There’s dirty work, dirty code (ask any good programmer), dirty logic, dirty clothing (urgh, you smell — no job offer!), but perhaps the most pervasive dirty is dirty talk and dirty language. Healthy words exhibiting bad behavior. Foul usage. Incorrect grammar. Poor spelling. Wrong pronouns when nouns just wanna be right.
It all makes you look stupid, inept, less than stellar (who wants to hire anyone less than stellar?), mediocre, on the fat part of the curve where imbeciles, lousy writers, and sloppy speakers dominate the business world.
And Lordy help you if your boss blunders through the English language like your superior.
The worst is the manager who swears, “It’s the quality of your ideas that counts, not the way you say it!” And maybe the worst manager is the principal at my kids’ school who told me, “We don’t bother with spelling here. Nobody can spell. That’s what the world has spell checkers for.”
Every time I’ve had to re-write a co-worker’s report, or clean up the run-on sentences in a business proposal my boss wrote, or apologize to a client when my employee misused some pronouns (“Her and me went to the meeting last week.”), I feel like I’ve gotta wash my hands because I just wiped somebody’s hiney.
The first person who posts a sincere excuse or rationalization for poor use of language on this blog is gonna find 30 pounds worth of Webster’s Unabridged in their bed when they wake up…
Get over it. Learn how to use language properly and then use it. Show you can string together a few words properly. Move on to complete paragraphs that start with a main idea. Put a few together to make an argument, a case, a point, a sign of intelligence. Discover sub-headings that organize and showcase big ideas, and create titles that make people want to read what you wrote. Learn to talk with pride and authority. Because your words create and determine reality.
Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” You can look it up: Linguistic Determinism.
Start here. Get an idea of why language matters every day, and get a taste for using it effectively: Pronouns can make or break you (or me).
Then get smarter. Buy some help. Get a good dictionary. A guide to grammar. A book about how to use English effectively. Don’t just keep them on the shelf. Rifle through them every day. Dig out the word-tools that let you create the reality you want. Use them.
Learn how to use words to get what you want in life, in business, and in your career. Don’t come across like a moron. People notice. Even when you think no one notices, they notice. People won’t correct you. But they won’t forget that you are uneducated and illiterate. Stop being defensive, and cut out the excuses and rationalizations. Take some lessons. Gretchen Hirsch’s Talking Your Way to the Top is easy to take, tastes sweet, and will make you laugh enough to take more.
And, if you catch me botching a phrase, misspelling a word, or goofing on an adverb, smack my hiney. It helps me write better next time. It helps me avoid appearing illiterate.