I once read a statement by someone who had to write an essay. It said, “I know all the words I want to use; I just need to decide what order to put them in.” It made me cringe. It made me chuckle.
Writers and editors will find humor there. Of course, we all know the words we need. If not, our vocabulary is insufficient. It is natural to want a more extensive reservoir of words in the brain. Still, nearly all adults possess the necessary bank to communicate their ideas over any number of pages.
People who don’t write as a job and hear that sentence probably assume it means the research has been completed. Thus, the funny bone dodges stimulation.
All this made me think of how important words, sentences and punctuation are for business folks. Your words represent you. They are little ambassadors reaching out to their public, making an impression. No one is perfect and we all forgive minor mistakes. I hope you agree, especially if you spot any in this article.
But string a few together in your ad copy or sales brochure and see how fast people run away. The subconscious (and often the conscious) mind says, “If they can’t get simple sentences correct, how will they do when I hire them to __________?”
Author B.R. Myers noted, “People who cannot distinguish between good and bad language, or who regard the distinction as unimportant, are unlikely to think carefully about anything else.”
What would you think if your surgeon wrote how he would perform a particular procedure on you and the text was sprinkled with typos and misspellings? You might wonder how well he could wield a scalpel if he routinely stumbles over subject-verb relationships.
Hopefully, the above example never becomes reality. Hopefully, the worst that can happen is that people who know better only cringe like they have heard fingernails clawing at a chalkboard. Or cringe like a writer or editor does when reading: “I just need to decide what order to put them in.” They tend to go a bit bonkers when they see a sentence ending that way.
That little grammar rule probably is worthy of its own essay. Illustrating that some rules should not be forced, Winston Churchill said, “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.”
If you are considering writing as a profession, you may want to consider the advice of Dorothy Parker, an American poet, short story writer, critic and satirist.
“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers,” she wrote, “the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”
Maybe the best piece of advice for professional writers is to be quick about it or, as Thomas Jefferson put it: “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
I am done.
Numerous books are available to help iron out grammatical wrinkles in your business writings. Jump over to Amazon.com to see a slew of choices in the “grammar for professionals” category.