Who or Whom? As a Matter of Fact, Grammar Does Matter

It's hard to argue with the benefits of speaking clearly, simply, and correctly.

Estimated reading: 7 min


Bad communication hurts business.

It’s a critical point in Message Not Received and I cite plenty of data to that effect. Peppering your colleague with superfluous e-mails and jargon is the only ways to harm the bottom line, though.

Think about it. Go to a website and read the description of a product or service that you’re considering. If you notice sloppy grammar, are you more or less likely to make a purchase?

But it gets badder worse. It turns out that bad grammar doesn’t just offend English teachers. It hurts our careers. Recent research reveals that those with poor grammar are less likely to be promoted than those who speak well and correctly. Yes, we can put a man on the moon, but many of us can’t seem to speak and write good. (Yes, that’s intentional.)

I am hardly alone here.  From a recent post on HBR:

Grammar signifies more than just a person’s ability to remember high school English. 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.

For my money, the best refresher course on when to correctly use whom is Action Grammar: Fast, No-Hassle Answers on Everyday Usage and Punctuation. (A close second is Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.)

It’s hard to argue with the benefits of speaking clearly, simply, and correctly.

It’s not hard to find incorrect uses of grammar from politicians and people running very large companies. If I had a nickel for every time I heard “the reason why is because”, I’d have plenty of nickels. (I even overruled my editor on the new book who kept suggesting “the reason why” in lieu of “the reason.”) Sure, most of this is unintentional, but it’s hard to argue with the benefits of speaking clearly, simply, and correctly.

Simon Says

Look, we all make grammatical errors from time to time. No one bats 1.000 and that includes yours truly. I’ll watch my talks from time to time and notice the occasional mistake, not that everyone agrees on what constitutes a gaffe. There are plenty of conflicting rules about what is and is not allowed. Case in point: the split infinitive.

Forget minor quibbles for a moment. In an era of pervasive communication, one of the easiest ways to distinguish yourself is to communicate in an educated manner.

Why not start with good grammar?


What say you?




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