Oh plz….what’s happening to admins’ grammar, punctuation and spelling? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Oh plz….what’s happening to admins’ grammar, punctuation and spelling?

by on
in Admin Pro Forum

Question: “I admit to being a nit-picker when it comes to grammar, punctuation and spelling.  I also know from personal experience that it’s not easy to accurately proofread my own work products because my mind reads what I intended to write rather than what I actually wrote.  I’m a little concerned that, from what I read in the responses to this Forum, either we’re not proofing our work prior to hitting the “send” button, or as a community we don’t have a very good handle on our grammar, punctuation and spelling.  We are usually the ones responsible for proofing the work of others, so I’d like to know – are we just not worrying about traditional standards these days?  If you do try and maintain high standards, what tricks do you use to proof your own work before it goes out?  (I read the work product out loud, which forces me to see what is really written.)” — Kathy

Comments

I have the same problems with proofreading and seached several companies looking for software that would help me with my daily tasks of proofing letter, meeting minutes etc. There is a software called White Smoke that looks awesome, and I plan to order.

Features:
Grammar check
over 65,000 corrections

Text enrichment
relevant adjectives and adverbs

Spell check
over 420,000 entries

Proofreading tool
in one click!

Thesaurus
synonyms to expand your vocabulary

Writing templates
over 600 available

Advanced Dictionary & Translator

Artificial Intelligence Technology

I have included the link http://www.whitesmoke.com/landing_flash/grammar.html?d=7&a=0&r=1669

Kathy, when I saw your "nit-picker" phrase, I couldn't resist answering. I, too, am a "Knit-picker." My grandmother once told me that this phrase comes from the old days. Sometimes knitted items of clothing get little fuzz-balls on them and Grandma would "pick at the knit" to remove the pesky little fuzzy things. Thus the evolution of the old "knit-picker" term. Even the best of us still manage to mis-spell the same old sayings over and over again.

The schools (at every level through universities) are not exactly cranking out dazzlingly accomplished writers these days. Corporations would be well-advised to provide writing/editing courses for their admins (not to mention many in management). Proofreading is a dying art even in advertising, TV, newspapers, etc.

Nit-picking has to do with fine-combing for LICE eggs (nits).

Guilty! I, too, am a "nitpicker" when it comes to all manner of language usage; so much so that I immediately investigated the previous post for an evolution of "knit-picker" or "knit-picking" into "nitpicker" and "nitpicking". I couldn't find any, so I will continue to use the commonly accepted spelling.

When I'm proofreading, whether it be my own writing or another's, I always read the text backward. It interrupts the brain's tendency to see what "should" be there and forces it to read what is actually there. This sounds difficult, but with a small amount of practice its actually very easy. It also virtually ensures that you will catch your errors, because your brain has to "manually" reconstruct the text in order for it to make sense.

I have used this technique for over 20 years and it still serves me so well that I wouldn't think of buying a software program that would do the work for me. I like keeping my skills and my gray matter sharp!

Kathy: If your computer program has a spell check, use it. However, it does not tell you if the word is the correct word grammatically. Reading outloud is good to see if the document sounds grammatically correct and if it makes any sense. When I started working in the office (in the dinosaur days before electric typewriters and computers)I learned to read the document backword to check spelling. Try it it might help.

You're right Kathy, to me you are being nit-picky. Some of us are crazy busy and make time to either learn from the responses or help out an admin in need. I don't put in as much effort in proof-reading a response here as I would a document that I'm getting paid to submit because I feel the focus of this forum is to ask for help or offer it. Personally, what works for me (even under a close deadline) is to walk to get a drink of water and re-read the document. But please don't judge anyone in this forum, this should not be the place to decide if someone has a lower standard that anyone else's.

What I like to do when I proof items is, compose my document and walk away from it. I pick it up 15 to 20 minutes later and then proof it. This allows me to catch most of my errors . . . as far as e-mail goes, I feel that it is an informal way of communicating with others. And as such, I believe the standards are a little more relaxed. While it is nice to proof read before you hit the send button, it's not that big of a deal if you miss something. Everybody does it.

