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I might sound like a ball buster with this post, but bear with me (yes, bear with me - not bare with me- I have even less interest in seeing you naked than - not then - you have in seeing me naked). This is something that needs to be said. The English language is a beautiful thing, and the Internet is killing it.

Typos are one thing. We all make mistakes, and when your (not you're) fingers are fat enough to send the Dow crashing 1,000 points, misspellings are the least of your worries. No one is going to give you crap about the occasional typo.

The same cannot be said about intentional carelessness. Every modern Internet browser that I'm aware of offers real-time in-line spell checking. If you're using Firefox or Chrome, a big, ugly red line shows up under every word you misspell. How much time does it take to correct it? If you're trying to make an important point about a serious topic, a bevy of misspellings only detracts from your argument.

I know it's easy to dismiss this as being "only" an Internet forum, and spelling and grammar aren't important in this venue. I'd be hard pressed to disagree. But you have to wonder if the bad habits are bleeding over to your corporate communications. It's not likely that someone would tell you. More likely, your boss or co-workers will just think you don't give a shit, or worse - that you're a moron.

I'll admit, as a writer it's a pet peeve of mine. But come on, guys. The other day someone was wondering if they had the metal to withstand the hours of investment banking. The metal? Really?? The word you're looking for is mettle, Ace, unless you're referring to the steel plate in your head. You guys pay a lot of money for those fancy degrees from target schools. How about showcasing a little of that grammar and usage training?

Alright, I'm off my soapbox and ready to provide you a solution. There is a browser extension called After the Deadline that might be the answer you're looking for. It not only corrects spelling, it corrects grammar and makes suggestions about usage. It'll even tell you when you're being cliche. The best part? It's free:

After the Deadline for Firefox

After the Deadline for Chrome

Here's a video demonstration:

Hopefully this helps you not only in your WSO forum life, but also in your professional and personal life. You might think using proper English is a small thing, but many people do not. You don't want to sound like an idiot.

And for those who want to kick it old school and actually learn proper grammar, I recommend Strunk and White's Elements of Style. However, in this modern day and age, there is an even better text on the subject. By far the best book written on grammar in the past decade is Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

We would all do better to pay closer attention to what we write. There really is a perfect word for everything. If your going to right, you might as well sound like you no what your doing.

1

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Comments (52)

  • SAC's picture
  • total's picture

    embarrassing really

    "If you're trying to make an important point about a serious topic, a bevy of misspellings only detracts from your argument."

  • cakepie's picture

    I hope the title mistake is intentionally ironic-- it must be well above the rest of us mortals unable to understand grammar and spelling :P

    But in all seriousness, his advice is very practical and an often overlooked problem. I agreed with 100% of what he said up until he recommended something called "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing". Sorry, credibility gone.

  • Affirmative_Action_Walrus's picture

    i know for a fact that ken lewis made at least 659 typos per email whilst drunk, and 662 per email on the rare occasions he hadn't already polished off a case of Boone's Farm before lunchtime (less than a case before lunchtime= hillbilly sober)

    his emails looked somewhat like this:

    dfahsghg rtujofg ]xcljv 4r pualson jdfdfh merril lyancnh nogud dfkjdslfjakidhfk arghhhhrfgdsf

    that's the primary reason Dennis Kucinich mistakenly accused poor, hapless, sober-at-the-time Ken of perjury at congressional question time.

  • Beef's picture

    I applaud you, sir.

    Wall Street leaders now understand that they made a mistake, one born of their innocent and trusting nature. They trusted ordinary Americans to behave more responsibly than they themselves ever would, and these ordinary Americans betrayed their trust.

  • Aussie Banker's picture

    I agree with the comments, but it goes beyond spelling and grammar. One of the biggest failings I see in junior staff is the ability to write punchy, coherent correspondence that gets the key issues across to the audience. The majority of people either waffle on and talk a lot of spurious crap, or omit key details. The net result is that they often simply fail to get their massage across. I actually spend a significant amount of my time editing the writing of junior people.

  • In reply to Aussie Banker
    drexelalum11's picture

    Aussie Banker:
    The net result is that they often simply fail to get their massage across. I actually spend a significant amount of my time editing the writing of junior people.

    Thats eh reel shame... we won't want junior people to ms. that not in you're back.

  • adapt or die's picture

    you need to learn your Latin...

