cropped-sitelogo-2.pngWhy love a pedant?

Why you should love a pedant


Have you ever met one of those people who is always pointing out when apostrophes are in the wrong place, or who explodes at the merest glimpse of signs in shops which confuse “fewer” and “less?” Have you ever felt the urge to smile a watery smile and then gently tiptoe away from them? Well, at Evensaul, that’s just the kind of people we are, and rather than trying to avoid us, you should be glad. No really, it’s a good thing for your business, for your blogs or your website, that we are. Grammar and punctuation are non-negotiable with us. That’s because everything in business is about communication and communication is a much more precise art than you might think.


Everybody you’ve ever met carries round a great big book of the rules of grammar in their heads. They know each rule perfectly even though often they don’t know they know. The truth of this was first identified by a gentleman called Noam Chomsky – linguist, historian, philosopher and all round expert on just about everything. He called it linguistic competence, and he said, “The most striking aspect of linguistic competence is what we may call the “creativity of language,” that is, the speaker’s ability to produce new sentences, sentences that are immediately UNDERSTOOD by other speakers although they bear no physical resemblance to sentences which are familiar.”


For those shiny, new sentences to be understood there have to be common rules, and that’s what we call grammar. If you still don’t believe it, try this:


I saw a big red bus.


I saw a red, big bus.


Only one of them is right, the other, no native speaker of English would ever say. But why?


Well, what if I said:


I saw an English, red big bus?


Not working for you, is it? It should be: I saw a big, red English bus.


What your head is telling you but which you’ve almost certainly never thought about consciously is that adjectives in English describe objects (nouns) in a strict order. We start with quantity, then quality, size, age, shape and colour and then what’s called a “proper” adjective – in this case nationality. EG I saw a beautiful, big, forty year old, oblong, red English bus.


“But,” I hear you cry, “my business does not revolve around the relative merits of antique forms of public transport, so why should I care?” The answer is quite simply that we judge communication, through people and text, on the basis of how well they adhere to those rules of grammar. We can’t help doing it because it’s hardwired into our brains. The problem is that we are far more attentive to other people’s grammar than our own, because when we speak or write we already know what we mean. We use grammar to decipher what they are saying.


So, every time someone reads your website or your newsletter or your blog they are judging you. If your grammar is good they will skip through whatever you have written understanding it all and taking it in. If their subconscious mind is constantly having to work out what you mean because your grammar is poor, they will retain less and distrust more, because they will question your linguistic competence.


We trust what we understand. We understand that which is clear and accurate. You may be fantastic at what you do, but perhaps your linguistic competence is holding you back. If so, give us a call or drop us a line. We’re pedants and we’re proud of it.


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