Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling: The “GPS” Of Communication

Lee Groeger - 02/04/2014

Using propper grammer spelling and punctuation is importent.

If you are a journalist, and that sentence was included in an e-mail I sent you, you just deleted it, and I lost whatever chance I had of working with you. If you are simply a reasonably educated individual, it might have just annoyed you. The fact of the matter is, using proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling (GPS) is important, and not just for those who work in word-centric professions.

Punctuation Saves Lives

I’m not saying every written document needs to be a formal report—in fact, quite the opposite, which I’ll get into more a bit later—but when you make lazy spelling errors or use grammar improperly, bad things happen (see figure 1). Messages can be misconstrued, meaning can get lost, and in the end it’s your credibility that takes the hit. The last thing you want is for someone to concentrate on your mistakes rather than your message.

Before I go further, full disclosure: I am a word nerd. I subconsciously look for errors in everything I read (we’re talking cereal boxes), I judge people who say “supposably,” and literary humor really revs my engine. I have several nicknames that reflect my love of the English language, and am often tagged by friends and family in GPS-related memes, quotes, and articles…and I like it.

Putting effort into what you’re writing shows your reader(s) that you value them and their time. Using proper GPS is the best way to accurately communicate your intended message, but as I started to say earlier, this doesn’t mean you have to be formal all the time. When it comes to writing styles, there are two categories: formal and informal. This is pretty self-explanatory, but for the sake of being thorough, here are examples of each:

Formal: Please note that the meeting originally scheduled for Tuesday has been moved to Wednesday, due to circumstances beyond our control. If you are unable to attend, please inform your immediate supervisor, so as to ensure a copy of the notes from the meeting is provided to you.

Informal: Hey- just found out the meeting date got switched from Tuesday to  Wednesday. If you can’t make it, let your supervisor know so we can make sure to get you the meeting notes.

Different situations call for alternating, and equally effective use of these two styles. The main variables to keep in mind when deciding which to use are 1) Your Audience, and 2) The Content. Formal writing is typically appropriate for academic writing and most business communications; informal writing is more acceptable when communicating with friends, family and other close ones (e.g., colleagues you work with on a daily basis).

In informal writing, it’s OK to use contractions, abbreviations, colloquial words and expressions (hey, can’t, guys, TV, see ya, etc.). It’s also OK to use your active voice, which means you can be a little more direct (“we need to get this done today”), as opposed to formal writing, where you should be more passive (“it would be ideal for this to be finished by end of day”).

These are just a few of the differences between formal and informal writing, but you get the idea. Neither is right or wrong, you just need to use good judgment.

Let’s face it—written communication has become the way of the world, especially in business. The same way text messaging has replaced phone conversations in our personal lives, e-mail has replaced phone calls in the business world. This means the written word is more important than ever. Using proper GPS can save time, face…it could even save your job (really).

At the end of the day, this isn’t about knowing whether the period goes inside or outside the quotation marks. It’s about taking an extra minute to make sure what you’re writing is easy to read and understand. Common sense, proofreading, and a quick Google search will get you far!

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