    Assiduus usus uni rei deditus et ingenium et artem saepe vincit

  • Barcadia's picture

    time spent on internet has an indirect relationship with grammar skillz

  • In reply to Aussie Banker
    Edmundo Braverman's picture

    Aussie Banker:
    I agree with the comments, but it goes beyond spelling and grammar. One of the biggest failings I see in junior staff is the ability to write punchy, coherent correspondence that gets the key issues across to the audience. The majority of people either waffle on and talk a lot of spurious crap, or omit key details. The net result is that they often simply fail to get their massage across. I actually spend a significant amount of my time editing the writing of junior people.

    That's why I'm actually a fan of texting and Twitter (caveat: as long as you're using proper English and not retarded Net-speak). Limiting thoughts to 140 characters forces an economy of language that demands you come to the point and make it clearly.

    I actually use a program that measures the reading difficulty of the stuff I write and then gives me a Flesch Reading Ease Score. On the first go-round, I usually score pretty high (which means it is difficult for average readers to understand). Luckily, the program then helps me dumb it down to a 6th Grade reading level for the Yale kids.

  • brotherbear's picture

    Besides being a trader, I also write for a major publication, and poor English upsets me, so I side with Edmundo on this.

    Besides using "spell check," and "grammar check," you can follow a few simple rules to make yourself seem literate.

    1.) Semi-colons are not "super commas," so don't throw them around like you're writing in code.
    2.) Learn common homonyms. "They're" and "their" don't mean the same thing.
    3.) Learn how to construct appropriate contractions. "She's" means "she is," not "she has."
    4.) Succinctness and eloquence are your goals in writing, not wordiness and abstraction. Get to the point, and make it like you've thought it out before scribbling it in crayon.
    5.) Big words are not always better words. Sometimes, difficult diction is used to mask the frailties of a poor argument. And most of the time, it isolates your audience.
    6.) Try to avoid writing in passive voice.
    7.) Try to avoid ending sentences in prepositions.
    8.) Write the way you speak. Good writing sounds like a good conversation with an intelligent person in your reader's mind. Most of the time, your goal--at least in business--is to sound moderately intelligent, so try to write that way.
    9.) Short sentences are easier to read and flow better than long ones. If you want your reader to read something quickly, if you want them to feel more involved in the story, use shorter sentences with easier words. Hemmingway made a career of it.
    10.) Read a fucking book. Good writers borrow from great writers. Great writers steal outright from other greats. If you never read anything written by someone smarter or better educated than you, of course you'll write badly.
    11.) You do things 'badly.' You are 'bad.' Learn the difference, or sound retarded.
    12.) Know your audience. Who's reading your work? What are they looking to get out of it?

  • In reply to brotherbear
    memento's picture

    brotherbear:
    Besides being a trader, I also write for a major publication, and poor English upsets me, so I side with Edmundo on this.

    Besides using "spell check," and "grammar check," you can follow a few simple rules to make yourself seem literate.

    1.) Semi-colons are not "super commas," so don't throw them around like you're writing in code.
    2.) Learn common homonyms. "They're" and "their" don't mean the same thing.
    3.) Learn how to construct appropriate contractions. "She's" means "she is," not "she has."
    4.) Succinctness and eloquence are your goals in writing, not wordiness and abstraction. Get to the point, and make it like you've thought it out before scribbling it in crayon.
    5.) Big words are not always better words. Sometimes, difficult diction is used to mask the frailties of a poor argument. And most of the time, it isolates your audience.
    6.) Try to avoid writing in passive voice.
    7.) Try to avoid ending sentences in prepositions.
    8.) Write the way you speak. Good writing sounds like a good conversation with an intelligent person in your reader's mind. Most of the time, your goal--at least in business--is to sound moderately intelligent, so try to write that way.
    9.) Short sentences are easier to read and flow better than long ones. If you want your reader to read something quickly, if you want them to feel more involved in the story, use shorter sentences with easier words. Hemmingway made a career of it.
    10.) Read a fucking book. Good writers borrow from great writers. Great writers steal outright from other greats. If you never read anything written by someone smarter or better educated than you, of course you'll write badly.
    11.) You do things 'badly.' You are 'bad.' Learn the difference, or sound retarded.
    12.) Know your audience. Who's reading your work? What are they looking to get out of it?

    I've never understood the American disdain for the passive voice. In Britain it is more widely used and accepted.

  • dagro's picture

    personally i draw the line at people who can't tell the difference between your and you're and their and they're.

    besides the already good advice here, i learned some stuff i was less aware of studying for the verbal part of the gmat. for those who haven't gotten there yet, you get two birds with one stone.

