Does grammar, spelling, and punctuation really matter?


In a world of text speak and emoticons, does correct punctuation, spelling and grammar really matter? Lynne Truss, writer of Eats, Shoots and Leaves thinks so. The title comes from a joke in which a panda enters a bar, eats a sandwich, and then shoots a gun into the air. When the barman asks him what he’s doing, he throws down a book and growls: ‘This is a badly punctuated wildlife manual. Look me up.’ The barman opens the book, and under ‘PANDA’ it reads: ‘Large, black-and-white, bear-like mammal native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.’

Reasons grammar, punctuation and spelling matter

Reason 1

Does grammar, spelling and punctuation really matter?

Incorrect punctuation, grammar, or spelling can give the wrong message entirely. If you want to while away a few hours you’ll find the internet is burning with brilliant examples.

The moral of the story? If you make a mistake, your audience will focus on that and will be distracted away from your important message.

Reason 2

You are judged on your prowess with the English language. It might not be fair but people could think that you lack attention to detail, don’t care about your subject matter or lack expertise. When it comes to marketing and company image it’s vital to get it right.

Reason 3

Studies have shown that mistakes cost money. Grammar, spelling and punctuation errors reduce credibility and customer confidence in a business which damages the bottom line.

Common mistakes and how to avoid them

10 writing mistakes…and how to avoid them

  1. A lot/a lot. Use a lot.
  2. Effect/affect. Effect (noun) refers to the result or cause: ‘She knew the bread had an effect on her digestive system.’ Affect (verb) is the act of having an influence on something: ‘The weather affected their plans.’
  3. Misplaced apostrophes. Apostrophes indicate possession and contracted words. They are never used to make a word plural. Write ‘In the 1980s’ and not ‘In the 1980’s’. You’re is the contracted form of ‘you are’. Your indicates belonging: ‘It is your ball.’
  4. Its/it’s. An apostrophe is only used to contract ‘it is’ and not to indicate possession.
  5. Could/would/should. Could have is correct and not ‘could of’. Could’ve is the contracted form of ‘could have’. The same applies to should and would.
  6. Then/than. Then indicates something following something else in time: ‘We will go there then.’ Than is used in comparisons: ‘It costs more than that.’
  7. There/their/they’re. Use their to indicate possession: ‘It’s their ball.’ They’re is the contracted form of ‘they are’: ‘They’re going to Paris.’ Use there when it’s incorrect to use their or they’re.
  8. Refer to a brand as it rather than ‘they’. A business is singular and not plural.
  9. Semicolons. Semicolons are used to connect two independent clauses that could stand on their own but are closely related: ‘Ring me tomorrow; I’ll talk to you then.’ Here each clause could be a sentence but it makes sense to join them together. If there is a conjunction between the two clauses (eg. and, but, or) use a comma instead.
  10. Who/what. When describing an object use that. When referring to a person use who.


Can bad grammar ever be good?

Grammar really does matter but the answer to this question is yes.

When it comes to writing creative copy sometimes it’s good to break grammar, punctuation, and spelling rules. It’s about knowing when it’s appropriate to break rules and when it’s important to stick to them.

Remember the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign? It would be more correct to say: ‘Do you have any milk?’ but that’s dry and boring. ‘Got Milk?’ is catchy, memorable, and achieves its aim – selling more milk.

As Pablo Picasso said: ‘Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.’

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