It’s Not Just About Pet Peeves

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At the Mayborn School of Journalism, professors have their own unique set of grammar pet peeves. Professor Fuse hates, and I mean hates, sentences beginning with dead construction. Professor Bufkins has several, especially the difference between its, which is possessive, and it’s, which is the conjunction of “it is.” I am always amused to learn these pet peeves. Mine is the incorrect use of their, there or they’re. It drives me batty.

Journalism majors take great pride in being able to point out grammatical errors. We flaunt our grammatical prowess like a male peacock flaunts his feathers, but why? Why is grammar so important? Why do we take such pride in being masters of grammar? The obvious answer is simple: it is important. Not to sound like a two-year-old, but why?

Author William Bradshaw perfectly explained the importance of grammar when he said it’s the foundation for good communication. Without grammar, your message won’t be as clear and may not be understood as you intended. What good is it when people don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate? Grammar helps you communicate your ideas.

There is a sad truth in our country: we may be native English speakers, but as a generation, we do not typically have mastery of our own language. Bradshaw pointed this out as the reason for writing his book on grammar. I suspect this is also the reason for the plethora of grammar articles and websites. Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal wrote about this problem leaking into the workplace. NBC News reported that Fortune 500 companies are spending $3 billion annually teaching basic English. I hate to be rude, but that is just sad.

I can’t stand it when someone cusses all the time. I used to joke that I’d buy regular cursers a dictionary so they could express themselves in a more intelligent manner. It’s not a joke anymore.

In public relations, where we deal with credibility and clear communication, proper use of grammar is vital. If we misuse grammar, or abuse the English language, people won’t see us, or those we represent, as credible. In addition, our communication won’t be as clear. Andrew Hindes wrote an excellent article listing six reasons why proper grammar is essential in public relations. He wrote that grammar gives credibility, shows professionalism, brings respect, provides clarity and convenience and helps with posterity.

I am constantly learning more about the English language and working to master grammar. I will never stop believing in its importance. Even after I’ve graduated, I want to continually improve. After all, there is always room to improve. Here are some of my favorite grammar resources:

Grammar Girl – Quick and Dirty Tips

Purdue Online Writing Lab

Daily Grammar

Writing Forward blog

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