    =========================================
    "... then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it."

  • LeatherPantz1's picture

    Edmundo,

    1 GFY
    2 Thanks for spending an hour of your shitty time pointing out the utter mundane drole that no one gives a shit about
    3 Read the SEC exhibits for the Goldman testimony. Emails from top guys (LB included) are full of these kinds of errors--seriously, no one gives shit. Take your 'change-the-world' campaign somewhere else.
    4 "hard-pressed"
    5 GFY

  • In reply to Edmundo Braverman
    LIBOR's picture

    Edmundo Braverman:
    Aussie Banker:
    I agree with the comments, but it goes beyond spelling and grammar. One of the biggest failings I see in junior staff is the ability to write punchy, coherent correspondence that gets the key issues across to the audience. The majority of people either waffle on and talk a lot of spurious crap, or omit key details. The net result is that they often simply fail to get their massage across. I actually spend a significant amount of my time editing the writing of junior people.

    That's why I'm actually a fan of texting and Twitter (caveat: as long as you're using proper English and not retarded Net-speak). Limiting thoughts to 140 characters forces an economy of language that demands you come to the point and make it clearly.

    I actually use a program that measures the reading difficulty of the stuff I write and then gives me a Flesch Reading Ease Score. On the first go-round, I usually score pretty high (which means it is difficult for average readers to understand). Luckily, the program then helps me dumb it down to a 6th Grade reading level for the Yale kids.

    Haha MS Word?

  • In reply to brotherbear
    LIBOR's picture

    brotherbear:
    Besides being a trader, I also write for a major publication, and poor English upsets me, so I side with Edmundo on this.

    Besides using "spell check," and "grammar check," you can follow a few simple rules to make yourself seem literate.

    1.) Semi-colons are not "super commas," so don't throw them around like you're writing in code.
    2.) Learn common homonyms. "They're" and "their" don't mean the same thing.
    3.) Learn how to construct appropriate contractions. "She's" means "she is," not "she has."
    4.) Succinctness and eloquence are your goals in writing, not wordiness and abstraction. Get to the point, and make it like you've thought it out before scribbling it in crayon.
    5.) Big words are not always better words. Sometimes, difficult diction is used to mask the frailties of a poor argument. And most of the time, it isolates your audience.
    6.) Try to avoid writing in passive voice.
    7.) Try to avoid ending sentences in prepositions.
    8.) Write the way you speak. Good writing sounds like a good conversation with an intelligent person in your reader's mind. Most of the time, your goal--at least in business--is to sound moderately intelligent, so try to write that way.
    9.) Short sentences are easier to read and flow better than long ones. If you want your reader to read something quickly, if you want them to feel more involved in the story, use shorter sentences with easier words. Hemmingway made a career of it.
    10.) Read a fucking book. Good writers borrow from great writers. Great writers steal outright from other greats. If you never read anything written by someone smarter or better educated than you, of course you'll write badly.
    11.) You do things 'badly.' You are 'bad.' Learn the difference, or sound retarded.
    12.) Know your audience. Who's reading your work? What are they looking to get out of it?

    Also in MS Word. I just turn on the "style" check and Word corrects my passive voice (I'm sure you know this but for people who don't know this is an excellent feature that allows you to 'catch' yourself in the passive voice)

  • In reply to LeatherPantz1
    beastly214's picture

    LeatherPantz1:
    Edmundo,

    1 GFY
    2 Thanks for spending an hour of your shitty time pointing out the utter mundane drole that no one gives a shit about
    3 Read the SEC exhibits for the Goldman testimony. Emails from top guys (LB included) are full of these kinds of errors--seriously, no one gives shit. Take your 'change-the-world' campaign somewhere else.
    4 "hard-pressed"
    5 GFY

    People do give a shit and poor spelling is a reflection of carelessness and is often interpreted (or misinterpreted) as of lower-class status or poor education. I think it's especially important on the internet (and forums) where your posts are the only form of self-representation.

    One word that I constantly see mispelled that kills me is "definitely" - it's not definately or definetely -

    It takes two seconds to reread what you write and mispelling just gives off a message that says "I don't give a shit about what I'm writing because it's a brain fart anyway".

  • In reply to cakepie
    bigmuffin's picture

    camspin:
    I agreed with 100% of what he said up until he recommended something called "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing". Sorry, credibility gone.

