24 May 2013
Rebecca Dunstan, Account Director

Does grammar matter in PR?


Do you know your split infinitive from your subordinate clause?  

Primary school children are sitting a new grammar test this month to see if they do. With its introduction comes the usual controversy around the evolution of the English language.

Staunch grammarians, defenders of Standard English, rally on one side of the fence issuing dark warnings about the demise of society if people mix up their modals using ‘might’ instead of ‘may’. Opposing them are those who see the English language as much more fluid, evolving and changing as new online channels of communication and global influences shape and form its everyday use. 

Copywriting and content generation are a core part of PR so grammatical conundrums are hotly debated here at Westgate. Whether writing a blog, a speech, a news release or a technical case study, it is essential to use the right punctuation and grammar. Misuse of the grocer’s apostrophe annoys us just as much as anyone but it is important not to be too much of a purist. 

The English language is changing. Technology has a large part to play in this. Like it or loathe it, we are becoming a nation of texters, tweeters and bloggers. Even the shape and dexterity of our thumbs is changing to keep pace, according to recent research from Warwick University. 

Texting slang such as ‘LOL’ and ‘OMG’, and even the HEART symbol, has infiltrated the OED, leaving many purists floundering in the wake of such change. Last year saw the Queen’s English Society fold after 40 years of championing good English.    

Whilst outdated, many of the values that the society stood for still resonate, including the importance of reading stories to young children to get them to appreciate and understand language from an early age.

Clearly grammar does matter. If you don’t know what an infinitive is, you won’t know how to split one. Without understanding the rules, it is difficult ‘to boldly go’ forward and be part of the evolution of our great language wherever that leads. 

As PR consultants, we write in many different voices, using a variety of tones and techniques. From launching new products and services, to running thought-leadership campaigns or succinctly blogging a client’s view, good, clear and concise writing will always be fundamental.   

Test your grammar skills here or tell us about your biggest grammar bugbears. We would love to hear from you! 


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