Is Bad Grammar Killing Your Following?

Have you ever sent out a tweet or Facebook post so full of emotion that you forgot to spell check? Did you end up misspelling a word, a hashtag, a hyperlink? What about what happened after that? Did you rush to take the post down? Did anyone call you out on it; Correcting you for the whole digital world to see? I bet you have. I bet you know the exact embarrassment that I’m talking about. It’s happened to all of us, really. But what I am here to discuss with you today, is how that one slip up might jeopardize your social media following.

Woah. Things just got serious. But it’s true. Your grammar errors, even when taken down, can affect your following in some ways. Especially if your grammar errors are in your tweets, even if it was only posted for a few seconds, someone out in the Twitter world saw your mistake. And they judged you for it. Pretty rude, huh? But don’t stress too much right now. Just guessing, most of you don’t have serious business jobs, and if you do, you might not even be connected on social media platforms. If you are, then you might be in trouble.

According to a Forbes article, “While internal grammar mistakes and typos are one thing, everything changes when it’s public-facing communication representing a brand or company – especially consumer perception” (1). In short, if you are writing social media for a business, those mistakes are everything and can jeopardize communication between you and your clients. This is no longer a matter of perfect emails and proper memos, this is simple, short-hand social media posts, putting your job, and even your company at risk if not taken seriously.

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So then, even when you’re not making mistakes and you triple check your tweet like you would a cover letter or resume, what about the grammar? What do you think about using “cuz” instead of “because”? What about “&” vs “and”? And do you still have to write out numbers under ten in a tweet, or is it okay just to write 10, 4, or 2?

When you are writing for yourself, it’s ultimately your call. If you are writing to represent yourself to companies, it might be best to stick with proper spellings, but the uses of “&” and numbers, certainly don’t affect your message. Unless of course you still had the characters to write it out. But even then, tech websites have been quoted saying, “The best writers know when to follow a rule and when to ignore it.  They know the rules but also know when to break them in the service of good writing” (2). Does this mean that we can create good writing with shortcuts? I have to say from readings and personal experience, yes. Grammar is changing. Maybe not on the academic page, but in the digital world, the use of hyperlinks, #hashtags, and emojis are products we cannot seem to live without. On a written, printed, polished paper, they would not work. But on the internet, absolutely. You just need to keep your spelling straight, your grammar on key, and your abbreviations to a universal understanding.

When writing for a business, it is clearly going to be their decision on how you write for them. Since your voice is not their voice, using an “&” instead of “and” might make them feel less professional. This just means you better figure out a sentence structure that works without shortcuts and without illiterate sentences. Just because you write something in a shortened structure, you still need for it to make sense to your audience. In an article from the Wall Street Journal, “‘I’m shocked at the rampant illiteracy’ on Twitter, says Bryan A. Garner, author of ‘Garner’s Modern American Usage‘ and president of LawProse, a Dallas training and consulting firm. He has compiled a list of 30 examples of ‘uneducated English,’ such as saying ‘I could care less,’ instead of ‘I couldn’t care less,’ or, ‘He expected Helen and I to help him,’ instead of ‘Helen and me'” (3). It’s not all fun and games in the professional social media world, if you haven’t been paying attention to how you write on social media, you need to.

This goes for both sides of the party. As an individual and as a business worker. If you are not keeping track of how your writing is formed, you could end up losing a job interview, or even losing your job depending on how serious the matter. Huge mistakes in the social media world are hardly ever forgotten. This might go a little beyond the grammar, but using #hashtags of a trending event might not always be the best way to promote yourself or your business. During the 2011 Egyptian revolution, Kenneth Cole had posted that, “Millions are in an uproar in Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online” (4). Not a good call. When dealign with important national and even world events, you must always watch how you word something. Bad grammar and word choice could easily lead to an offensive message in the microseconds it takes for you to hit “post.”

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When coming to an end for this topic, all I can leave you with is to not stress so much. If you are good at writing, if you are bad at writing, just be cautious. Errors will happen, and if you see an error, let someone know. Tweets can be deleted and fixed. Facebook posts can be edited. Webpages can be edited. It’s just all a matter of how much time you put in to that English double-triple check. If you’re working for a business, I advise you put a decent amount of time in. If it’s strictly for yourself, I can’t force you to do anything but write however you feel. Just know that people are watching, people that follow you, and people who never knew you existed.

Sources:

1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/07/15/is-bad-grammar-killing-your-brand/2/

2. http://techstyle.lmc.gatech.edu/feed-texting-twitter-and-the-student-2-0/

3. http://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303410404577466662919275448?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702303410404577466662919275448.html

4. http://www.kare11.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/04/15/worst-company-tweets-mistakes/7733733/

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3 thoughts on “Is Bad Grammar Killing Your Following?

  1. Hi,

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on errors on social media. You discussed two important topics: grammatical errors and inappropriate posts. I completely agree that inappropriate topics should not be discussed online for the whole world to see, and world events should not be the butt of a joke (I cringed at the Kenneth Cole post). Grammatical errors seem like more of a grey area. Consistent disregard for grammar, whether intentional or unintentional, can be annoying and a red flag for employers. But the occasional mistake or rule breaking is part of what makes us human. If the office culture was to reprimand someone every time they made a small grammatical error, employees would feel under attack. While it is important to proofread and have co-workers read over your work, some mistakes are bound to happen.

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  2. I agree that errors on social media could damage a person’s reputation. I think this really applies to people who manage company social media accounts. These people must be sure that they fit the company voice and post without any errors. Even a small error could make a company look bad. I also agree with the idea that good writers know when to ignore grammatical rules for the sake of great writing. The ability to ignore conventional rules and still produce good writing is a very valuable skill. It allows us to produce interesting and unique writing.

    Alex

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  3. I definitely find myself criticizing other people’s grammar online. That makes it especially embarrassing for me when I make mistakes, like you said, it happens to all of us. One topic I think would have been interesting to discuss is when the shift from extremely shorthand texting and messaging to more formal, complete language occurred. When did everyone stop “txting lyke dis” and started using standard english language in the messages we put online?

    Like

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