Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article about the prevalence of grammatical and other usage errors in workplace writing, particularly as the use of informal communication methods such as email, Twitter, texting, and other social media increases. The article can be found here:
The article notes that employers still demand correct grammatical usage in the written work product of their employees, regardless of the method of delivery. Or, in Plain English (ha ha! inside grammar joke!), the fact that you may be writing to your senior partner or to a client in an email is no excuse for incorrect grammar. Your audience will still expect the same level of correctness and formality whether you are writing a memo, brief, client letter, or email. And if you deliver a product that sounds like a Tweet from Rihanna, your audience won’t respect your delivery or your message.
Luckily, there are plenty of useful resources out there for sophisticated writers who want to perfect their use of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and style. I’ll discuss a few in this post.
Ben Yagoda of The New York Times recently blogged about the most common mistakes in comma usage. Correct usage of commas may seem unimportant to the uninitiated, but the failure to place commas correctly can change the meaning of a sentence or render its meaning ambiguous. Here’s the NYT post:
That Ben Yagoda post is part of the NY Times’ blog entitled “Draft,” which the Times describes as featuring “essays by grammarians, historians, linguists, journalists, novelists and others on the art of writing.” You can find other posts in the “Draft” blog at http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/category/draft/
I’m also rather excited about a new online grammar product for lawyers from Carolina Academic Press (“CAP”), available at http://www.coregrammarforlawyers.com/. It’s called “Core Grammar for Lawyers”, which CAP describes as “an online, self-directed learning tool designed to help law students, pre-law students, paralegal professionals, and practicing attorneys acquire the grammar and punctuation skills that are prerequisites to successful legal writing.”
This interactive online learning tool includes the following:
- a Pre-Test of general and law-specific grammar skills;
- online Lessons on each tested topic;
- interactive practice Exercises following each Lesson;
- an Index of Grammar Rules for students to use as a reference; and
- Post-Tests to confirm mastery.
Finally, I’ll mention a few good grammar and usage books, some classic, some less well-known:
William Strunk, The Elements of Style (update 2011 edition);
Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern American Usage and The Elements of Legal Style;
William Zinsser, On Writing Well;
Joseph Williams, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (10th edition)