming to define aspects of a systems’ architecture. As a software professional, I would be concerned if I received design specifications stating that I should be intentionally unobtrusive with my implementation of that design. Words mean something, the way in which they are ordered gives them context. Spare me all the “They grew up in a bad neighborhood” garbage.
I don’t think a person doing very simple jobs, for example those working in gas stations, grocery shops, market places, engineers etc. do not need to be perfect with grammar. One should be able to put across his ideas, that’s it.
But yes, those who are into teaching or training others, or customer support guys, people in hospitality industry need to be perfect.
The reason grammar is so important in the workplace is that the people who do the hiring these days were taught from a young age that strong grammar skills are very important. So, like it or not, most HR people these days will judge you by how accurately you communicate. We all know that if you have a typo on your resume, it is going to be immediately thrown out. The same is often true if making several grammatical errors during an interview. You’re much less likely to get the job. It’s just important to present yourself as having all these things together because the people you need to impress expect you to–like it or not.
Wiens is correct. McWhorter is “politically correct”. I agree with Donald, especially in paragraphs four and five.
Grammar, and indeed language itself, is a rather subjective matter. If we should all be correct, then we shall speak Indo-European, or Proto-Indo-European, or whatever came before that, whatever the original language was. The nature of languages is that they change, and the purpose of language is to communicate with other people so as to be understood. In some ways, that is a paradox. Some “uneducated” speech is more archaic than the prevailing standard, or it deviates from that artificial standard as it is bound to do. I do, however, understand that Mr. Wiens was writing about the current incarnation of the English language. But what is correct now was once incorrect, and will once again be incorrect when a future and possibly incomprehensible incarnation of the English language was replaced the current standard.
There are also different levels of grammar that are correct, each in its own circumstances. According to the rules of formal grammar, Mr. Wiens uses improper grammar in his title because he uses a conjunction.
It was also written above that in this modern and international world, it is important that people have correct grammar so as to be understood, especially since many people whom one encounters speak English as a second language. There are various standards of English, and speaking correctly according to one may mean speaking incorrectly according to another. To what standard shall we adhere? Presumably, to the one which our greater community uses. That does not, however, mean that we should forget our informal speech, but that we should use our own dialect only in the proper situation.
Our job description and location determine what standard and what level of formality to which we should adhere. An x-ray technician does not need to know what split-infinitives are, but an English professor should.
The comments written in response to the article demonstrate how poorly educated we are in grammar. Use of “that” where “who” should be used always screams in my head. Using “its” for the contraction of it is, rather than “it’s” makes me want to find a red pen. (I am not a teacher.) Even TV comersials use the word “less” when they mean “fewer”. As far as the use of pronouns in arbitrary placement, both in writing and speaking, my reflex response is “Who is she/he?”
When someone complains that people who don’t speak English should learn or go back where they came from, I wonder where those who say “I seen” , “he done” and “she and myself” would go.
Good grammar is an absolute essential. Keeping up the standard is so important. Shave everyday, shower everyday, speak nicely, dress nicely. You can always dress down but when you are there it is too late to dress up.
Always go from the top not from the bottom. Watch those conjunctions. What do you think of them apples?
Interesting that I saw this on the first day that I challenged readers to Take Command of the English Language by posting me one new word per day, and to define and explore it’s meaning, on Facebook.
Good communication skills are essential to any job–unless the individual lives and works in a cave and has no contact with people in ANY way (including by the worldwide web).
I think grammar is important in life, not just in your workplace. People need to learn to speak English correctly; our inadequate education system needs to focus on the language more than critical reading. By the way, I Love how this post is grammatically incorrect in a few places. XD
We use email a lot and it reflects poorly when someone on the team doesn’t know how to write a proper sentence. Communicating is an integral part of what we do and when someone can’t communicate by writing correctly, it does hold them back from certain positions. The inability to compose a sentence is linked to that team member’s intelligence. It may be unfair to make the assumption, but I see it happen all of the time. Personally, I agree that it is a reflection on their educational experience.
Grammar is like,bone of english…………..its most important……..
I abhor lazy grammar and spelling. It’s one of my pet hates.
I think it’s important for employees know the basics – the difference between you’re and your or their, they’re, and there. One of my big beefs is “irregardless”.
But I don’t remember what a split infinitive is, and I can’t reasonably expect someone I hired to stock shelves to rattle off the definition for me.
I am an English teacher, both at a high school and local college. The concept of “bad” grammar is being thrown around quite a bit, even though it’s quite difficult to quantify grammar in this manner. Substandard might be a better word, since the word bad creates a connotation that the subject is not good. Since grammar is a codified system by which a person understands a language, people who do not understand the coding system and create shortcuts, while, perhaps, having an easier time with the language, can make costly mistakes (discreet/discrete, which/witch).
That being said, grammar that is outside of the norm does help a culture’s linguistics to grow and adapt (the whole alive/dead language thing). Throwing it back to the o.g. dead white guy, Shakespeare, who had approx. 12k words to work with, we have to approach the idea of non-standard language as having the possibility of creating opportunities.
However, it is mighty rare for innovators to be fully appreciated in their time since they are, by nature, upsetting the status quo. Humans crave change but fear it at the same time.
Like someone said, “Put your best foot forward.” After that’s said and done, and you have the job, feel free to experiment, whether that is in the automotive, food service, education, or any other field.
