Yet standards are declining; the ease of writing a piece and the expected speed of response have led to an abundance of grammatical errors and poor structure that detrimentally affect the reader's impression of both the message and the messenger. Depending on the audience, which can range from an individual to the entire globe, or anywhere in between, the effect can be devastating. Loss of reader interest, loss of personal respect, loss of employment opportunities and loss of business contracts are all unintended potential consequences which are difficult to reverse in today's fast-paced, electronic world. More than ever, first impressions really do have a lasting effect; more important, they have an immediate effect.
As a fun example, take this little gem I received in my inbox just the other day:
I know you will be surprised to read my email. Apart from being surprise you may be skeptical to reply me because based on what is happening on the internet world, one has to be very careful because a lot of scammers are out there to scam innocent citizens and this has made it very difficult for people to believe anything that comes through the internet. My name is Capt. Kate Carr Lee. I am a member of the US ARMY Medical Team deployed to Iraq because of the current ISIS problems. I discovered 2 trunk boxes containing American dollar. Am looking for a trust worthy individual who will assist me to receive the funds in his country before l will come over and join the person. To prove my sincerity, you are not sending me any money because most of these scams are all about sending money.
Not only was I surprise, I was shock and excite. Now I’m not sure exactly where Capt. Kate Carr Lee was educated, but when I eventually meet her, after I’ve sent her all my personal information and received the two boxes of American dollar, I’m going to give her a few pointed lessons on the art of writing a decent scam letter.
Hey, maybe scam letter editing is a niche where I can make my fortune; we all have to start somewhere. Perhaps our dear Capt. Kate would find more takers if her letter was a little more fluent and a little less Google translate. I mean, does she not know anyone who speaks English, for crying out loud?
This sitting duck aside, it is crucially important that we all have at least a cursory glance over our musings before pressing the ‘publish’, ‘send’ or ‘post’ button, if only to check for spelling mistakes (the transposing of your and you’re being one of the most serious faux pas). Of course, Capt. Kate Carr Lee will benefit only marginally from even the most polished grammatical review, since the critical element in this tired attempt at deceit is to somehow convince the reader that the request is genuine. How Capt. Kate obtained my email address and why I was chosen to be the lucky recipient of the American dollar are two difficult questions that need plausible explanations. Answering both effectively requires a high level of creativity and expression, and will almost certainly result in a reduction of the global relevancy. This, however, is not a bad thing - other more effective email "phishing" scams, such as those that seem to have come from a specific financial institution or service provider, work on this exact concept; by reducing the number of recipients to which the message is relevant, the chance of deception can be greatly increased. Only recently, I found myself distracted and half way through entering my personal details for a Paypal security request until I realized just in time that the submit button linked not to paypal.com but to youdumbasscapitalistpig.ru. In these cases, grammatical accuracy is critical, and can be the difference between success (at your expense) and failure.
So let's reluctantly move away from Capt. Kate for a moment, and instead look at some other examples closer to home. A quick search through my LinkedIn home page revealed the following posts (mentioning no names of course):
were all ready for tomorrows advanced engineering show
"We're all ready" (good to know) or "we were all ready" (until something went wrong)? And is it a show about tomorrow's advanced engineering, or (more likely) is it the Advanced Engineering Show that's happening tomorrow?
You should to attend one of my webinars next week
Does this mean "you should attend", "you should try to attend", "you two should attend", or the more forceful "you should too attend"?
It can be seen that, regardless of how seemingly minor, the grammatical errors detract from the messages being portrayed - both these updates have just a single positive response even though the originators have over five hundred connections each. What makes things worse is that this is not Facebook; the level of grammatical accuracy on LinkedIn is very high for most posts, so deficiencies tend to stand out markedly. Where the goal was to draw positive attention to the subject at hand, the opposite is occurring and readers are shying away from being associated with these types of mistakes.
Correcting your own grammatical errors is actually harder than it first appears - I’m sure there are many within this article (which will no doubt be pointed out). The problem is that our brain knows what it wrote the first time, and no amount of re-reading will change what it sees and knows to be true. So if you have a chance to have someone else look over your writing, it can never hurt and will almost always be to your benefit. Your audience won’t mind waiting a little longer for your newsletter, ad or status update, and will certainly react more favourably if grammatical mistakes are avoided.
In the end, I think we can all learn a thing or two from Capt. Kate Carr Lee.