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A,E, I, Oh, You: Is It Okay To Correct A Co-worker's Grammar?

There, they're and their. These three words are the bane of employees everywhere! But is it okay to correct a co-worker's grammar? You might be interested in a new survey that finds we no longer care as much about other people's writing mistakes!

A new YouGov/Huffington Post survey of 1,000 people finds fewer than one-fourth (22%) surveyed are highly bothered by poor grammar in emails, while another 30% said that email grammar mistakes bother them "somewhat."

But here's the kicker: A whopping 44% surveyed said that poorly-written emails and texts don't bother them very much, if at all. Women are more bothered by poor online grammar than men by a 10% margin.

Language is always evolving, and I've recently updated a few of my own grammar choices. For example, I've switched from writing "he or she" on this blog to writing "they." Do I find it painful to pair a plural pronoun with a singular noun? Yes, but it sure makes things easier. No wonder the singular form of "they" was voted 2015's Word of the Year.

By the way, have you noticed the subtle shift in our usage of the hypothetical tense? Instead of writing (or saying), "If I were you...," many people are writing (or saying), "If I was you..." and nobody bats an eye as they proceed to drop the corresponding "then" from their "if/then" statement. And how is everyone doing these days? We're all doing "good" instead of "well," thanks for asking.

Even Alanis Morrisette's Ironic has been updated to reflect the times we're living in.


It's interesting to ponder how the Millennials, who now comprise the majority of the U.S. workforce, may be impacting written workplace communications. A 2015 survey found that proper grammar is more important to Millennials on the dating scene than a prospective mate's teeth, or confidence level! In fact, proper grammar on Tinder -- Tinder! -- is now a "deal breaker" for Millennials. Man, youth is wasted on the wrong people.

So, should you correct a co-worker's written grammar, or not?

If you find grammatical errors in a written report that will be sent to clients, then by all means feel free to correct your colleagues. If you find grammatical errors in a "reply all" email sent internally, however, then I wouldn't bother raising the issue. You know what a co-worker was trying to say when they wrote: "I edited the document, and the changes are all in their." Just look away, and let it go. Trust me, it's not worth it. Take heart in knowing your write!

What if the entire team is having trouble with proper usage of homophones such as their, they're and there, and it's driving you bonkers as the team lead? Sending the team to a writing seminar might help a little bit, as long as it's fun and they learn something useful. Think of it this way, managers: Everyone wants to write the great American novel (er, memoir) someday, and you're helping them move in that direction. With any luck, they'll remember you fondly in Chapter 11.

With our schools focused on STEM learning to the detriment of writing mechanics, our attitudes toward grammar will continue to evolve. Will our workplaces eventually get to a point where hiring managers think: "This cover letter contains at least 20 spelling and grammatical errors, but I just don't care"? Hmm. I wouldn't hold my breath on that one, if I was you.

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