For those of us who are “good” at grammar, I beg to follow the wonderfully Golden Rule of “judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Have a blessed day!
I find it interesting that so many people are insistent upon grammar being unimportant, but I have to wonder if it’s mostly because they don’t have to filter the people around them, and the people they are around most are people who are better masters of their language as a side effect of everything else, or if they really think chatn inglish bad you unnerstan me worse.
As has been illustrated by previous comments, much of what we exhibit gives insight about who we are. With that in mind: why is there such outrage at losing out on employment because of poor grammar, but not poor hygiene?
I believe that grammer is very important. In fact, so important that I quit reading the article above after the second sentence of the article because the writer obviously exhibits poor grammer for ending a sentence with a preposition.
I work in an insurance company and we issue letters all day long. However, we work with many outside contractors and vendors whose grammatical skills are non-existent at best. I believe solid grammar should be expected of everyone, particularly in the service sector. It conveys professionalism and meticulousness that reflects well on a company. It also makes communication seamless. How many times do I have to call someone back to translate the scribble-scrabble that passes for writing.
The New York Times writer’s excuse that disadvantaged children have poor grammar is a lame excuse. Anyone who wishes to get educated in this country has the opportunity to do so. It is a question of willpower and desire.
Grammar nazis, in person, are among the most annoying people in the world. That said, I would never hire that writes like they never passed 7th grade. Not even as a janitor. It’s insulting to have someone expect that I’ll just overlook how atrocious their communication skills are.
for heaven’s sake help those who are bad in grammar. *sighs* this world is getting tougher and tougher.
I am an editor for a small company, so I do believe grammar is important. However, if everyone in my company used perfect grammar in written communications, I would be without a job. I don’t look down on them because of a dangling participle; they have other skills that I may not have that make them valuable employees.
Not to split hairs, but the difference between “discreet” and “discrete” is a syntactic and not a grammatical question. Maybe the author of this post doesn’t fully understand what grammar is comprised of. Grammatical rules impact what a sentence means (for instance the old example of “Let’s eat grandma” vs. “Let’s eat, grandma.” Trust me, it’s significant.
As a native English speaker living and working in a non-English environment I find I have mixed feelings. When I decided to live in a Spanish speaking country I immersed myself in the culture and the language in order to be able to communicate and communicate correctly. I am not saying that I am perfect but because I wanted to fit in I made the effort to learn as much as I could and now find myself correcting the errors made by those whose first language is Spanish. In other words, if you want to get ahead you need to make the effort to continuously improve yourself. However, had I been judged by my Spanish grammar at my first interview I would definitely not be where I am today. Everyone deserves a chance….
Oh wow! This is so totally awesome! Like, I told all my BFF’s and they totally agreed with the facts!! OMG
Is this serious? It’s based on the job, but if grammar is an irrelevant part of that job, no? I mean, Einstein was weak in grammar. So, according to the logic of this article, I shouldn’t hire Einstein because even though he’s a genius in physics, he’d make a terrible physicist because of his grammatical skills and prevent the evolution of the field.
Good grammar is important in any workplace. It keeps it professional and also sets an example. Managers with bad grammar can come off as being less competent to me. Good grammar should just come naturally to individuals holding higher positions in the workplace.
I work in software support, and let me tell you that good grammar should definitely be a hiring point. It is very hard to understand something technical that someone is trying to explain via email or phone when you can hardly understand the person’s grammar. Sometimes those grammatical nuances actually completely change the meaning of the sentence and cause much confusion. It also looks unprofessional. I have worked with people who don’t know the difference between “when” and “win.”
The argument should not be confined to grammar, but it should also include writing skill. Being clear, concise, and detailed is very important as is proofreading your communications (I know I used you instead of one when referring to people in general).
or, for example, “I learned that all men or not bad,” in place of “I learned that not all men are bad.” Reality TV is a goldmine.
Grammar/syntax: I lump them together to mean something like correct, clear usage, as well as the basics, as in Grammar School, the old word for elementary school. The quote above would be a common syntax problem,
the following an increasingly widespread grammar problem:
“If I would have known, I wouldn’t have asked,” (at least the past participle, “known,” is correct). Hearing that construction drives me nuts. The unreal present and unreal past (subjunctive) are infinitely useful, as they express the speculative, which escapes people not in control of them (i.e. when they are the listener).
I love the subtleties that can be expressed by the subjunctive.
Most people strive to better their use of language, and it is, as many here posted, harder for people who don’t hear it used well around them on a daily basis. School alone won’t do it — especially when elementary teachers approach it as a separate topic and follow the book lessons while using constructions like this in their speech, “I wouldn’t have came if I knew he was here.”
Modelling the best usage/grammar one can at all times is a service to all, so yes, it’s important and, as an employer, it is good to uphold the standard. English is such a rich language.
That said, the person who said she wouldn’t hire someone with bad grammar may not have been referring to nuances but in reference to the double negative and “ain’t,” which are somewhat colloquial; they are well-known “barbarismos” which, when they become fossilized after schooling, come from not caring to amp them up to a higher level appropriate to formal or professional situations, not from a lack of opportunity.
As to non-native speakers’ errors, those speakers should be accommodated and encouraged, as most of them have studied English for years. It’s a rough language to master; if employees are surrounded by people whose grammar/usage is a consideration in hiring, they’ll get practice in the patterns.
