Problems Caused by Using Incorrect Grammar
Grammar is the study of words and how they can be used to form sentences. It can include the inflections, syntax, and word formation of the language, as well as the pronunciation, meaning, and linguistic history of a particular word.
Unclear communication is the biggest issue caused by using incorrect grammar when writing or speaking. Consider the following sentences:
- I don't want nothing from you.
- I don't want anything from you.
While the first sentence uses two negatives to create a positive construction, the second example uses a one negative and one positive to create a negative construction. If you are trying to state that you want a book, a new shirt, or some other item, the first sentence is correct. However, if you are trying to tell a friend that you already have everything you need, the second sentence is correct.
In addition to creating communication misunderstandings, incorrect grammar also makes a poor first impression. If you are a jobseeker with grammatical errors in your resume, a company recruiter may see you as less intelligent than a candidate who has similar skills but was able to proofread properly. If you own a business and have grammatical errors in your marketing materials, potential customers may see these mistakes as an indication that your company is sloppy or simply unreliable.
Common Grammar Mistakes
What types of mistakes indicate poor grammar? According to experts, the following grammatical errors are the most common:
- Run on sentences that combine two or more complete thoughts without the proper punctuation between clauses
- Sentence fragments that lack a subject or verb
- Confusing apostrophes that indicate possession with apostrophes that indicate omitted letters
- Using two negatives in one sentence to indicate the opposite of what you actually mean
- Sentences with an unclear antecedent--the noun that a pronoun refers to
- Misplaced modifiers that either modify two separate words or appear to modify the wrong part of the sentence.
- Overuse of preposition phrases such as "without a doubt" or "on occasion"
Resources for Improving Your Grammar Skills
If you believe you could use a crash course in improving your grammar, the Internet is full of resources to help you develop the skills you need. For example:
- Bartleby.com has the complete text of William Strunk's The Elements of Style available for you to read online. This book is a must-have reference for any conscientious writer.
- Write 101 offers a comprehensive collection of over 800 articles devoted to helping you improve your writer. Grammar, vocabulary, style, and composition are just some of the many topics covered on this helpful website.
- Daily Grammar offers free e-mail grammar lessons Monday through Friday, with a quiz to test your skills on Saturday. The site also features a searchable archive of previous grammar lessons and quizzes.
- The Capital Community College Guide to Grammar and Writing offers short lessons and interactive tutorials on adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions, and other topics related to developing proper English grammar.
A Final Thought
What's the price of bad grammar? In October 2006, a contract dispute between Canadian cable company Rogers Communications and telephone company Bell Aliant revealed that a misplaced comma can be worth $2 million.
The contract said:
"This agreement shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party."
Rogers Communications believed the placement of the second comma stated the contract was good for at least five years, while Bell Aliant said the comma indicated the deal could be terminated before if one year's notice was given.
In the end, Canada's telecommunications commission sided with Bell Aliant. They stated the comma should have been omitted if the contract was intended to last five years in its shortest possible term. As a result, Bell Alliant was able to save over $2 million by ending the deal early.