Grammar matters in both the academic and professional realm
Recently the Associated Press (AP) made a decision to include its allowed vocabulary a word that had served as a type of shibboleth between those who considered themselves grammar patricians and those with a more proletariat sense of grammar. AP style now allows writers to use the word "hopefully" in their reporting. Although this might appear to be a minor change from a somewhat stuffy organization, the point is that grammar and word usage are fluid in nature and continually changing.
Given the preponderance of new types of written media (blogs, IMs, twitter, etc.), the basic rules of grammar have suffered as the use of slang, emoticons, and other so-called communicational devices have becoming increasingly prevalent. Yet, grammar, or rather, using grammar in a proper manner still matters - I contend.
As Kyle Wien recently posted in a Harvard Business Review blog, he simply will not hire people with poor grammar skills. Job applications with incorrectly used words, misspellings, or other grammar inaccuracies routinely end up the trash bin. Moreover, poor grammar skills can show a lack of knowledge retention and affect in a negative manner other skill sets, such as, time management, listening ability, and critical thinking (Christensen, Barnes, & Rees, 2011). I personally remember receiving an email while an undergraduate from professor indicating the email I sent them failed to communicate my point in an effective manner due to the numerous grammar and spelling error; I felt more than a little shamefaced.
Given that we, along with our students, function in the online realm, the written word is our voice. Therefore, poorly written material is analogous to poor speech or interacting with someone who lacks interpersonal communication skills. Good points go unheeded when poorly written. Even if one has something meaningful to communicate, if written poorly, the words will fail to have the desired effect.
To help ensure our students leave our classes with improved, if not peerless, grammar, we need to strive to develop our student's grammar skills in both their written assignments as well as in the Discussion Forum. I personally have instituted a policy - save for the introductory courses - where I will not directly answer an email written poorly; rather I return the email and ask the student to rewrite it using correct spelling and proper grammar. My goal here is not to frustrate the student, but rather to instill quality grammar skills so they become more marketable to potential employers.
By being bulwark against poor grammar, we can ensure that our students leave our courses being more detail oriented, which can transfer to both professional and academic success. Additionally, given the increasing use of virtual teams and remote employees, in which writing is the primary form of communication, we can help our students adapt to this evolving marketplace by ensuring they at least have the grammar skills necessary to thrive in the virtual realm.
Christensen D., Barnes, J., & Rees, D. (2011). Improving the writing skills of accounting students: An experiment. Journal of College Teaching & Learning, 1, 1-8. Retrieved from http://journals.cluteonline.com/index.php/TLC
Kyle Wines. (2012, July 20). I Won't Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here's Why. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/07/i_wont_hire_people_who_use_poo.html