. . . and a solution that many businesses offer is ESL classes after work (and some even during the work day).
Thanks for the question. I love language.
Big Red’s Grammar Assist blog is in the works: will be on google’s blogspot.
I find it interesting how many people arguing McWhorter’s side are using bad grammar; what’s worse, sometimes their grammar is bad to the point that some of what they are saying is incomprehensible. If a person’s grammar is good enough that their communication is clear I do not see an issue with hiring people for most jobs where writing isn’t an essential element of the work. That said, there is a reason I would be concerned about bad grammar on an application: it might indicate that the person is either too lazy to review their work or that they do not know when to ask other people to do so or that they do not know the appropriate person to ask for help.
Grammar is not significantly needed all the time in a specific workplace. As stated, “does a computer program need to know the difference between ‘discrete’ and ‘discreet’?” No, not necessarily, but ironically my father is a computer programmer and occasionally has to write reports on his database center. I think in this case grammar is important, as he needs to write the report in very precise detail and grammar.
I’m a teacher, and so, in relationship to teaching being the (seemingly) only occupation which many of you are arguing should adhere to grammatical “standards,” I have to ask:
If, as many of you have asserted, correct grammar is not necessary – in the workplace or elsewhere – then why should we, teachers, be expected to know it, use it, and teach it? Is a classroom not a workplace? If grammar has no real value or relationship to the/any job market, then it is a futile effort, a waste of time, to except young people to learn it and adhere to it (especially if we are going to continue to believe and assert that “education equals good job”). I propose, then, that we abandon it in schools: From primary school all the way through higher education, let’s stop teaching or emphasizing correctness, accuracy, and deftness in language. What’s pointless is useless after all. No more grammar texts or tests, no more spell checking, no more revising, rough drafting, and – while we’re at it – no more grading. It would be a waste of time, wouldn’t it? And I for one would be elated not to have to grade another paper for the rest of my days, and instead simply engage in discourse with young minds by exchanging nothing more or less than ideas from 9 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon, Monday through Friday.
Now, if you don’t agree with that strategy, but still profess that grammar in the work place is pointless, I have to conclude that you’re either deluding yourselves, or lying.
Yes, I agree. having grammatical competence in some professions is indispensable. as myself being a SEO writer, know the importance of grammatical applications while writing articles or blogs or anything. More often than not, clients get fumed at poor grammar. Therefore, we are supposed to have this grammatical ability.
But for some, it’s like “biting the bullet.”
I would like to make a very relevant point here. Other than learning grammar from books, it is also must to keep abreast with the current grammatical scenario like how words are synthesized grammatically, and how some grammatical terms like preposition, adjective and adverb including noun and pronoun are arranged in sentence. In India, most people tend to add “as” after “consider” and can’t distinguish between Infinitive “to” and Preposition “To”. So, it is must to have familiarity with grammar through sources like books and keeping in touch with its current status quo.
To me fluency is more important than grammer in any language. At times, grammatically incorrect sentences may sound better and may be more easily comprehensibe than an absolutely grammatically correct sentence, which at times may unnecessarily make a simple statement longer. However people with good language skills will normally have a reasonably good grammer, I believe.
To me “spelling” is quite important. Making a complete bound on structure of sentences like a computer language, which is what grammer enforces, doesn’t quite work to me. To me spelling, vocabulary, fluency or articulation are better criteria to judge ones language skills, than being completely rigid with grammer.
Actually, a computer programmer SHOULD know the difference between discrete and discreet. Computer Science is based on discrete mathematics.
Grammar is not always a measurement of someone’s intelligence. People of different upbringing and societal status will of course have different forms of expertise and will not always be equally good at grammar, be it spoken or written. So it really depends on what line of work a person is applying for. I agree with how McWhorter puts his side on this argument.
Haven’t you heard some astute politicians, statesmen and businessmen – or may be even a friend of yours – who can’t (cannot) speak a sentence without an error in grammar and structure, but are extraordinarily good communicators?
Communication is not just a function of spelling, grammar and punctuation. What makes them excellent communicators are not their words but their ideas, and their ability to understand, differentiate and keep things basic. They impress you with the simplicity and profundity of their thought.
Well! When they need someone to write a speech or draw up a legal document for them they “…Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar.”
I love the idea of this website thank you. A least favorite is how so often people who speak beautifully say things such as, ” Where is the cups ?” ” Johnny and I’s car has a flat. ” ” My dogs isn’t able to walk that far. Are yours ??”
Ick Very odd ain’t it ?? Thank you
Proficiency in grammar is undoubtedly an integral part of working life. Would those who disagree not also give a similar weight to the use of mathematics in the workplace?
Just noticed the weblink for Kyle Wiens artice and enjoyed a puerile chuckle.
I think that having good grammar is essentail. Employeers should not judge an applicant’s bad grammar, if the applicant is honest and hard-working.
If it weren’t for those who can’t spell and use grammar, I wouldn’t even have a job! I’m a proofreader.
And Margaret B, the word “comprise” doesn’t get an “of” with it: “…the author doesn’t understand what grammar comprises.” Otherwise use “is composed of” or “consists of”.
