ACCA - The global body for professional accountants

It is always essential to remember to do the basics well – and this is especially true with grammar. We bring you some basic tips to ensure your job prospects don’t suffer before they have even started

grammar


Poor grammar and writing is said by many to be an epidemic sweeping through the workplace. While the finger is often pointed at the impact of social media and texting, an increasing number of businesses are deciding to crack down on the matter.

Karen Young, director at Hays Accountancy & Finance, adds: ‘Our recent research on Generation Y shows that 80% of those born between 1983 and 1995 now have a smartphone and two-thirds (62%) believe technology is blurring the lines between their work and social lives. But candidates need to understand that there should be a clear distinction between the language they use with their friends and a more formal work situation.

‘CVs full of typos, grammar mistakes and incomplete sentences won’t stand you in good stead with future employers. In fact, in many cases it will lead to an automatic rejection. Once you have secured a role, remember that you should be looking to present a strong personal brand. This is conveyed through everything you do including what you wear, what you say and how you write.’

Many businesses understand that there are a number of reasons why good grammar makes good business sense. It may sound obvious, but being able to communicate effectively in the workplace is a key time management skill.

Having a good grasp on proper grammar can help ensure messages are delivered and received promptly. Good grammar helps to lessen confusion when an employee decides to file a complaint, send a message to a colleague or voice their opinion in meetings. Delivering a grammatically correct message can also reduce time wasted on translation and follow-up, which in itself can facilitate higher productivity.

Make an impression

Making an impression on clients and colleagues through sound grammar can also ensures employees can create and maintain a sense of professionalism and demonstrates they care about their job and employer.

Isabel Cutts, managing director for Page Personnel Finance, says: ‘Apart from good commercial skills, communication skills and the necessary accountancy qualifications, companies also value exceptional softer skills such as spelling and grammar.

‘These skills are especially necessary when writing reports and sending important documents. Candidates who can clearly demonstrate how to interpret technical content and clearly explain this in reports, particularly to non-specialist audiences, are in high demand.

‘According to the Page Personnel Finance salary survey 2013, part-qualified accountants who support their qualifications with the right attitude and good experience are in short supply and therefore highly employable. So having all of these attributes, including strong soft skills help give candidates the edge over competition

‘Candidates can strengthen their soft skills by thoroughly checking through their work for any spelling or grammatical errors. Ensure you get a second eye from somebody who may be able to spot anything you’ve missed before sending important reports to the business.’

Succeed

In addition to the Hays and Page Personnel research, there are many other reports that have found employees who use good grammar are more likely to succeed at their jobs because their writing and speech will reflect a ‘level of professional competency’ that will be noticed by supervisors and clients.

Establishing a level of superior communication skills could be one of the main factors that leads to a promotion in title or pay going forward – good grammar is credibility on the internet, on blog posts, Facebook statuses, in emails and on company websites, where words are all you have – they are a projection of you in your physical absence.

Phil Sheridan, Robert Half UK managing director, says: ‘People often say that trainees should dress to impress in recruitment interviews, but job applicants may not even get that far if they fail to address basic spelling and grammar in letters and CVs.

‘That’s because most recruiters and employers equate poor spelling and grammar with negative qualities such as lack of care taken to compile a document, poor attention to detail or even sub-standard education. When multiple candidates are applying for one role, poor grammar can act as an initial filter to reduce the volume of CVs that are shortlisted to the next stage.’

It is also worth considering the global nature of many larger businesses with geographically dispersed colleagues. In these organisations written communications have become even more essential to their daily operations.

Whether in the form of emails, internal newsletters, business reports, white papers or even company blogs, grammatically incorrect documents could spell disaster for a company in a situation where the information presented could be considered false or misleading.

Applying for jobs

When applying for a new role, recruitment companies advise trainees to check application letters, emails and CVs carefully, ensuring correspondence is being sent to the right person – it is usually possible to find out who a named individual should be, rather than use ‘Dear Sir’ or worse ‘To Whom it May Concern’.

Trainees are also advised to ensure to refer to the right company – it’s best to write individual letters rather than cut and paste company names into template documents.

Also check all punctuation (use a guide book if necessary) and ask someone else to read all documents before they are sent off. It can be tricky to proof your own copy accurately and mistakes often sneak through.

Sheridan adds: ‘It’s not just applications that need care and attention – precise grammar and punctuation are important throughout anyone’s career. The best ideas or proposals in the world lose their sparkle if a document is badly written; a reputation for shoddy work is severely career limiting.’

It is widely accepted that poor grammar increases the chances that colleagues and managers will consider those employees to be lazy and not responsible in other aspects of their work. That kind of perception is likely to do considerable harm to your career prospects.

Ellis King, manager of the part-qualified and transactional team at Morgan McKinley, says: ‘Good grammar is vital for any accountant, as it shows attention to detail, a quality that is top of the list for virtually all of our clients at Morgan McKinley. Unfortunately, it’s scary how many CVs we see with glaring errors.

‘Nowadays, our clients want to see CVs that haven’t been reformatted, as it’s the only differentiating point for candidates. Employers will instantly turn off if a CV contains grammatical errors, because if candidates don’t have an eye for detail in their CV, it’s unlikely they will have an eye for detail in preparing reports.

‘Within a working environment, good literacy is equally important – employers want accountants who are able to present figures with a clear, professional commentary that other stakeholders within the organisation can easily understand.’

Last updated: 4 Mar 2014