Though grammar becomes more liberal year after year as perceptions towards daily usage become more favourable, grammar in a business environment tends to be more accurate to avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings. Some inaccuracies have become so widely used among the public that some people may not even know they’re committing certain grammar errors and possibly confusing important business communications. Protect yourself from these common errors by following the tips below.
Dangling or misplaced modifiers
Modifiers describe a word or make its meaning more specific or colourful. When modifiers are not placed in a sentence correctly it can dramatically change the meaning of a sentence. There are two main problems misused modifiers can cause:
1) A misplaced modifier – when the subject being modified is not placed next to the modifier, like so:
– Vicious smelly creatures with huge tusks, the ship’s crew found it difficult to drive the male walruses from the beach.
This sentence makes out that the ship’s crew are actually the vicious smelly creatures mentioned which, though they could well be, makes little sense when the walruses are mentioned. Why would these monstrous creatures have difficulty moving a few walruses? The sentence, instead, should read:
– Vicious smelly creatures with huge tusks, the male walruses were difficult for the ship’s crew to drive from the beach.
Restructuring the sentence and placing the subject (the walruses) next to the modifier makes the sentence much clearer. This type of grammar error can cause confusion in report writing and other forms of workplace communication such as email. For instance:
– Smith recently presented a paper at a conference titled ‘Averting Bloodshed: The Benefits of Community-Based Mediation Services.’
This example indicates that the conference was called ‘Averting Bloodshed: The Benefits of Community-Based Mediation Services.’ Whereas the intended meaning is represented in the example below:
– Smith, at a recent conference, presented a paper titled ‘Averting Bloodshed: The Benefits of Community-Based Mediation Services.
2) A dangling modifier – a modifier that has nothing to modify, like so:
– Meticulous and punctual, David’s work ethic is admirable.
This example is stating that David’s work ethic is meticulous and punctual, and while those may be aspects of David’s work ethic, it is David himself that is meticulous and punctual. The correct version of this sentence should be structured like this:
– Meticulous and punctual, David has an admirable work ethic.
NO CAPS LOCK
That last one was rather complicated so let’s go with a simpler rule next. In a work environment, caps lock is seen as yelling or shouting and can, therefore, be considered aggressive. Even if you’re saying something relatively harmless and just want to show urgency, caps lock can change the tone of your messages, for instance: ‘SORRY I DIDN’T FINISH THIS ON TIME’, could be seen as passive aggressive. Alice Robb from New Republic writes:
If typing in all caps is a lazy way of yelling—a crutch for the angry and inarticulate—then the keyboard is complicit: The “caps lock” key makes it unreasonably easy for us to be rude (even, sometimes, inadvertently).
It’s a common misconception that ‘in regard’ and ‘in regards’ are interchangeable when actually they mean completely different things. The terms are extremely common in email, which means the difference is often overlooked, but it can be a bit embarrassing when sending an important external email. The term ‘regard’ contextually means in reference to, therefore the phrase, ‘in regard to your previous email’ is correct. Regards, on the other hand, generally express good wishes, sympathy or affection, which is why you will see some letters finished with the phrase ‘kind regards’. When saying ‘with regards to your previous email’, you are actually saying ‘best wishes to your previous email.’
Commas are the bane of correct grammar. With seemingly multiple interchangeable uses they leave people slightly confused and can ruin the structure of sentences. The most common offender is the comma splice, which is the tendency of modern writers to attach two parts of a sentence because they share a link, like so:
– Our representatives are available from 9 to 5 every day, we are happy to assist you.
Here the two clauses separated by the comma may share a cause and effect relationship but they are complete sentences and can exist on their own. This means the correct version of the sentence is as follows:
– Our representatives are available from 9 to 5 every day. We are happy to assist you.
The clauses, though, do share a link so you could connect them with a semi-colon or add a conjunction:
– Our representatives are available from 9 to 5 every day; we are happy to assist you.
– Our representatives are available from 9 to 5 every day, and are happy to assist you.
Grammar is often very dependent on individual style, but certain grammatical elements can dramatically increase the clarity of your workplace communications. Happy writing!