So I’ll trust you, it’s significant
Regional dialet determine ur speaking ability, I appreciate good grammer but finding it hard 2 communicate with good grammer. My written skill fair than speaking skill. After fighting hard 2 overcome this: I discover my mother tongue interfair with my communication. Bt am one of d brightest @ work place. Which shows poor or good grammer is not yardstick 4 ur level of intelligence. Thx all.
I am amazed that a lot of people I come in contact with do Not have any regard for the law of grammar. When I see words like “We was good”,
Where are you at Or The lock is broke!, I just wonder if it’s the American pride of wanting to be different or simply Ignorance!! Whodunit is another word
readily applied for Who did it!!!
Eddie Danner: Case in point. You didn’t spell “benefitted” properly so I discounted your entire message. I don’t do this on purpose it’s just a common way to perceive someone that doesn’t know how to spell. WHY don’t you know how to spell? WHY haven’t you taken the effort to improve your spelling? Laziness? Downgrading? How can you make a point and have it accepted if you don’t even know how to spell the words? It’s all about how you are perceived so quit whining about other people’s perception of those who are not conversant with the English language.
Maleeha Junaidi: Why the heck would I hire you, with your inability to express yourself succinctly, when I could just continue to look for someone that could?
Bolgchi: Jeez dude! What kind of sociopathic egomaniac are you that you continue to perpetrate your idiocy on everybody else in this blog?
Tom: Good for you! First sentence of last paragraph hits the point.
If poor grammar results in miscommunication with clients or between employees, then an employer’s interests are threatened. Otherwise, employers might do well to accept the level of grammar that their employees bring to work and concentrate on business at hand.
An analogous approach might work for judging employees who can (or cannot) do 100 push-ups and would be applied differently in a publishing company and the Marines.
At a job interview:
“Why did you leave the last job?”
The young lady replied: ‘pneumonia’.
“Did you get it?” asked the interviewer
‘No, I couldn’t spell it’, was the reply
There, Their and They’re are not interchangeable.
Do and Due are not interchangeable.
To, Two and Too are not interchangeable.
Then and Than are not interchangeable.
Yet, nearly every day I see these in e-mails and documents written by people who are supposed to be college educated.
To me it shows inattention to detail and just plain laziness. I would never hire someone who can’t communicate effectively.
A query on dictionary.reference.com for the definition of ‘discreet’ results in ‘discreet – no dictionary results’.
Is this a spelling error or a grammar error? Or is it a vocabulary issue? (only if ‘discreet’ has a definition, I would think).
Is spelling proficiency a part of grammar? How about diction, or how about enunciation? Does a poor vocabulary necessarily imply poor grammar?
Does pronunciation matter – where does regional dialect play a part in “proper grammar”? Where does it play a part in first impressions?
I’m curious what your (not “yoor” or “you’re”) thoughts are.
Good grammar only matters to those who have the skills to recognize it. If you don’t know your grammar, it’s not likely you’ll notice poor grammar in others.
I have worked with very smart people whose English skills were atrocious. What made them successful is that they understood their limitations and engaged others (like me) to proofread and make suggestions before sending their writing out into the world.
Communication is more than the content of what we say: how we say things is at least as important. The most successful people are able to communicate in a concise and accessible manner. Grammar and vocabulary can help with that; they can also get in the way, if the intent is to impress others with verbal gymnastics rather than convey a clear message.
There is no job where clear communication is not an asset. While those without strong communication skills can make a living, they will be supervised by people who express themselves well.
Grammar is a tool. I can use a hammer to create a beautiful piece of carpentry, or wield it as a weapon to destroy anything in my path. Those who are less skilled with a tool do well to hire a craftsperson, or take the time to apprentice under a master.
In the first line of the fourth paragraph the word ‘”Wiens” should be “Wiens’”. The author of this article made a fatal mistake in his or her grammatical use and therefore should not have the job. Haha.
you do not need to have a college degree to speak proper grammar. You learn all basic rules in grammar school. You need to know the rules and apply them – if you don’t apply them diligentlly you will forget them. What a treat it is to hear grammar spoken correctly.
I feel sorry for anyone who has a grammar impairment. This doesn’t always effect how intelligent the person is so in a situation where grammar isn’t particularly important for the job, why would poor grammar be a deciding factor?
I believe that there are more to learn when it come to the word of gramma especially in a country where english is borrowed language.
But there thousand of skill job that did not require 100% grammma accuracy.
All adminitrative job requires good and sound gramma. In other word , however that has a poor grammatical epression is not qualify to be In front desk as an adminitrator.
With Social Media, we’re all authors and the quality of the comment reflects the society we have. That’s just the way it is, ain’t it?
My husband is an intelligent, well-read, well-educated college graduate and writer with countless credits and several teaching credentials. His use, for example, of “I, he, she, it ain’t” or “it, he, she don’t,” etc., affects me like fingernails screeching on a blackboard. His consistant retort is “it don’t matter” – communication being the key factor. I think it matters very much. The occasional “me and so & so” in place of “XXX and I” is something many people do – my mother, at 86, still corrects my brothers and I. We know better and simply choose (depending on the circumstances) this casual and minor disregard for the proper usage. As a secretary for eons, I felt that proper grammar/structure/usage in verbal and written communication was appropriate; I had taken to mind and heart what I had been taught and, equally important, what I had “learned.” I was often ridiculed/criticized for using “big” words, such as: extrapolate, convoluted, articulate, prescient, manifestation and judicious, and tried to initiate a “word for the day” among the staff. Zero interest prevailed over the apparent nonsense of improving one’s vocabulary. A related, though different matter than grammar. Environment plays a key role, I think, but only to a point. My four children are all in their 30’s and remain amazingly inept at spelling – my son noted a friend’s name in his address book – Mike’ll. Bless their hearts – so much for exposure in their environment. I believe it comes down to degrees of laziness. The overall opinion,”supposubly,” is that my views are unnecessary, tedious and outdated – according to the world of “how u be? i b good.” We all b ok if it don’t matter – Yeah?
