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Less-Is-More Blog by Pierre Khawand

I Won't Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. by Kyle Wiens (Harvard Business Review, 7/20/12); summary + commentary by Lynda McDaniel

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Sun, Jul 29, 2012 @ 04:23 PM

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Guest blog article by Lynda McDaniel


SpellingGrammar Summary and Commentary People OnTheGo

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Kyle Wiens calls himself a “grammar stickler.” He explains that everyone applying for a position at either of his companies, iFixit or Dozuki, is required to take a grammar test. With the exception of a couple of extenuating circumstances—dyslexia and English-language learners—he has a “‘zero tolerance approach’ to grammar mistakes.”

The difference between “too/to,” “its/it’s” and “their/they’re/there” is important, especially at his companies where the main products are user manuals and technical documentation. But grammar matters at every company, he explains. Whether in blogs and articles, e-mails or company websites, Wiens believes “your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence.”


Wiens comments echo my own efforts to elevate the quality of writing in the workplace. I appreciate his insights about people judging us with the clues they have—which today are often only our words. Fortunately, people seem to be increasingly interested in refreshing their grammar and punctuation skills. So I question Wien’s rigidity about a single mistake. Excellence is an honorable goal, but not perfectionism. I find perfectionism makes my clients quiver and quake when facing a writing project. It shuts down their creativity and actually causes errors.


How are your  grammar and punctuation skills? What is the quality of writing in your workplace? Do you ascribe to a “zero tolerance approach”? Where do you stand on the difference between perfectionism and excellence?

Additional Resources

Topics: business writing, email etiquette, guest bloggers, summary-plus-commentary