How to Correct a Co-Worker’s Grammar

April 23, 2012 | By | Comments (1)

How do you deal with co-workers who use bad grammar? This week’s etiquette question comes from a reader named Jbala17, who wonders why her subtle attempts to correct her colleagues have gotten her nowhere.

“These are educated people,” Jbala17, wrote. “I have tried to re-word their statements using proper grammar and then repeat them back to them, to no avail. These people have contact with the public.”

I agree with you, Jabala17, that employees who represent a company to the public should not be making grammatical errors. They should not be saying, “This is her,” or “Please check with he and I again later,” or “Irregardless, that’s our decision.”

Are these employees you supervise, Jabala17? If so, it’s part of your job as a manager to give them suggestions help them improve job performance. Sit down with them individually so you can have a quiet word, without embarrassing them, to correct the situation. Alternately, if the problem is widespread in your department, perhaps the company’s budget will stretch to pay for a session with a consultant who specializes in workplace communication. That way, everyone in the office may benefit from a refresher course.

If co-workers who misspeak are your peers, Jabala17, try a different approach. The next time one of them says “who” instead of “whom,” for instance, you can remark, in a pleasant tone that indicates you are merely curious, “I always get confused by when to use ‘who’ and when to use ‘whom.’ In that sentence, I would have said it the other way. Let’s Google it.”

The trick is to avoid sounding like a schoolteacher who is instructing a student. Approach the question as if it’s an intellectual puzzle the two of you are going to solve together. Taking the extra step of looking up the answer will reinforce the lesson.

(image via