I live in the Bronx in NYC where grammar seems non-existant. All too often I hear people — even highly educated people say things like, “It don’t matter” and “I seen …” It is like nails on the chalkboard. I’m no teacher and no expert on grammar but I know the basics about where to put a comma, how to use a contraction and how to conjugate a verb. I am conscious about verb and subject agreement. Everyone should be. This is not high school or college stuff; this is elementary school basics!!! Everyione should be held to the basics and if you were so disadvantaged that you did not get a basic education through eighth grade, then you owe it to yourself to teach yourself before you embarrass yourself or lose that good paying job to someone who speaks better!
I know that grammar is important! .English is a second language in my case and because I had to study it, my proficiency is better than that of many native speakers.
To me grammar as well as how a person dresses projects the image of the employer. I have been in management and always stressed the importance of both.
Anyone can learn proper grammar!
Every one can learn to speak with good grammer. I ofton catch to myself people using bad grammar. I know in an interview at my company if you cant speak well they will not hire you.
Mr. McWhorter is not informed. A computer programmer with poor grammar cannot write or articulate the specifics of complex software designs. If McWhorter know so little about computer programming it is reasonable to assume that he knows just as little about X-ray technicians or any other profession. Will Mr. McWhorter soon be arguing that math and physics are not important for engineers ?
With a NY Times article one must always wonder if the motivation is “social justice” or a similar social ideaology.
i admit i have low grammar skills, but i do have a high IQ. i even top the IQ exam i took with my classmates, and take note i have a higher IQ than my Valedictorian classmate. I dont think having such a low grammar skill will really matter after all, life doesnt depend on how may sack of vocabulary you have in your mind, its more on the personality and state of mind.
I cringe when I see sentences in print media that say something like, “The couple are going to the hospital” or “The group are in the blue zone.” Professional writers should know basic subject/verb agreement, and one couple or one group requires a singular verb. Communication skills are important in every job and while I wouldn’t necessarily disqualify someone from a job because of their grammar, I would expect them to take constructive criticism and clean it up. Some people seem to be proud of their ignorance and happy to remain ignorant, they won’t work for me. Expecting employees to have excellent communication skills used to be an American attitude, now we have people calling it an “elitist” attitude.
I find it ironic that an article debating the necessity of correct grammar usage contains several grammatical mistakes. First of all, the sentence, “In the article, Wiens argues that it is important to take into account an applicant’s grammatical abilities, regardless of the job they are applying for” should not end in a preposition. Also, when the author of this article states, “In an essay for the New York Times, John McWhorter argued against Wiens claim…,” he mistakenly uses “Weins” instead of “Weins’s,” negating that it is a possesive use of Weins’s name. I don’t mean to sound too meticulous; I simply want to point out that even in the most professional settings, people make mistakes. I do not mean to excuse the use of poor grammar by this statement; rather, I mean to underscore the severe degradation of our fine language. We have developed a complete disregard for the use of correct grammar. This is very disheartening, and we must stop looking at the construction of the English language in such a casual light.
GRAMMAR SHOULD NOT BE TESTED ON SAT or other test that relate to your smartness. If i studied grammar my entire life does that make me smarter or more diligent than Bill Gates or Obama… NO! it is a nice tool to have but it means nothing at all. As long as you speak or write in a way that your communication is clear and understandable like most americans i think that is enough. Quit with all that bullshit about getting jobs with good grammar. If i forced my kids to study grammar 24/7 they would be a grammar expert but a retarded social character in society. SO SHUT UP everyone with this grammar nonsense Im sick of it.
I like the grammatical error in this article about the importance of good grammar: “against Wiens claim” should be “against Wiens’s claim” (or, if you prefer, “against Wiens’ claim”).
I’d say it depends on the job. In any job that requires at least a college degree, grammar should be important. If a person can get through four years at school without learning basic grammatical concepts, then I wouldn’t want to hire them. Who knows what else they weren’t paying attention to? I think grammar would matter less for jobs that don’t require an advanced degree. Also, based on the job, some grammatical mistakes can be overlooked. If you’re applying to be a tech person at a business, a misplaced comma shouldn’t be a huge deal. On the other hand, if you’re applying to be an editor, a misplaced comma would probably make a difference. But in most jobs, you should have enough of a grasp on proper grammar that you can communicate properly without causing confusion.
Solid grammar is an essential indicator educational background and possible job capabilities. I’m taking about spelling, nouns, verbs and when to use a comma. These are basic skills we all learn in grade school. If I was in an HR department, I would pass right over applications with these common errors. If an applicant fails or does not care to proofread or spellcheck applications or forms, it is almost guaranteed that they will fail to check for work-related errors. A computer programmer may not need an English degree. However, programming code meeds to be very accurate. “discreet” and “discrete” is important if computers are receiving commands.
