I confess. I’m a grammar cop. In fact, I am so obsessed with good grammar that my co-workers take great delight in catching my occasional written and spoken mistakes.
Perhaps, then, I’m not the most objective person to pursue this theme. I recently read again a Harvard Business Review article by Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and Dozuki. The article carried the intriguing title of “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.” Wiens is serious. He requires every applicant to take a grammar test. Those who do poorly do not get hired. The article was written almost two years ago, yet it is still getting comments today.
As I reviewed the article, I pondered. Should we place more emphasis on correct grammar in vocational ministry? Or is such an exercise focusing on minors to the neglect of those matters that are really important?
Though some obvious exceptions exist, I lean toward a greater emphasis on good grammar in vocational ministry. Here are five reasons why:
- We should do all things for the glory of God. Yes, we should even speak and write well for His glory. Most of us in vocational ministry have little excuse not to learn proper grammar.
- A significant portion of ministry is communication. Ministers preach. They teach. They write articles. They author blogs. They are in both formal and informal conversations on a regular basis. If we allow for grammatical slippage, how far will we let it go?
- Good grammar can provide greater credibility. Maybe it’s not fair, but it’s a reality. The better we speak and write, the more likely people are to listen to our message. And we have the greatest message the world has ever known.
- Good grammar is a reflection of a good work ethic. A person who has not learned the difference between “it’s” and “its” after 30 or more years has not worked hard at grammar. If someone has not worked hard at grammar, can that mean he or she has not worked hard in other areas?
- Learning good grammar means we take care of the details. The English language is a complicated language. Those who master it are not necessarily the smartest people; but they are people who care about details. Those who care about details in grammar are likely to care about important details in ministry.
I admit I can get picky about sentences ending with prepositions or split infinitives. Those are debated grammatical issues today. But too many people in vocational ministry simply misuse the English language in a much more egregious fashion.
Am I too picky? Do I major on minors with this issue? Are some or all of my points valid? Let me know what you think. This conversation might get interesting.