Dr. Donna Velliaris shares her expertise on grammar

Grammar: For Better or Worse, People Judge You

By Donna Velliaris on Dec 22, 2017
As a part of IGI Global’s mission to cultivate quality knowledge innovation and technology advancements through collaboration, Dr. Donna Velliaris, a prominent IGI Global editor of highly-cited educational titles, including the Handbook of Research on Academic Misconduct in Higher Education and Handbook of Research on Study Abroad Programs and Outbound Mobility, applies her expertise to the business world as she addresses the importance of grammar and communication skills.
grammar miskakes
Today’s business graduates are expected to have solid communication competence. Scholars agree that excellent communication skills lead to improved ability and credibility to engage with customers, clients, business associates, and stakeholders et al. On the other hand, poor communication skills can make it challenging to win over prospective patrons, business partners, and potential investors. While top-notch communication can give fresh graduates a competitive advantage over their peers, rising numbers of students are entering higher education (HE) from which a notable percentage are poor writers. Yet, the overwhelming importance of grammar and correct sentence structure cannot be underestimated.

Grammatical competency enables a writer to construct well-written prose that communicates valuable information with relative ease. In other words, business persons with effective writing skills—accuracy, active voice, brevity, clarity, directness, and a professional tone—can elicit information, provide it in exactly the language and structure required by an audience, and in the process, preserve and enhance the value of their intellectual capital to employees, customers, and suppliers. Proper grammar forges great(er) trust between/among sender and receiver(s) by avoiding ambiguous language.

Grammatical incompetency in business works can lead to ‘writing maladies’. In no particular order, writing maladies may:

  • Make a poor first impression
  • Negatively impact readers who must re-read ineptly written material several times over
  • Alter the intended meaning leaving readers confused, frustrated and/or misinformed
  • Denounce the subject matter and ultimately distract readers
  • Potentially offend readers
  • Indicate a lack of care and thus professionalism
  • Suggest a ‘haphazard’ approach to other areas of the business
  • Demonstrably affect public perception
  • Inevitably undermine credibility
Industry surveys reveal that employers consider ‘communication skills’ to be amongst the Top-10 attributes they seek in recruiting employees. The weight of expository composition cannot be ignored, and it seems prudent that business schools acknowledge the pervasiveness of their students’ writing deficiencies and attempt to remediate problems at an institutional-level, rather than on an ad hoc basis by individual instructors. Pointedly, grammar education is becoming ever more challenging when 85 percent of teens today—our future business persons—communicate electronically.

Per Harvard Business Review, "[G]rammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn’t make grammar unimportant… In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in
e-mails and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there and they’re."
Of concern is the tension between balancing the development of: (a) undergraduate business students’ intellectual abilities; versus (b) development of the practical skills they will require in the workplace. Some professors claim that their primary concern is that of ‘content’ and that they are not ‘language’ tutors. That is, assisting students ‘linguistically’ is beyond the scope of their role. In consideration of workload demands, the additional grind involved in providing a potentially time-consuming language focus, can eat into course content. The informative content of specialized courses, however, is inextricably bound to the language and the manner in which it is communicated. Developing knowledge of technical vocabulary should occur while simultaneously advancing knowledge of the overall register of the discipline, and presenting grammar exemplars and faux pas in real-time and authentic settings. Consider the following three business-related multiple-choice questions testing one’s awareness/knowledge of [basic] grammar:

Example 1: Which grammatical structure would be useful when giving reasons for a recommendation?
A. words
B. adverbs
C. sentences
D. superlatives

Example 2: Which of the simple sentences below is complete?
A. The employees complained about the change in policy, but the supervisor refused.
B. Made to high standards with materials of the utmost quality.
C. The marketing department is responsible for the company’s web design.
D. If I were transferred abroad, the country I would prefer to be sent.