I agree! I belong to a few administrative professional forums and I noticed the lack of proofreading too. I'm also in the habit of reading my emails, memos, etc. out loud in order to try to catch misspellings and grammar issues. It works for me.

I think the casual communications we tend to have via email have affected our sensitivity regarding the proper use of the English language.

I've noticed email messages from executives with misspellings, poor grammar, etc. Some even refuse to set up the default spellchecker in their email system. I tried doing it for one executive I support and he asked me to remove it! Oh well, what can you do.

I wanted to comment on this topic. I think that those individuals in the typewriter generation of administrative professionals were forced to be more focused on grammar, punctuation and spelling. I feel that newer generations were not taught grammar on the level as those from the "older" technological days. Additionally, with the assistance of computers it has taught our society to have issues spelling.

I really wish I had some of the grammar knowledge that other possess. I do read and try to keep up on ever changing writing styles that do change over time.

As a reminder, we all do make mistakes. One may have a talent for grammar; however, not be talented in another are of our profession.

I think a lot of people are so used to having spell-check on their computers that they don't bother to check their grammar. Personally, I think so fast that at times, I don't bother to check my own work--thus, I always have someone read through a project for me. A second set of eyes is the best way to catch any type of mistake. I also believe, that in today's age of texting, a lot of people don't think it is that important to check their spelling. I see so many e-mails come through with, OMG, BTW, etc., etc. I just don't think it is as important as it once was to check punctuation and grammar. And--I see a lot of spelling and grammar errors posted in these comments! OMG!!

Anita! Take a chill pill or one of those walks! I don't think Kathy was judging or criticizing. When a person takes a lot of pride in grammar and punctuation, proofreading is an automated reaction anytime you read text, whether you're being paid to do it or not. If you are posting a response on the Admin Forum or proofing the President's next speech, you should always take pride in what you read and/or write. I happen to be one of those who agrees that our written language skills are deteriorating at a frightening speed. There's so much OMG, LOL, BRB, etc., people are forgetting how to spell and speak coherently! Being "crazy busy" is never an excuse for sloppy writing. (And p.s. -- in your last sentnce? (a) Don't start a sentence with a preposition. (b) That should have been a semi-colon after "forum" and before "this and (c)"than anyone else" instead of "that anyone else".)

I have to admit that I struggle with grammar, punctuation, and spelling and I do refer back to the Chicago Manual of Style and some on-line resources often in an attempt to use proper grammar and punctuation. I have had some classes and seminars but nothing seems to stick for me. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions on books or websites that might be useful for someone that struggles with these problems.

I find that if I print out what I've written, I can spot errors much more easily than if I try to proof from the computer screen.

I agree that colleges do not seem to be turning out people with good writing skills these days. I get annoyed when I see some of the things written by people who make more money than I do just because they have degrees. This forum, however, is more relaxed. We're among friends. We should be able to talk all casual and stuff here.

I have an annoying habit of proofing everything I read, whether I want to or not! Errors just seem to leap off the page.However, in my job, other methods I find helpful are: (1) use a ruler so I see only one line of text at a time; (2)read once for formatting, once for spelling, once for punctuation, etc.; (3) print the document rather than proofing on-screen; (4) put it away for a while and come back to it later. Hope this helps!

Paula - I find it quite entertaining that you misspelled "mis-spell". :o)

Also, "Thus the evolution of the old "knit-picker" term." is a fragment.

It seems that even while we are nit-picking, we can make mistakes. LOL

And I thought I was all alone in my frustration! I'm one of those people for whom misspelled words and grammatical errors leap off the page. Poorly written communications make the writer appear ignorant in my estimation. It's true that informal email messages don't require perfect grammar or spelling, but any communication beyond that, in my estimation, should be as correct as possible. There is one very simple reason for my believing this -- incorrect spelling and grammar can lead to serious misunderstandings! A good example: I once wrote an email regarding my boss's availability to attend a meeting. In that email I wrote "Jim is now available at that time on March 30." What I meant was that Jim was NOT available. Had I proofed that simple email, it would have saved me and the person to whom I sent it a lot of time and effort!

