Are grammar and punctuation still important?

Posted by on Apr 9, 2014 in business, Social Media Strategy | No Comments

How important is grammar and punctuation in your world?

If you work for TBWA/Media Arts Lab, an international advertising agency, it would seem the answer is “not one bit”.

Yesterday some emails between this ad heavyweight and their client, a little company called Apple, were leaked. The senior vice president, Phil Schiller, was angry about an ad for Samsung’s Next Big Thing. We don’t know what his original email said, but the answer from the agency infuriated him even further. No bloomin’ wonder – there wasn’t a capital letter in sight, apostrophes were sprinkled in all the wrong places or omitted completely, they mixed up their past participles (“we have began”?), made single subjects plural (“what each other are doing”) and turned experiment into a transitive verb (“A new way to experiment new ideas”).

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Mr Schiller’s response was, as you’d expect from an exec of his calibre, properly punctuated. OK, so he confused the homonyms “rein” and “reign” but at least he knew how to place an apostrophe and use a capital letter.

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And still the agency replied with their own maverick brand of punctation.

I know the point of the story was the gleeful insight into a client giving their supplier a rollicking, but I think the lack of respect shown in the correspondence is very telling. When I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday, first to The Drum, who had run the story, then to Marketing Manager Alice Permian, they agreed. The Drum suggested it had been hastily typed on an iPhone on a busy train, but Alice and I pointed out that was no excuse. “You have Apple as a client and you can’t even write them a decent email?” I raged. “You’d think with a multi million dollar account they could work out when to use a capital letter!” Alice agreed. My shock at this sorry state of affairs deepened when The Soap Factory informed us that some companies, like Wagamama, have an actual policy against using capitals. A policy, I ask you!

When I was at primary school we had a grammar test every Wednesday. I knew what a possessive pronoun was at the age of 10 thanks to a pedantic teacher who went over and over the finer points of the English language. I am very grateful to her now, particularly as I went on to study languages, and I still believe speaking and writing your language properly is important. In a business setting, surely, it’s critical.

What do you think?


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