Once you journey beyond the hallowed halls of educational wisdom, you may find yourself wondering what role grammar plays in your life? Does grammar affect your personal brand? Or even more abstract, does grammar even matter?
In an article titled “Word and Deed”, David Crystal wrote:
“Grammar is the structural foundation of our ability to express ourselves. The more we are aware of how it works, the more we can monitor the meaning and effectiveness of the way we and others use language. It can help foster precision, detect ambiguity, and exploit the richness of expression available in English. And it can help everyone – not only teachers of English, but teachers of anything, for all teaching is ultimately a matter of getting to grips with meaning.”
I want to highlight three aspects from the above passage: the need for self-expression, the importance of precision, and the realization that we can be teachers of anything.
Establishing Your Personal Brand & Embracing Your Inner Educator
We often hear the phrase ‘personal brand’ bandied about, but its meaning can be ambiguous at best. Is your personal brand the face you show to the world? Or the posts you share on social media? Is it the way you dress or the stances you take?
Or, perhaps, it is some unique combination of the above. I would posit that your personal brand is – metaphorically speaking – who you are as a teacher. Are you strict and disciplined, or eclectic and creative? Is your expertise in coding or graphic design? In short, your personal brand can be summed up as the impressions you leave, the knowledge you share, and the impact you have on the world.
We all remember those teachers who changed the way we think. That one English teacher who was an expert in Shakespeare but would dive into abstract tangents around string theory. The Science teacher who banned red pens from the classroom and never went anywhere without a mustard-colored scarf tossed over her shoulder, but who encouraged creative thinking and lively class discussions.
It is this type of vivid impression, this lasting footprint, that is your personal brand. At best, it should never be one-dimensional but varied and complex – and it should highlight your expertise and ability to have an impact that no one else could.
Influencing Perception with Grammar
Deep down at the heart of your personal brand is this crux we call grammar. We often don’t pay it much heed, going about our day where we are bombarded by holiday ads and lifestyle blogs and the latest viral cat video. But throughout it all, grammar is there.
It subtly influences our perceptions of which brands we think are trustworthy or relatable. Our judgments of which people ended up a success versus a failure. Even crafting our decisions on which blogs or newsletters we want to read on a regular basis.
And let’s be honest here – when it comes to grammar and personal brands, we can’t help but judge and let those judgments influence our decisions. According to a study by UK firm Global Lingo, 59% of the 1,029 UK adults polled would not use a company that had poor grammar (i.e., obvious grammatical or spelling mistakes) on its website or marketing material. Adding on to this opinion, the majority said they wouldn’t trust the company to provide quality services, and others thought it indicated unprofessionalism.
3 Strategies for Improving Your Grammar
Much like companies, your personal brand only has a short amount of time to make a favorable impression. If your content is riddled with grammatical errors, then you have significantly reduced the audience that is likely to trust you, as well as caused almost instantaneous damage to the rate at which people perceive you as a professional.
As the use of the English language has become more relaxed on the Internet and across social channels, some may wonder if perfect grammar is still necessary. Do you need to know the seven grammatical rules behind why “He dreams” is a complete sentence? In short, no. The English language is as much an art form as it is a set of rules and best practices.
Yet that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow some general best practices to ensure what you’re putting out into the world resonates and is taken seriously.
Strategy #1: Be Precise
It is thought that connecting with customers trumps perfect sentences. According to David Ogilvy, “If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language.”
This is where the argument for precision emerges. It is more impactful to write in a clear, concise manner that is easily understood by a reader than to follow the millions of grammatical rules that exist. By ensuring the point you’re trying to make is easily understood, you often have a better chance of producing error-free writing.
Let’s look at the dangling modifier for instance. A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not clearly stated in the sentence. Consider the following sentence:
After going to bed, the house caught on fire.
This sentence implies that ‘the house’ was the subject that went to bed. To correct the dangling modifier, you must add the correct subject to the sentence: After I went to bed, the house caught on fire.
However, you don’t necessarily need to know the grammatical rules behind this to fix your writing. Instead, you should approach it as “What is the clearest way to write this? Will this cause confusion among my readers? Does this imply something inaccurate or untrue?”
By ensuring your language is precise, you are more likely to avoid grammatical mistakes while also writing in the language that best resonates with your audience.
Strategy #2: Know the Basics
While being clear and precise is a critical part of good grammar, your personal brand will still suffer if you don’t know the basic rules. An excellent list of the top grammar mistakes to avoid comes from the Oxford Royale Academy. Some of my favorites (and top pet peeves) include:
There vs. Their vs. They’re
This rule, in a manner of speaking, goes back to be being precise in your use of language. However, if you don’t know the difference between these three words, then it’s hard to know which one to use. As such, remember the following:
- There: Refers to a location, place or position. It can also be used to indicate the existence of something.
- Their: Indicates that someone has possession; it belongs to them.
- They’re: Is short for ‘they are’.
Then vs. Than
Look at the paragraph above – you will notice I used the word ‘then’ instead of ‘than’. This is because I was referring to a set of steps (e.g., “If you don’t know A, then it’s hard to do B”).
In short, ‘then’ should be used when talking about things that go in a certain order (instructions, schedule, etc.), while ‘than’ is used when comparing things.
Affect vs. Effect
This one is easy once you know the basics – affect is a verb, effect is a noun. For those that aren’t as familiar with the different parts of sentences:
Noun – A word that is the name of something (such as a person, animal, place, thing, quality, idea, or action) and is typically used in a sentence as a subject or object of a verb, or as the object of a preposition.
The cold weather had no effect on Ben as he ran to the car.
Verb – A word (such as jump, think, happen, or exist) that is usually one of the main parts of a sentence and that expresses an action, an occurrence, or a state of being.
The icy wind affected Ben, causing him to shiver.
Strategy #3: Use Available Resources
There are myriad resources available to those of us who are not grammar experts – simply type the words “Common Grammar Errors” into your search browser and you will be exposed to a vast number of do’s and don’ts. Some useful resources include:
Another great tool for those that want an extra set of eyes on what they write is Grammarly. This AI-powered writing assistant is free to add as a plug-in to your web browser, email platform, and many other platforms. It then offers grammar-based corrections as you write across your favorite sites.
Finally, my favorite resource available to me is the people around me. No one (apart from a select few) can be complete grammar experts. The English language is a fluid creature that has evolved and grown over the centuries – and continues to do so. Take the time to ask someone else to read over your work when needed. You will be amazed at what a fresh set of eyes can notice.
Next Steps for Your Personal Brand
In the end, though, your use of grammar and language is just one small aspect of defining your personal brand and effectively sharing your message with the world.
The next step is to create a personal branding strategy that embraces your inner educator and leaves a lasting impression. Contact us today to discuss how Delightful can help uncover and grow your personal brand.
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Melissa Peebles – Digital Marketing Strategist at Delightful