I am amazed, for lack a more descriptive word how, quite a few of the preceding
participants on their comments made such gross mistakes. That if I was using the spoken word right now to express these thoughts I would be irremediably speechless after reading so many grammatical,. syntactic and compositional errors.. I really do not know if some of them did it purposely or simply because they don’t know better,simply because they never learned and did not care to learn later.
I do feel despite what anybody and everybody says Grammar is extremely important. Example: if someone says “John Fuchs, a guy liked by everyone is no longer here, versus John Fuc..s a guy disliked by everyone is no longer here. just because of lousy grammar can create havoc and trigger a riot. So, whether you’re a janitor or the CEO of ABC Corporation please pay a lot of attention to how you express yourself. If you are not sure go to WalMart, invest three dollars in a dictionary. Better yet use and abuse this wonderful Website Dictionary. com
Take it from a latino like myself who decided to use this wonderful language properly if not eloquently. I could’ve had a valid excuse to commit all kinds of mistakes when speaking or writing. After all I could conceivably by forgiven because it’s not my native language. And yet I decided that if I have a very good command of Spanish why should it be any different with English. Not only that, but while we are in this subject I must say that for the life of me I can’t understand
why the teachers starting at Kinder level and beyond seem to be too busy doing God knows what rather than instilling in their pupils the absolute and non negotiable necessity of not great but decent penmanship at the very least. When I have to read people’s handwriting I’m appalled to see the horrendous “chicken marks” they put on paper, even when they’re instructed to PRINT.
Well, that’s all for today. I didn’t mean to be rude but there are times like these
when the truth must be said so it will be very evident to everyone. Whether you guys and gals out there accept or condemn what you’ve just read is irrelevant. The truth is the truth and that’s that!!!!. .
Not to split hairs, but the difference between “discreet” and “discrete” is a semantic question; by the way, syntax happens to be a part of grammar.
A foreigner who has to read English as a second-learned language relies heavily on correct spelling and grammar to understand anything at all. It should be enough that “gill” and “gimp” and so many other words can have completely different pronunciations and meanings, without native speakers not making a difference between their, there, there’s, theirs, then, than, antic, antique, “piece of mind” (!)…
The medium truly sends the message of the company, and communication is always at the center of the shared work experience. If a job is primarily a public communications job – marketing, for example – the standard should be high. If a job is not primarily a communications job – home building – then it becomes less important.
Everyone is not wired for the same strengths, but if I’m in a job where I represent the company on the phone, in print, or in person, my grammar had better match with our constituency and the way our company leaders would like to be perceived by others.
Americans have become lazy in speech, regardless of locale, education, etc. Their delivery and usage is pathetic! Listen to yourselves and those around you. Adults say, “I’m like, I go, he’s all.” Buzz words have cycles and some never go away. Mark Spitz introduced, “y’ know” and the world picked up on it. Others added, “And also.” Today, “As well” is the current fad. “I mean” is tossed in…for no apparent reason. “Oh well” and “My bad” has replaced a meaningful apology. “Would you like to join Ed and I for lunch?” Removing Ed leaves the question. “Would you like to join I?” “May” in place of “might” and/or “can” is another example. People are subconsciously aware, because they write better than they speak. Pay attention and you’ll swear it’s not the same person.
Yes, people need to speak good. And the ones that speak the goodest, should get the bestest jobs.
Perhaps the problem wouldn’t be as bad if their own employers were friendly enough to help them learn better grammar, but apparently they also have their own problems. That’s a significantly negative contrast. Why worry about grammar, while your “good employees” still have more to learn?
I lament the fact that, in Britain, a person can get through 11yrs of compulsory education and have truly appalling spelling and grammar. Even simple things like adverbs, or verb tenses,or subject-object errors.
I’m convinced that the underlying cause was the ‘communicative approach to language learning’.
I have to disagree with some of the posters, that it is elitist. An employer should be able to expect the people he’s hiring can communicate well. One need not have a high priced education to master good reading and writing skills. Many costly and time consuming errors can be made, simply from putting items in the wrong place/category, giving out a wrong address, or the inability to read and comprehend instructions. Where a person is raised should not give them a free pass in the job market. Employers have the right to demand the most well educated people for the position regardless of upbringing or education. Education is available from many resources, help is available at every corner, free or for very small fees.
English is an intricate language. Language learning is a skill. Hands on experience is important , to provided . English language lovers must understand the technical problems and do the justice. Ousting or not recruiting
the candidate based on grammar is not just.
I agree with Kyle Wiens; One may be technically good, however, if he/she doesn’t express/convey the intended meaning, his/her efficacy would end in vain.
Increase more comment I need to learn it. I am really needed to increase my knowledge.
I think that it’s important for some jobs, but if you’re working at McDonald’s, for example, it doesn’t matter much.
The use of good grammar is a challenge and worth pursuing. It is also a reliable sign that one has studied and paid attention in school, and it may be achieved in only a few years–not a lifetime of study.
It’s nice to have a good grammar, and perhaps a requirement to have a good grammar for professions that involve writing, teaching, or public speaking. However, grammar is not an indicator for intelligence. Even if an article writer has an excellent grammar, there’s no guarantee that he’s good at his job. An employer who considers grammar as a qualifier for any given job simply lacks the understanding of the definition of human intelligence.