Nitpicking - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia :
Jump to: navigation, search
Nitpicking is the act of removing nits (the eggs of lice, generally head lice) from the host's hair. As the nits are cemented to individual hairs with louse saliva, they cannot be removed with lice combs and, before modern chemical methods were invented, the only options were to shave all the host's hair or to pick them free one by one.

This is a slow and laborious process, as the root of each individual hair must be examined for infestation. It was largely abandoned as modern chemical methods became available; however, as lice populations can and do develop resistance, manual nitpicking is still often necessary.

As nitpicking inherently requires fastidious, meticulous attention to detail, the term has become appropriated to describe the practice of meticulously searching for minor, even trivial errors in detail (often referred to as "nits" as well), and then criticising them. "Nitpicker" in this sense was often used after 1951, predominantly in the United States.

You all just made my day...no, my whole week! I'm so glad I'm not the only one who holds the banner on this topic. Thanks for the great tips.

And yes, the nits I pick are the lice variety. I don't knit well enough for the yarn kind.

Pat, you have a wicked sense of humor. That's something I really appreciate, and I'm sure we've crossed paths in a prior life.

Have a great weekend, ladies and gentlemen. I'm off to go see The Jersey Boys and I look forward to seeing what the rest of our peers have to offer next week.

Aoccdrnig to rseerach at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

PS: Hwo'd yuo lkie to run tihs by yuor sepll ckehcer?

This doesn't give us an excuse, but it is amazing. I fault text messages and spell checkers as part of our downfall. We expect spell checkers to catch it all, it is doesn't take care of the words like "hour" and "our" or "your" and "you're."

As a Legal Assistant that spent 5 years editing legal briefs, it's become second nature. At first it was frustrating because even going to restaurants or reading magazines meant finding typos. YAK! It's just like anything, just make it a habit and it will stick. I proofread my own work by "walking away" from it for a moment then returning to read it as if it were not my own. I also bought a small grammar and punctuation guide for questions. My biggest pet peave is folks who misuse "to" and "too"...

If it's something short or something important, I read it out loud (or at least whisper it). I know I've been in a hurry and missed mistakes once in awhile. My own opinion on this whole issue is formal letters and emails to superiors should be flawless. The correspondence not only represents you but your company as well.
In this forum, I think an error here and there is acceptable and understandable. Afterall, we're all pretty darned busy! However, when the whole post is filled with errors, it distracts from the message the writer was trying to get across.

I have truly enjoyed reading each comment from this topic and I understand what Kathy and Pat are saying. It's unfortunately, as admin professionals we have fallen short on a very important part of our function. If any role within a company that should represent accuracy in sentence construction, it should be the admin professional role and it should matter how our work appears to the eye. It's important that we take total responsibility in perfecting our craft and stop hiding behind excuses and getting offended when a weakness has been pointed out to us. We should build on that weakness so that it becomes our strength. We should always have our best foot forward in casual conversation as well as in business conversation (verbal or written). When there’s a weakness in one area of our casual conversation (written or verbal) it will carry over into our professional conversation. When you can separate the two then you have perfected your craft because you will know where one ends and where the other begins and ladies this takes years of practice and maturity. When that weakness has become your strength it’s always obvious to the eye and only a few of us will always spot it from a distance. Perfect Your Craft!!!

Phyllis -- well said. I am one of those that has "years of practice and maturity" (translate: I'm older) and miss the days when those who chose this profession looked at it as just that: a profession and not a job. I have always loved writing and speaking the English language and it is sad to see the path it's taken over the years.

