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What’s Grammar Got To Do With Your Promotion? May 12, 2014

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Uncategorized.
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Grammar—-oooohh. Brings up images of that high school English teacher with the ever-present red pencil who wreaked havoc on every paper you wrote. Or those sentence diagrams or subject-verb agreement. But in the real world of business and jobs, even though grammar is seldom addressed, it really is important.

Grammar is part of your image…

As you are considered for the next level promotion, particularly if that’s a fairly high level in your company, how you present yourself becomes more and more important. And making good (including impeccable grammar) presentations, for example, is an important skill for supervisors, managers, and executives or anyone who aspires to be one.

One company I worked for put their executives though a ‘charm school’ training with consultants who specialized in polishing executives for the best possible impression. The course included public speaking, speaking to the press, wardrobe, and even dining etiquette…really.

If you want to climb the ladder, pay attention

If you have no aspirations to higher levels within your company/career, read no further. But if you aspire to higher levels of the corporate (or company) ladder, read on. I’m going to point out some of the most common (and annoying) grammatical errors that I hear people making.

· Lie and lay

These two verbs are virtually never used correctly by the average American speaker. The verb lay means to put or place NOT to recline. Here is an example of the correct usage: I will lay the paper on your desk when I find it. It is not correct to say, I’m going to lay down before dinner (which everyone does—except my son who was brainwashed from an early age.)

The past tense of lay is laid as in; I laid the book on my bedside table before I went to sleep.

Now onto lie. Lie means to recline as in; I try to lie down when I’m tired. But to make it even more confusing the past tense of lie is lay. Yesterday I lay down on the floor after hearing the bad news. In the preceding sentence, ‘laid’ would be incorrect. For a more in-depth analysis of lie and lay try this link:  Grammar Girl on Lie and Lay

And if you want to take a quiz to see how good you are– go here. Lie and Lay Quiz. Just learn to use it correctly, at least when you’re in a formal setting.

· I and me

Another common error I hear (and one that bugs me) is the use of I when me should be used. Here’s an example: Sarah left the invitation for John and I. Most people use I. I’m not sure why—I guess people were brainwashed at an early age to think me was undesirable in some way. The correct usage is Sarah left the invitation for John and me. If the sentence were changed to read John and I left the invitation for Sarah, then I would be correct.

Here’s an easy way to differentiate. When there is a compound subject or object (sorry to get so English teacher-y but that IS what it’s called) as in John and me in the above sentence, try taking out the first person named and saying the sentence. Sarah left the invitation for I. Sound right? NO. Sarah left the invitation for me. Yes, that’s it. Therefore that sentence is correct when it reads; Sarah left the invitation for John and me.

Now there is a rule for the correct usage which has to do with whether the pronoun is a subject or an object but you really don’t need to bother yourself with that if you use the method I described above. Capisce? (a little Italian throw in for variety)

Another closely related pronoun mishap is the use of myself. People in business do this all the time. Again I think that they believe it sounds more formal and therefore better somehow. An example: The boss called Tom and myself into to his office. Nope, not right. You know this one already, right? The boss called Tom and me into his office.


Myself is what is known as a reflexive pronoun. Correctly used it emphasizes the subject of the sentence. I often quote myself. So for the correct usage when you have a compound subject or object, just go back to the hint above and take out the first part of the compound to see what’s correct. If you’d like to read more about it go to Wiki and read this entry: Reflexive Pronouns

I could go on and on about the correct use of grammar and its impact on your image in the business arena, however, this is a post not a textbook. And I have to proofread it twelve more times to be sure there are no grammatical errors.

You decide

To summarize my point: depending on your job industry and the culture of your workplace, making grammatical errors can subtly influence the impression that you’re making. And while it may not keep you from getting promoted, in certain situations, it may. Just sayin.’

Ann Bertorelli is a workplace success coach. She helps people who work get more done, build solid work relationships and start enjoying their jobs again. To learn more go to www.NoMoreDramaAtWork.com