Social media, social networking and texting have changed the way we connect with one another, and have opened up lines of communication in ways none of us could have anticipated only a few years ago. Unfortunately, it’s also changing our attitudes towards spelling and grammar, which I see daily on Facebook. I’ll say it right now. I care about spelling and grammar. I admit it. I read  books on grammar for fun. I follow Grammar Girl on Twitter and Facebook. I have a current AP Style book sitting on my desk, with flags on my common errors, and I actually pulled it down earlier this week. Before things spin too far out of control with spelling and grammar, maybe we should take a step back and ask: “Is grammar important on Facebook?” Granted, Facebook is a relaxed social network where we post pictures of our vacations, friends, kids, meals we’ve cooked. We share articles we are reading, and silly things that come to mind. Facebook is the go-to place where we connect with family, friends and all those people we went to high school with, but can’t really remember. Facebook is also a place where we interact with our colleagues, past, present and future. And, this is where things get a bit tricky. Facebook is the melting pot of our lives. My Facebook is populated by professional colleagues (30%), my personal community (30%), friends from high school (25%), family and other friends (15%). It’s a real hodge-podge of people, experiences, ages, education levels, etc. On any given day I can read about mortgage rates, a man bicycling down the street in leg-warmers and fishnet stalkings (come on, I live in L.A.), and the most up-to-date information on what’s happening at an industry conference. And a day doesn’t go by that I do not bristle at a post that is poorly phrased, spelled, and thought out. But then others get by me without notice or care. And, please note, I am not above my own “rant” here. So why do I care only some of the time?? I believe it has to do with the content and the presumed audience. If you use “ur” instead of “you are” on a post about going to the beach, I’m fine with that. But when you misuse “your” and “you’re” in a sentence, I bristle. You made a grammatical error, rather than taking a shortcut. I can also forgive and overlook a typo due to typing too quickly, or your smart phone’s auto-correct, but I cannot get past the error of using “excepted” when you meant to say “accepted” in a business related post. To me, it says a lot about who you are as a professional. I’ve been thinking about this for a few days. For me, it comes down to two things:

  1. As I am blending my personal and professional worlds, I am unconsciously making judgments based on how you present yourself by what you post. If we are personal friends, this can affect the way I view you professionally, and vice versa.
  2. I am finding that I have begun incorporating text/Facebook “accepted” shortcuts outside of these mediums. I have used “U” instead of “You” in e-mails, at work. Hello???? Earth to Ms. Communications Chick. Not okay.

I think it is a travesty that the Oxford Dictionary is moving to an online-only subscription model. I bemoan my children who would rather take the time to boot-up the computer to look a word up online, than pull off the shelf the Merriam-Webster dictionary or the Roget’s Thesaurus that my mother bought me as I headed off to college. Yes, I do love and appreciate the ease and ability to look up words online (especially on my nook), but I also love the discovery of new words when I pull those dusty books off the shelf. When I walk into a conference or a meeting room, studies have shown that within two seconds I am judged by how I carry and present myself. My hair, my clothes, my shoes, how I do my makeup. In a matter of two seconds you will make assumptions as to my intelligence, my value and worth. Why would it be any different online? What I Tweet, post, share, and how well I do these things, will provide you insight into who I am. It doesn’t matter if I am in a social situation or a business situation, or if I am writing in a casual manner on Facebook, posting to my blog, or writing a business communique. If the words coming out of my mouth, or off my keyboard, are garbled, unintelligible, filled with misused/misspelled words, or spewed with profanities,  you WILL (rightly) make assumptions. Which brings us back to my original question: “Is grammar important on Facebook?” Yeah, it is. Deliberate shortcuts are acceptable. Content and audience should also be taken into account. I can get away with saying “yeah” on my blog instead of “yes” because I have deliberately built and consistently maintained a colloquial tone. It is acceptable HERE, on The Legal Watercooler. But I cannot get away with using “yeah” in a work-related e-mail. And while I don’t think the “grammar police” need come out and give a ticket every time an accepted social media shortcut is used, I do believe it is important that we always place our best word forward. Photo via Grammar Girl on Facebook.