CEO of one company and founder of another in the computer industry, Weinans explained in the Harvard Business Review back in 2012 why he won’t hire people who use poor grammar.
My zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?
Wrong. If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to use “it’s,” then that’s not a learning curve I’m comfortable with. So, even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great programmer who cannot write.
Uh-oh. Check out Donald Trump’s recent tweet:
National Review is a failing publication that has lost it’s way. It’s circulation is way down w its influence being at an all time low. Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2016
” … lost it’s way … It’s circulation is way down …”
Both of these it’s are in error. It’s is a contraction for it is. Here’s how it would read if you wrote out each one:
“… lost it is way … it is circulation is way down …”
Weinans further explains:
Grammar signifies more than just a person’s ability to remember high school English. I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.
Weinans also makes clear why using good grammar is not industry-specific:
Grammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn’t make grammar unimportant. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the Internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.
I hire people who care about those details. Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important. And I guarantee that even if other companies aren’t issuing grammar tests, they pay attention to sloppy mistakes on résumés. After all, sloppy is as sloppy does.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, a Libertarian, a Socialist … whatever. We all make mistakes — even ruthless editors.
But if you make a habit of talking about how well educated you are, as does Mr. Trump, and if you make a habit of talking about how you hire the best people, as does Mr. Trump, then either you or those you hire to tweet on your behalf probably should use care not to make the same simple grammar mistake twice in one short message.
Mr. Trump is fond of saying, “You’re fired!”
In this case, I suspect Mr. Weinans would say, “You’re not hired!”
Have a grammar pet peeve? Send it my way!
And special thanks to friend and colleague SEO expert Joey Donovan-Guido for featuring me in his customer spotlight.
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