Does Your Grammar Make You Look Stupid?

By Maggie Keller

We all know first impressions matter. But you might exchange several emails with a client or colleague prior to meeting, which means your emails are your first impression! Earn yourself a reputation as intelligent, trustworthy, and responsive through your emails using the following exercise.

Try This

Open your email sent folder. Choose an email you crafted recently and evaluate the following things:

1. Length. Is your email rambling, or did you get to the point right away? Did the recipient know exactly what you needed from them?

2. Capital letters. Is the entire email written in all caps? If so, please stop; you’re yelling at us! Hopefully your capital letters start a sentence or describe a proper noun (title, person, location). But if a capital appears randomly in the Middle of a sentence—like that M right there—lowercase that letter!

3. Misspellings. Familiarize yourself with these common errors that are easy fixes:

  • your (when something belongs to you) vs. you’re (you are)
  • their (belonging to them) vs. there (a place; “over there”) vs. they’re (they are)
  • to vs. too (also)
  • lose (forget or leave behind) vs. loose (the opposite of tight)
  • of vs. have. It’s easy to write how you talk, but the danger is the way some phrases sound in English are not how they’re spelled. I’ve seen people write “couldn’t of” because that’s how it sounds when we say “couldn’t have,” but using “of” isn’t correct. Others insert the word “like” into their sentences because that’s how they speak. But, like, we’re not in the 90s anymore so, like, take it out!

Top Tip

As a writer, my best advice is: Re-read before sending. Every time. Spell check is helpful, but even if you don’t see red or green squiggly lines, reading your email aloud will make it obvious when you missed a word, forgot to finish a sentence, or used an unnecessary comma (a comma indicates a verbal pause; when in doubt, leave it out!).

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