It is not hard to see that grammar is not important to most employers in the U.S.. Just look at all the forigners that are working in the U.S. today. Some are a lot smarter than people with the best education money can buy. If you look back just four years one of the biggest grammar idiots was running the country ( looking back at all the screw ups,maybe this Wiens does have a point…).
I teach Latin, and therefore grammar as well; therefore my students have access to formal grammar study – in contrast to what one commentator had said previously. While some people make the argument that Mr. Wiens argument is invalid, I fully agree with it. My students who know their grammar well, or at least have some degree of proficiency with it, are those who are conscientious and pay attention to detail (and just flat out pay attention at all). Those who don’t know it well are those who don’t make the effort to listen and learn, and rationalize it with the excuse that it wasn’t important enough to learn in the first place. That’s certainly not a quality I would look for in a potential employee if I were running a business.
“Wiens argues that it is important to take into account an applicant’s grammatical abilities, regardless of the job they are applying for.”
Don’t you mean, regardless of the job for which they are applying?
I’m just teasing. Thank you for the interesting article. I see many people arguing that grammar has nothing to do with ‘non’ professional jobs, but Weins clearly mentions the ’stocking of shelves’ being done with more efficiency and fewer mistakes. Whether or not that’s true is a mystery.
I DO strongly agree with commenter J Savage (8/28 @ 8AM) about news reporters’ grammar. I/me is important, but what I’ve noticed in the past year or so is the word AN slowly disappearing from the English language. I will send you ‘a’ invitation? Oh, brother!
This sentence was in the second paragraph of the article: In the article, Wiens argues that it is important to take into account an applicant’s grammatical abilities, regardless of the job they are applying for.
I was taught, warned and punished by the nuns to not end a sentence in a preposition. The sentence should read…”regardless of the job for which they are applying.”
Grammar is indeed a very important element in every communication process. A person who speaks or writes good grammar communicates better. This perhaps explains why I find it very difficult to communicate well. Most of you are privileged to be English speaking. Your language is the most widely spoken in the world. It is a must that one should learn English if he/she wants to keep pace with the unfolding events around the world. English is not my mothers tongue, but I force myself to learn it because of its importance as a world language. I am making mistakes here and there, but I know I will improve to the level where when I write or speak people will say, ah, this guy has delivered the message well. It does not matter which profession one belongs. The truth is that we must learn good grammar so as to deliver the message well.
Not to split split hairs but discreet / discrete is not a matter of syntax:it’s one of lexical choice. So many linguafascists, prescriptivists and lesser zealots on here don’t even seem to know what grammar is: they use examples of poor lexical choices as expositions of their arguments about ‘grammar’. And why do so many people equate poor ‘grammar’ with shelf-stackers? Who of you have ever conversed meaningfully with a shelf-stacker? Employers should reject absolutism and look for acceptable communication skills appropriate to the job in question. Give me a friendly, efficient person (of any educational achievement) at the checkout rather than some soi-pensant erudite ‘hardnose’ who’d rather be anywhere else. Horses for courses, please. Grammar is organic; language is always in flux; it’s all relative; get over it.
@ Donald, maybe you should learn Spanish: a double negative is perfectly acceptable!!Otherwise I’m all for good grammar, after all I went to Grammar School.However I find many people are dyslexic nowadays, if I “unfriended” them all I wouldn’t have many friends left.
I can’t believe the number of readers who are taking time to express their thoughts on what is nothing more than lazy attempts to dumb down standard rules for written and verbal communication. Is this a joke? How many calories are burned when speaking correctly? How many brain cells are used? So, you didn’t pay attention in school, or maybe worse, didn’t even go and now you want to short cut the rules for effectively communicating.Don’t think so! Stop making excuses for lazy communication patterns.
Yes, But one must distinguish between ‘poor’ grammar and ‘fun’ grammar done for humorous or dialectical effect (And do be careful with that word)…
For example, in the current riddle, a word that begins and ends with ‘und’ can be answered with “underfund”– as in “the production was underfunded…”
Wonderful discussion. Thanks for starting this thread.
I think if good grammar was a requirement for employment, 99 percent of Americans would be or become unemployed !
On a Board of Directors, there was a retired English teacher. I had to correct his grammar and spelling. And I wasn’t even born in the U.S. !!!…
There is a place and time for everything. When it comes to professionalism, proper grammar there should be no substitute. I was raised on the Queen’s English and that will stay with me for life. When I first migrated I lived in Boston where I was surrounded by people who made good use of the English language. I recently moved to the Atl and boy, am I horrified what I hear from some professionals. For example:she ‘do/don’t'; and I’m ‘fixing/fitting’. What in the world!!!!!!!!!
I can’t believe this is even debatable! Unless we are lone artisans who have no communications with either other employees or customers, we need to converse with each other as accurately and correctly as possible. What I’m hearing here is a cry for a support group for the willfully ignorant to justify their laziness!
Definitely Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and founder of Dozuki, can only work in his country and not anywhere else because American english grammar and spelling is not good english in UK and vice-versa. As much I do appreciate that strong control of english is essential in certain jobs, emphasis should be should be placed on effective communication after-all the next world economic leaders (“BRIC” family) do not have the control of english grammar but communicate well enough to be economic giants of the world.
Wake up Kyle !!!
If you can’t enunciate words and cannot use appropriate terms within your sentences then you cannot write a basic sentence.
