In today’s texting, TikToking, digital world, do spelling, grammar, and punctuation still matter? The question can divide a room. Some say no—communication has evolved and gone are the days of proper English—while others cling to the longstanding rules of grammar.
Maybe there’s a happy medium. According to Amelia Zimmerman, “Neither side is entirely wrong. Although correct grammar is important for clarity and often determines your reputation on the page, language is an evolving thing, not a static rulebook. Things people said in Shakespeare’s day would hardly be said now; even the spelling and meaning of words changes over time…the internet, text messages and emojis are changing the English language faster than ever.”
Grammar is a fluid construct, evolving as language and speech patterns evolve.
Zimmerman goes on to ask if there are really grammar rules, making an excellent comparison between language conventions and currency. She says, “Most grammar rules aren’t laws as such—they’re just widely accepted conventions. The fact that most people accept and use these conventions is what makes English (or any language) work. It’s like currency—we’ve all agreed that a ten dollar note is worth so much, and we exchange it for other things based on this assumption.”
What’s more, platform and audience matter. Stylistically, depending on these factors, it might make sense to break some grammar rules. If you’re writing a report that will be published, your writing might be more “by the book” than a social media campaign.
Liz Bureman of The Write Practice writes, “Bending some of the rules can be a form of expression. However, rules should not be broken for the sake of breaking them. You’re not going to keep the attention of an audience if they have to struggle to make sense of what you’ve written.”
But keep in mind, everything you write is a reflection of you. (For more on this, see #2 below.) And given the nature of digital content, your content is out there in perpetuity. So mean what you say and say what you mean—because it’s probably not going anywhere any time soon.
With all that said, we say yes—spelling, grammar, and punctuation matter. Here are three reasons:
1. It Ensures Clarity
Adhering to standard grammar rules helps ensure that you’re saying what you want to say. If your content is riddled with misspellings, incorrect grammar, or other errors, readers might not understand what you’re trying to convey.
If we were to just start making up rules, there would be some confusion. Liz Bureman asks, “Why not create all plurals by adding an “x” to the end of the word? Why not use commas instead of exclamation points? …The short answer: consistency. The reason that the rules of grammar exist is to give all speakers of the same language a playbook to make sure that they are understood by each other.”
In a Grammarly post, Matt Banner writes, “Proper grammar ensures that your message is delivered properly to the reader. A host of typos and grammatical errors will do nothing but cloud the ultimate purpose of your writing.”
2. It Can Affect Your Reputation
Show readers that you’re a credible writer with something worthwhile to say. No matter if you’re writing for a professional publication or an influencer blog or post, clear writing helps you put your best foot forward—it’s a reflection of you, the writer. Mistakes can reflect poorly on you and your brand, while easy-to-understand, compelling content is likely to keep your audience coming back.
Think about it. If you’re shopping or looking for a company online, and their website has typos, grammar errors, and run-on sentences, how likely are you to make a purchase? Especially if you visit another website with clear, accurate content? The second website likely instills more confidence that you’re making a smart investment.
Writing authentic, clear content helps to establish trust between you and your reader, which can help keep them engaged and motivate them to make a purchase, sign up, or take another action.
3. It Shows Respect for Your Readers
You don’t want to work to read and understand something, right? Sloppy writing makes it difficult for the reader, which is never a good idea. Likewise, careful, clearly written content will keep your reader interested.
Matt Banner writes, “At the end of the day, quality grammar is a sign of respect. It allows your writing to clearly and concisely deliver your message. Without it, you’re not respecting the time or the intelligence of your readers. Besides, if you’re sending it to someone who intends to publish it, your errors will simply slow down the process.”
In closing, we’ll leave you with this thought from Amelia Zimmerman, who perfectly summarizes how to balance proper grammar use with our always evolving language:
“The primary function of grammar has always been (and always will be) comprehension: getting the same meaning out of one person’s head and into another. Most grammar guidelines have been constructed and are adhered to in such a way that they do help transmit your meaning clearly…But sometimes adhering too strictly to old notions of grammar can get in the way of comprehension, make your writing too long-winded or ridiculous, or restrict creative expression and poetic effect. That’s when a mix of common sense and your own gut should prevail…Language, including the grammar rules we’ve constructed within it, is yours to play with. Use it well.”
We couldn’t agree more.