As nicknames go, it doesn’t get much worse than “grammar nerd.” It doesn’t have the satisfying ring of a “Smitty” or the cool factor of a “Megatron,” and I’ve yet to see a #GrammarNerd logo that looks good on a superhero costume. It’s actually kind of demeaning when you think about it.
I mean: The word “nerd” is right there in the title.
But, hang around the No Limit Agency office, and chances are, you’ll hear the term lobbed in my direction before too long. If I’m being truthful, it’s probably deserved. I am that annoying person who corrects word usage in everyday conversation. I have a collection of AP Stylebooks on my shelves dating back to my college days, because—get this—I legitimately enjoy comparing the changes from edition to edition. I derive genuine pleasure out of the correct usage of the terms “less” and “fewer.”
I own a travel size thesaurus. Yes, I realize the Internet exists.
I write all of this not to notify you that I have come up with a way to successfully market a #GrammarNerd franchise, but instead to suggest that my suffering (or annoyance, depending on who you ask) is not without merit. There’s a simple reason why (follow me, here): proper grammar usage is the critical base upon which clear communication is built, clear communication creates and strengthens relationships, and strong relationships are the backbone of a strong business.
Sounds simple, right? Well, for many, there’s a clear disconnect in that equation.
How many times have you had to ask someone to clarify exactly what he or she meant this month? How about this week? Today? More importantly, how many times have people asked for clarity from you?
How much valuable time did each of those examples waste?
There’s no guarantee that additional attention to proper grammar, punctuation or word choice fixes all of those miscommunications. But, it certainly wouldn’t hurt. There’s a classic example you’ve probably seen that illustrates that importance in a humorous way:
Let’s Eat, Grandma
Let’s Eat Grandma
I wouldn’t suggest using the second example at your holiday gathering this year. In my experience, grandmas tend to enjoy eating more than being eaten.
There’s a more academic way to look at it: the seven C’s of effective communication. You may barely remember briefly memorizing, then immediately forgetting them in a classroom somewhere along your entrepreneurial journey. Maybe you’ve never heard of them. Either way, I believe they form a perfect roadmap to help streamline more effective business conversations:
Get to the point quickly. Don’t use 10 unnecessary words when one will do.
Disseminate all of the information to your recipient the first time. Don’t leave out important information in your initial correspondence.
Present information in a conversational tone that invites interaction, rather than a confrontational tone that can spark unintended arguments.
Often, you only get one chance to make your point. If your information is misunderstood, you may not have the opportunity to correct it before it escalates into a problem.
Communication is a two-way street. Keep conversations open to questions and clarifications. When you finish a statement, allow a moment for the other person to ask a question before you move on.
An air of confidence helps add credibility to your information. Present your data with a clear and commanding tone that indicates that you understand the subject you are speaking about.
Always double-check your data and facts before presenting them. You may have great ideas, but if they contain incorrect information, the power behind them is lost.
There’s one more critical point to clear communication, and if you’ve paid any attention to American politics over the last few months, then you might agree with the notion that it’s been noticeably lacking of late: the simple act of listening.
Every day, we blast out more and more messages out to each other by email, social media, and even texts. But, how often do we really take the time to listen to what comes back? Do we truly engage in conversation, or simply formulate our next point while the other person is speaking? It’s an area I know I can improve in, and I bet you can, too.
So, this year, I resolve to lead by example, listening more and finding new ways to excel in my own professional journey through concise, complete, conversational, clear, considerate, confident, double-checked communication. If you’re on that journey, too, look for me and say hi. I’ll be the guy with the #GrammarNerd logo on his chest.