I have truly enjoyed reading each comment from this topic and I understand what Kathy and Pat are saying. It's unfortunately, as admin professionals we have fallen short on a very important part of our function. If any role within a company that should represent accuracy in sentence construction, it should be the admin professional role and it should matter how our work appears to the eye. It's important that we take total responsibility in perfecting our craft and stop hiding behind excuses and getting offended when a weakness has been pointed out to us. We should build on that weakness so that it becomes our strength. We should always have our best foot forward in casual conversation as well as in business conversation (verbal or written). When there’s a weakness in one area of our casual conversation (written or verbal) it will carry over into our professional conversation. When you can separate the two then you have perfected your craft because you will know where one ends and where the other begins and ladies this takes years of practice and maturity. When that weakness has become your strength it’s always obvious to the eye and only a few of us will always spot it from a distance. Perfect Your Craft!!!

One piece of advice I can give: read your work out loud, if it does not sound write review it again and redo!

I'm also one of those "older" people whose public school education included lots of work on grammar, spelling and punctuation.
Since I'm the person responsible for proofreading in our office, I use all of the methods mentioned above, as we have documents which are displayed in our public area and are mailed, Faxed and downloaded from our website. I have been editing other people's writing since I was in high school, and I take pride in my work. You should too.

I'm also one of those "older" people whose public school education included lots of work on grammar, spelling and punctuation.
Since I'm the person responsible for proofreading in our office, I use all of the methods mentioned above, as we have documents which are displayed in our public area and are mailed, Faxed and downloaded from our website. I have been editing other people's writing since I was in high school, and I take pride in my work. You should too.

Oh Tina, that doesn't always work as you've just demonstrated. It sounds right, but is it?

I think we can all tolerate minor typo's or a missing comma in this forum. But I, too, have been appalled at some of the extremely poor grammar, spelling and punctuation I've seen in PRAP forum. I actually printed out one poorly written comment and highlighted all the spelling and grammatical errors. About two-thirds of the comment was highlighted! I see that as a problem. As administrative professionals, we are held to a higher standard, and sloppy writing reflects poorly on all of us. Having poor writing skills doesn't mean someone is stupid, it means they haven't been taught the correct way to write. There are good seminars available for business writing, grammar, punctuation, proofreading, etc. I've been to several and I highly recommend them. Do I still make mistakes? Absolutely! But I make considerably fewer mistakes than I used to. We don't always have to strive for perfection, but neither should we embrace mediocrity.

if you are nitpicky why didn't you spell out the word 'please' instead of using 'plz'.

Kathy - wow, I can't believe how sensitive a topic this is. I too am a nit-picker, much to the chagrin of my husband who is not a great speller, but he is a great carpenter and preacher.

For those of you who asked for some proofreading tips, I use the good old Webster dictionary, or any good English dictionary, the Gregg Reference Manual (9th edition), and Roget's Thesaurus. In a larger document, I also read backwards, as a few of you do.

In typing e-mail, I feel it is just as important to be accurate as in preparing any document to be sent to the president of the company. We don't use the same short-forms as in text messaging. I don't believe we should relax our standards in this area; but, we should strive to be the best that we can be. I am an executive assistant and I maintain the highest standard in this field as I can.

Yes, I am one of the older crowd who learned what good spelling and grammar was right in high school, while typing on my manual typewriter, but that doesn't mean it is any less important. Kudos to all of you who feel the same way.

There are so many typos above, I had to quit reading after awhile. I'm not judging any of you, just telling it as I see it!

Hello, Anon from March 18th at 9:47 a.m.

To set the record straight, it was the forum webmaster who wrote and applied the title line to this forum entry; the "plz" was not part of my submission. My work is what follows, between the quotation marks.

And if I had written your entry, I would have started with a capital letter and ended with a question mark. :) (smile)

Kathy

Hello again Kathy:

I just read your comment to Anon and all I can say is "touche", with an accent over the letter "e". Well said!

Patty

Hello, everyone!