    On the contrary, that shows he knows what he is talking about. Grammar girl's book reached the New York Times best-seller list, and her podcast was one of the most popular podcasts in iTunes at some point. In addition, she has been featured in WSJ and Oprah. Grammar girl, Mignon Fogarty, is an English major and she was a technical writer before becoming a successful full-time podcaster.

  • In reply to beastly214
    IlliniProgrammer's picture

    beastly214:

    People do give a shit and poor spelling is a reflection of carelessness and is often interpreted (or misinterpreted) as of lower-class status or poor education. I think it's especially important on the internet (and forums) where your posts are the only form of self-representation.

    It's good for first impressions, but after people have known you for a month or two, you definately start getting judged by you're work and can stop worrying about speling as much.

    In all seriousness, spelling might be a big deal on the IBD side, but for trading, nobody really cares. I was working with one VP who was about to send an email with several misspellings and I quietly pointed them out. His response was "F--- it" and sent it anyway. I quickly learned that only people who studied literature or were incredibly picky cared about spelling.

    Might be different if you have to give presentations or want to make a good first impression, but after 2-3 months, people judge you by your work product rather than your spelling abilities.

  • fhurricane's picture

    lols funy post i will not need psell c heck my post is fine grammer and spell

  • In reply to fhurricane
    IlliniProgrammer's picture

    fhurricane:
    lols funy post i will not need psell c heck my post is fine grammer and spell

    All so, spill chick don't always quirk the way ewe hope.
  • In reply to LeatherPantz1
    Edmundo Braverman's picture

    LeatherPantz1:
    Edmundo,

    1 GFY
    2 Thanks for spending an hour of your shitty time pointing out the utter mundane drole that no one gives a shit about
    3 Read the SEC exhibits for the Goldman testimony. Emails from top guys (LB included) are full of these kinds of errors--seriously, no one gives shit. Take your 'change-the-world' campaign somewhere else.
    4 "hard-pressed"
    5 GFY

    Pure gold.

    I knew someone would come out in defense of stupidity.

  • Affirmative_Action_Walrus's picture

    for some reason, my biggest pet peeve is people writing "for granite" instead of "for granted." When I see this misspelling, I want to reach across the murky realms of the internet and strangle its author.

    also, the passive voice is used by true ballers.

  • San Ford's picture

    The written/verbal usage of "for all intensive purposes" makes me want to slit throats. It's bad enough to use the correct phrase, but to get the entire thing wrong is unforgivable.

  • In reply to Affirmative_Action_Walrus
    rebelcross's picture

    Affirmative_Action_Walrus:
    for some reason, my biggest pet peeve is people writing "for granite"

    Come on, nobody writes that, I don't think I've ever seen that before.

    Some of the typos aren't that bad, especially something along the lines of "for all intensive purposes" which is kind of how the phrase has developed in spoken English, so it in no way slows down my progress or makes me think twice about what I'm reading...certainly doesn't make me "want to slit throats."

    Also things along the lines of confusing the usage of "their" and "they're" really doesn't bother me when I see it, as it again, the pronunciations of each have pretty much morphed into each other, hence, the mistake still provides a seemless read.

    Mistakes that really bother me are the ones that just butcher the pronunciation of the word, making you stop and think "what a retard." The one that I really can't stand, and I'm seeing it all the time is "loosing." It's not even the correct pronunciation, it looks and sounds bizarre. People really need to purge those kinds of mistakes from their writing.

  • Justsomeguy's picture

    I have to agree. There is nothing good about people giving a shit about spelling. You don't have to make a huge deal about it but definitely wanting to cut throats is way too much.

  • In reply to rebelcross
    Affirmative_Action_Walrus's picture

    rebelcross:
    Affirmative_Action_Walrus:
    for some reason, my biggest pet peeve is people writing "for granite"

    Come on, nobody writes that, I don't think I've ever seen that before.

    Some of the typos aren't that bad, especially something along the lines of "for all intensive purposes" which is kind of how the phrase has developed in spoken English, so it in no way slows down my progress or makes me think twice about what I'm reading...certainly doesn't make me "want to slit throats."

    Also things along the lines of confusing the usage of "their" and "they're" really doesn't bother me when I see it, as it again, the pronunciations of each have pretty much morphed into each other, hence, the mistake still provides a seemless read.

    Mistakes that really bother me are the ones that just butcher the pronunciation of the word, making you stop and think "what a retard." The one that I really can't stand, and I'm seeing it all the time is "loosing." It's not even the correct pronunciation, it looks and sounds bizarre. People really need to purge those kinds of mistakes from their writing.

    obviously you've never spent time on a college football discussion board- lolz at the grammar there.

