AIU Blog

The AIU blog shares ideas, information and tips aimed at helping you get ahead personally and professionally, with topics ranging from online learning success to career development.


Review, Edit, Repeat: Why Proper Grammar Is Key to Professionalism

Image: Why Proper Grammar Is Key to Professionalism

In today’s online-centric environment where email is the primary mode of communication, it is important to remember that your personality and professionalism are conveyed through the written word. Thus, your spelling, grammar and even sentence structure can directly impact what others think of you.

Whether you are emailing your coworkers, instructors or future employers, it is imperative that your writing communicate exactly what you want it to: that you can write professionally. A message with the best intentions can be quickly thwarted by a “your welcome.” Unless you own exclusive rights to “welcome,” it is not yours. Take time to review your emails before sending them to ensure you are conveying the right message and not shunning the correct “you’re welcome.”

It’s no secret that commas, apostrophes and semicolons (oh my!) can be frustrating at times. In fact, according to grammar enthusiast Lynne Truss’s popular BBC radio series, “Cutting a Dash,” they originated in Greek plays to emphasize where pauses should be taken. Although grammatical rules have certainly evolved, it is still a good rule of thumb to speak through your sentences. If you pause naturally at a certain point, you may need to throw in punctuation. Without it, those on the other side of your writing could misconstrue your meaning.

Related: 4 Steps to Effective Email Communication

According to Truss, apostrophes are the newest punctuation marks, having only been around 200 to 300 years. You could argue that their young age explains why they are so often misused, but that argument doesn’t hold water since none of us have been around that long.

“To be fair, English is full of booby traps,” Bill Bryson says in his book, “The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way.” To ensure your writing is at a professional level, let’s examine the main trickster in the apostrophe world: its versus it’s.

Starting with the basics, apostrophes are used: 1) for contractions, and 2) to indicate possession. However, “it” doesn’t abide by both of these uses. In the fight over who got to keep the apostrophe for “it,” contractions beat out possession. Thus, to demonstrate possession for “it,” the apostrophe is dropped. So, it’s (contraction, it is) understandable why people get confused. An apostrophe and its (possessive) purpose will constantly cause writers to take pause. However, pausing is worth it to provide clarity to your readers.

In addition to reviewing your writing for proper grammar and punctuation, also take time to eliminate acronyms or shortcuts. No matter what, spell it out. In no professional situation is “TY” or “YW” acceptable. My first encounter with “TY” only left me confused. Who is Ty, and are you telling me I should talk to him? Little did I know that TY was “Thank You” and YW was his brother “You’re Welcome.” Shorthand shouldn’t enter the professional work realm. “TY” is literally and metaphorically a quarter of “Thank you.” Give your full thanks to whomever you are writing. While a simple “Thank you” won’t necessarily get you noticed, “TY” certainly will – and not in a good way.

In summary, take time to review and edit your writing. You will inevitably find errors you’ll be happy you fixed, and your communication will highlight your professionalism.

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