Tricky question! Does grammar really matter?

My team might abandon me if I said anything but yes to that question! But a better question might be, ‘How much does grammar matter?’ And to that I would say, perhaps heretically to some, ‘Not as much as other things.’ Really?

Image, trunks of bamboo trees in a forest

Focus on the forest and the trees. Image by leungchopan / CanStock licence

So what criteria beat grammar for making a document work?

It’s the Big Picture stuff (deliberate initial caps). It’s the stuff that, on first glance, before you’ve even read a sentence, makes you either run a mile or start reading. It’s a title that tells you what to expect, headings that allow you to skim and get the gist, and a layout that’s clean and open.

And then it’s the language and tone that instantly create a connection — or not.

Way down at the bottom, still on the ‘important things’ list, are grammar, spelling, and proofreading. Of course they matter if we want to be seen as professional and credible. But if you don’t get the other things right, your reader might not even read far enough to notice!

It’s fine and praiseworthy to focus on grammar. Just make sure you don’t miss the forest for the trees.

2 responses to “Tricky question! Does grammar really matter?”

  1. I tend to agree with you about what is most important. I was just thinking today about the need to develop further the gradations in the range of issues. Long ago we were offered the perspective that style guidelines are at one end of a range with grammar at the other.* I am thinking that we could plop Karen Schriver’s evidence-based writing guidelines in the middle of the range.

    As a reader, even after I “decide” to engage with a piece, I can get completely turned off my spelling errors, typos, and poor grammar. I think we need to put grammar on a separate plane and view it’s range as: poor, non-standard, standard, and obsequious application of rigid, nonsensical rules.

    *I think this was the idea of Terri LeClerck,

  2. William says:

    That’s a nice big picture, but you do realise that bamboo is from the grass family and not the tree family? I read the article, anyway. And I tend to agree. Regards.

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