The week is nearly over and tomorrow we'll have new topics in the forum. Thanks to all of you who contributed to this lively discussion. There are a lot of great tips we can try, and no doubt we'll all find something that works for us.

I look forward to blogging with you again.

Kathy

As an admin assistant and a recent college graduate, I don't feel that its the Universities fault that younger people (not raised with a typewriter) cannot use correct grammar. I was taught grammar through elementary school, middle school, high school and college. It wasn't until college that I started to become consistent with my grammar. This is mostly because of laziness; I didn't think it was important.

But during my years of education I was always told about my grammar mistakes. ALWAYS! My teachers did their jobs, it was me that didn't do mine.
Nonetheless, I now have near perfect grammar because I decided to stop being lazy.

Everyone may make mistakes, but sometimes those mistakes can change how someone views/judges another. In the professional-competitive (business) world perfection is a must! Especially when it is trackable through documents and programs.

Learn your grammar! Do your job the best that you can (why else would you want to do this job?)!

Fred Pryor/Career Track offers a good, inexpensive one-day class. You learn a lot of tricks and get some tools to help. Don't rely 100% on spell check and grammer checking tools. As someone pointed out, spell check doesn't check for the correct use of the word. You need to know grammer to know when to trust grammer check. Rules are always changing and you don't know the source of the programmer's knowledge!

Nit-Picking [Dave Kopel]
Today's Sunday New York Times includes a cartoon about Michael Bellesiles and John Lott, accusing them of moral equivalence. It's a hard claim to make since Bellesiles's book was a fabrication through and through, as Clayton Cramer has proven. In contrast, the Lott controversy involves only a single sentence in his book, and the rest of the book is supported by a detailed data which Lott has made available to many dozens of researchers. But I think the worst thing about the cartoon is that it shows the continuing decline of quality editing at the Times. The cartoon refers to "knit-picking" scholars who questioned Lott. People who pay attention to small details are not like people who pick at knitted fabric; the proper word is "nit-picking"—a metaphor for picking tiny lice eggs (nits) out of hair. Nit-picking, both literally and figuratively is a very important activity. During my father's 22-year career in the Colorado legislature, he was known as the body's chief nit-picker, which meant that he paid careful attention to how proposed statutes were worded, so that sloppy language did not cause unintended problems. (He also worked on scores of bigger projects, authoring many major bills, and serving for a while as House Judiciary Chairman, and as Assistant Minority Leader). Nit-pickers get rid of problems which are tiny now but which will cause serious trouble later if they are not removed. Let's not confuse much-needed nit-pickers which the pointlessly destructive people who distress knitted clothing.

I have a manager who I have worked with for the last year and half. Things have been fine and we talked about more responsibilities and a bigger role. She was supportive at first but as soon as I applied for another position, all hell broke loose. She hardly speaks to me; now she is giving me less to do and keeps telling people that I am applying for jobs, I am ineffective (my performance plan and review say different). She is creating a really unhealthy environment. I am scared that she will give me less to do. keep telling everyone that I'm inefficient without telling me. It feels like being on the road to being laid off. What do I do?

Very interesting posts! I guess our world has become so fast-paced, we barely have time! I do agree spelling and grammar are important. Out kids have a whole new language with IM's and text messaging. It's a crazy world, but I do love my spell and grammar checker.

Speaking of which, it would be nice to have a spell checker on here! LOL

I agree that our spelling and grammar skills are deteriorating at an alarming rate. The newspapers are filled with typos.

I learned my lesson the hard way. About 15 years ago, my supervisor and I both got reprimanded for a "simple" typo. Unfortunately, the simple typo completely changed the meaning of the sentence and hinted at prejudice. The sentence was supposed to state that we run a red flag up the flag pole when the firing range is in use. You guessed it. The "l" was missing from the red flag portion. Beware of the so called "simple" typos.

Paula, I believe the term "nit-picker" actually comes from removal of head lice. The eggs are called "nits"; therefore, removing them is called "nit-picking."

Leave a Comment