  • drexelalum11's picture

    I've got to say, my biggest pet peeve is when someone says they are doing "good."

    Close second is when anyone uses "me and John went fishing."

    If you think no one judges you on your grammar, you're crazy. I can tell you either of those mistakes would have had fifteen people correcting you on the spot at any decent prep school, and they would have taken pleasure in doing so.

    p.s. Edmundo - I'm impressed, I installed the grammar checker you suggested, and it picked up on "me and John."

  • In reply to memento
    drexelalum11's picture

    memento:
    brotherbear:
    Besides being a trader, I also write for a major publication, and poor English upsets me, so I side with Edmundo on this.

    Besides using "spell check," and "grammar check," you can follow a few simple rules to make yourself seem literate.

    1.) Semi-colons are not "super commas," so don't throw them around like you're writing in code.
    2.) Learn common homonyms. "They're" and "their" don't mean the same thing.
    3.) Learn how to construct appropriate contractions. "She's" means "she is," not "she has."
    4.) Succinctness and eloquence are your goals in writing, not wordiness and abstraction. Get to the point, and make it like you've thought it out before scribbling it in crayon.
    5.) Big words are not always better words. Sometimes, difficult diction is used to mask the frailties of a poor argument. And most of the time, it isolates your audience.
    6.) Try to avoid writing in passive voice.
    7.) Try to avoid ending sentences in prepositions.
    8.) Write the way you speak. Good writing sounds like a good conversation with an intelligent person in your reader's mind. Most of the time, your goal--at least in business--is to sound moderately intelligent, so try to write that way.
    9.) Short sentences are easier to read and flow better than long ones. If you want your reader to read something quickly, if you want them to feel more involved in the story, use shorter sentences with easier words. Hemmingway made a career of it.
    10.) Read a fucking book. Good writers borrow from great writers. Great writers steal outright from other greats. If you never read anything written by someone smarter or better educated than you, of course you'll write badly.
    11.) You do things 'badly.' You are 'bad.' Learn the difference, or sound retarded.
    12.) Know your audience. Who's reading your work? What are they looking to get out of it?

    I've never understood the American disdain for the passive voice. In Britain it is more widely used and accepted.

    That is definitely not true. I will quote George Orwell:

    George Orwell, in Politics and the English Language:

    one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

    i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
    iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
    iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

    These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable.

    The essay is available in its entirety at http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/engli...

    Certainly worth a read.

  • In reply to drexelalum11
    IlliniProgrammer's picture

    drexelalum11:
    I've got to say, my biggest pet peeve is when someone says they are doing "good."

    Close second is when anyone uses "me and John went fishing."


    Or the more subtle, "They were going fishing with John and I."

    If you think no one judges you on your grammar, you're crazy. I can tell you either of those mistakes would have had fifteen people correcting you on the spot at any decent prep school, and they would have taken pleasure in doing so.

    Note that grown-ups don't care as much. There should be a certain standard: capitalize words that require capitalization, try to use the correct grammatical devices, and try to avoid typos. That said, if you demonstrate that you may know how to use a semi-colon or a colon, that makes up for a lot of grammatical errors in my book.
  • the 3 stars's picture

    I'm a consultant. The reader or audience of my recomendations are usually top executives or directors of some sort. In my experience, these audiences have little time and too much on their minds. When we present findings, consultants generally (and I obsessively) use the following rule: whatever it is, say it in 20 words or less. This guarrantees that you choose the message carefully, both in content and presentation. That said, we are not obsessive about grammar or usage and can even make up words (deliverable et al), as long as we are sure that the audience knows exactly what we mean. Most of our work is presented on colourful powerpoint slides, which does a great deal to enhance the message, but is not conducive to the correct use of any language. In short, message: important; grammar: nice to have.

    When it comes to recruiting, the story is different. I regularly turn down candidates based on how their CV and accompanying cover letter are written. Wafflers and serial mispellers can go elsewhere (no matter their grades or experience). It shows lack of motivation (a prerequisite in this industry), lack of interest in what they are writing, and scant regard for the reader's time. It also shows that I don't want to put them in front of a paying client.

    Your ability to write correctly may not be crucial to your job, but it may be crucial to your job hunting.

    If you don't know how important it is in your next application, assume that it is very important. After all, you don't have to learn how to do it correctly, you just have to use spell-check. A 10 second check might keep your CV away from the recruiter's bin and you on the interview schedule.

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