Example 3: With particular reference to the relative clause and possessive adjective, which sentence is correct?
A. A company whose main objective is a high-price policy may tempt competitors to break into it’s industry, especially when they see the company’s resulting high profits.
B. A company whose main objective is a high-price policy may tempt competitors to break into its industry, especially when they see the companies resulting high profits.
C. A company who’s main objective is a high-price policy may tempt competitors to break into its industry, especially when they see the company’s resulting high profits.
D. A company whose main objective is a high-price policy may tempt competitors to break into its industry, especially when they see the company’s resulting high profits.

Answers: 1D, 2C and 3D

Harmonizing business-content and business-language i.e., with grammar exercises to enhance and advance students’ written communication from the outset of their degree programs, must be underscored. To heighten students’ motivation, grammar should be explicated in real-life business contexts, rather than presented as a personal target per se. Indeed, there are no illusions that designated language lessons will transform undergraduate business students into writers of high caliber, but it is hoped that students will become (more) conscious of their ‘purpose’ and ‘audience’ in professional settings. Further study in the area of ‘content’ and ‘language’ as joint imperatives in degree programs is crucial, as increasingly, professors will be challenged to better prepare today and tomorrow’s students for success in writing-intensive careers.
IGI Global would like to thank Dr. Velliaris for her valuable research, both within this article, as well as in the countless chapters and books she has published over the years. To read more of Dr. Velliaris’ cross-disciplinary research, please check out her contributions in books including Case Studies as a Teaching Tool in Management Education, Innovative Management Education Pedagogies for Preparing Next-Generation Leaders, and Implications of Social Media Use in Personal and Professional Settings.

About Dr. Donna Velliaris

Dr. Donna Velliaris  headshotDonna M. Velliaris is currently living and working in Singapore while her two young children attend an international school. A fully qualified [Australia] secondary school educator since 1995, she has a total of 12 officially registered subjects/skills across Grades 8-12. To date, she has taught students from Reception to PhD level and across several continents. Dr Velliaris holds two Graduate Certificates: (1) Australian Studies; and (2) Religious Education, two Graduate Diplomas: (1) Secondary Education; and (2) Language and Literacy Education, as well as three Master’s degrees: (1) Educational Sociology; (2) Studies of Asia; and (3) Special Education. In 2010, Dr Velliaris graduated with a PhD in Education focused on the social/educational ecological development of school-aged transnational students in Tokyo, Japan.

Her primary research interests include: human ecology; Third Culture Kids (TCKs); schools as cultural systems; and study abroad. With recent publication of almost 30 book chapters, titles comprise: Academic reflections: Disciplinary acculturation and the first-year pathway experience in Australia [Garnet]; Conceptualizing four ecological influences on contemporary ‘Third Culture Kids’ [Palgrave Macmillan]; Culturally responsive pathway pedagogues: Respecting the intricacies of student diversity in the classroom [IGI Global]; The other side of the student story: Listening to the voice of the parent [Sense]; and Metaphors for transnational students: A moving experience [Cambridge Scholars].
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of IGI Global.
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Velliaris, D. M. & Pierce, J. M. (2016). A living ‘CCC’ase study: An organisationally problematic business focused action-learning project. In D. Latusek (Ed.), Case studies as a teaching tool in management education (Chapter 4, pp. 61-78). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Pierce, J. M. & Velliaris, D. M. (2016). Management methodology: Crafting creative case studies to capture contexts and concepts for course clarity. In D. Latusek (Ed.), Case studies as a teaching tool in management education (Chapter 9, pp. 169-188). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Pierce, J. M., Velliaris, D. M., & Edwards, J. (2016). A living case study: A journey not a destination. In N. R. Silton (Ed.), Exploring the benefits of creativity in business, media, and the arts (Chapter 8, pp. 158-178). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Pierce, J. M. & Velliaris, D. M. (2016). Widening the lens: A pathway to advancing management education through storyboards. In S. Rahul Tiwari & L. Nafees (Eds.), Innovative management education pedagogies for preparing next-generation leaders (Chapter 2, pp. 22-38). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
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