I am distraught with the media presenting people that cannot enunciate words and those that use street slang. It’s amazing how the dumb America appears.
It is extremely important one takes the initiative to improve their knowledge.
It is not an employers responsibility to help an employee with basic English skills taught in middle school.
Personal experience indicates that I would never hire someone that cannot enunciate words correctly because that person’s basic sentence structure matches their speech patterns.
-or should it be Dearest All
I have tru amazement at the effort that people put into response to this article. May those in favour of gramar live longer lives! (live lives ha ha!)
By my name you could gues that I’m uh English Teacher. I uswally would stand for gramar being most right; but unfortunately my dear student friends have outvotted me, especialy by using facebook and twitter and myspace and all those other websites that people can use to showcase their sublime gramattikal deficiensy. Let’s not even talk about speling.
If you look at those who are attending school now, or even those born after 1990, what future for grammar do we envisage? I have been debating my for-grammar argument in many different situations, for many a year, but it seems my advice and “traditional, out-dated attitude” has been replaced by an internet-hungry mob of grammatical misfits who use “whateva” they can get the cursors on, as models for writing and publishing their very hip and exciting new philosophies of life. This philosophy of whateva is making its inroads into textbooks and other academic sources, and these side-effects of the information revolution (really??) is dominating (ha ha – “are dominating”, it should be) every possible information-laden highway toward younger people – music, art, technology, social websites, modern writers for the young and troubled… the list is endless.
Be merry, thus, you fine and gracious grammatical entrepreneur; your efforts are not wasted, your words find sweet solace and a warm embrace in the hearts and minds of those born of kindred spirit, although the numbers be but few.
Adios, what a great discussion this is, thanks for posting!!!!!!
from the Unknown English Teacher born in 1976
I would like to think that good grammar is important to employers after spending years in education learning the difference between good and bad grammar!! However, if good grammar were really a prerequisite to obtaining a job, there would be far more unemployed in the world! So, in the interest of reducing the unemployment figure, employers have to take what they can get!
I have made a long and excellent living making smart people appear smart on paper–that is, I’m hired to fix their terrible grammar. I have edited theses, court papers, scientific papers, newsletters, marketing copy, press releases and all kinds of other things. It amazes me that engineers and scientists earn PhDs without conquering basic writing skills, but I must say, I have profited from it!
If some of these people would have taken some basic grammar and writing classes, they would have saved a lot of money, but I’m happy to do their writing for them.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I am very particular about grammar and definitely wouldn’t hire someone who inserted “ain’t” into his or her speech regularly.
Well of course! Nobody wouldn’t understand you if you didn’t. Someone who is lazy enough to write in txting language is not good enough for a job who requires correct grammar. teenagers text these silly words that aren’t even words like ppl lol brb ttyl g2g bff bf gf etc. Once you get in the habit you start writing it on school work. I know several people who have done that including myself. I just sometimes write that because it saves time, even though it shows that you are lazy. I have my moments, but I’m a hard worker.
I am a college student, an engineering student, I was raised in poverty and in a small town of 1,000 people in Louisiana. I really want to get into business in the future and want to know how to get better at grammer, because I speak poorly and am often corrected.
Of course, grammar IS important in the workplace! Whether facing clients or walking down the corridor for a client to overhear, and even outside the office, on a business trip, at a conference, or whatever the situation, you represent the company you work for and your abilities and skills (or lack thereof) reflect on your employer.
Therefore, if an employee is grammatically illiterate…
(as are most Americans, who ALL make simple errors DAILY which make my ears bleed, such as “different than” (it’s different FROM), “I sing good” (if you said the equivalent in French or Italian, you would sound stupider than a child), “I feel well” (I’m so glad your fingers and sense of touch are in functioning order but is really relevant?), “I wish I knew, then I wouldn’t have done it” (look up CORRECT uses of the conditional tense)…
then, that grammatically-dysfunctional employee reflects poorly on the company, giving the impression that the entire workforce must be made up of uneducated illiterate morons. In my assumption, such an assumption is at least more valid than the American belief that a social pot smoker who tokes at the weekend somehow impedes upon productivity and harms the company during the week (the notion behind American drug urinalyses, which would be unthinkable in Europe since it is none of your employers’ business what you may be doing in your personal time and if they can’t tell that you’re high AT work, then how much can it really be affecting your performance).
Sounding like an uneducated goof AT WORK is unacceptable and I would not hire employees who could not express themselves correctly in their own native tongue. It has NOTHING to do with bad education; if anything, it’s bad parenting and an underprivileged home life, since these people are less likely to be learning to speak poorly from their teachers than from their friends, family and neighbours!
(many) mechanics have bad grammar. But they are very smarticle. They understand some machines that I could not ever dream of understanding. They have bad grammar, but they still get hired.
Excuse me… but who signs the article? Maybe I’m too old already… in my days it would be expected for the author to sign their articles.
Who’s “Hot Word”?
When I was in Teachers College 1956-60 I said something to the instructor. Unfortunately I phrased my sentence improperly. The teacher jumped on me mercilessly and belabored the point. I lost all respect for that teacher and 57 years later I cannot forget.
Knowledge of minimum Grammar is important as that would tell the Employer what kind of personality he would be hiring for the job.Whatever the job any writer when he writes must be conscious of the fact that he writes error free and make the other people understand the writers mind.