Have you ever cringed reading an email from a coworker that was full of improper grammar and thought to yourself, “Seriously? How is this a problem in the corporate world?” Unfortunately, it is a problem and it doesn’t discriminate in terms of the corporate hierarchy. I have recently been approached by a handful of bankers asking me for advice on how to handle this issue without completely offending the perpetrators. I knew the perfect person to address this problem! Read Lori’s suggestions below!
At a young age, I became a tyrannical member of the grammar police. By high school, I knew the difference between affect and effect and knew that there are no comparative forms of “unique.” And during those days before social media and email, I became a one-woman vigilante, hell-bent to save the world from sentences that end in prepositions.
After college, I learned that the “real world” doesn’t always adhere to the rules of the classroom. Sure, I may be embraced as the office editor of all external communications, but most of my coworkers didn’t appreciate my efforts to improve their grammar, no matter how well-intentioned. So, I often suffered in silence, watching my peers misuse apostrophes and misunderstand basic subject-verb agreement.
When I became a bank marketing director last year, I had to re-embrace my inner grammar queen. I’d been chosen to be the guardian of the Bank’s brand, and part of that responsibility included protecting how we’re viewed by the outside world.
I still struggle with knowing when it’s appropriate to correct someone else’s writing, so when in doubt, I ask myself one question: Could not correcting spelling or grammar errors damage the Bank’s brand and/or impair someone’s ability to understand the communication? If either answer is yes, then it is my duty to correct and clarify. If both answers are no, sometimes it’s best to let it go and choose a different hill to die on. (Notice that I just ended a sentence with a preposition; that’s personal growth.)
There are also situations where the Bank’s brand may not be in danger, but the perpetrator’s career could be at risk. It can be difficult to just stand by and let someone lose credibility by sending unprofessional emails or giving poorly worded presentations. More importantly, if it is an individual that has a lot of potential but just needs a little guidance, my suggestion would be to address it sooner rather than later and do so privately to avoid public embarrassment. Make your points with sincerity and agree to help them going forward if your role allows.
How about you? When do you correct your coworkers’ grammatical errors, and when do you ignore them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
About the Author
Lori Walker, CFMP, is VP/Director of Marketing and Communications at Chambers Bank. She’s new to banking, having spent more than 20 years in higher education marketing and enrollment management prior to joining the Chambers Bank team in November 2017. Occasionally, she teaches small business communications and marketing courses through the Workforce & Economic Development division at NorthWest Arkansas Community College.