Does grammar matter?

Subject: Does grammar matter?
From: "M. David Orr" <whitears -at- ORRNET -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 21 May 1998 14:07:12 -0500

George Mena wrote:

>I wholeheartedly disagree with you, sir. Grammar does in fact matter.
>If it doesn't make sense, it's wrong.

I think grammar is important too when bad grammar confuses the meaning; but
this often isn't the case. Bad organization of a sentence or bad transitions
within the sentence or paragraph seem to me to be more at fault in lost
meaning than grammar per se.

So long as the meaning is clear, I repeat, that based on usability testing,
the other things I mentioned in the first post are more important than
grammar. We do immediate, post-test debriefing of users and observers in
usability tests; we have never had complaints about grammar. We have plenty
of them about organization, lack of visual cues, and other issues mentioned
earlier.

All things else being equal, if a writer is on a tight timeline, copyediting
for grammar and other word-and-sentence-level format issues, should be the
lowest priority, if usability is the primary objective. However, if a
writer's client or boss is a stickler for grammar, then grammar goes up on
the list. At least it would for me.

David Orr


> -----Original Message-----
> From: M. David Orr [SMTP:whitears -at- ORRNET -dot- COM]
> Sent: Thursday, May 21, 1998 11:24 AM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: Is grammar important.
>
> As one who sees many user manuals and online help facilities in user
> tests,
> I think it's one of the least important elements of usability.
> Graphical
> mental models, organization, audience-targeting of mini-manuals, job
> task
> analysis, appropriate screen graphics, and good indexing are much more
> important. However, bad grammar can be distracting to some people, can
> cause
> misunderstanding, and create credibility issues. It's like wearing a
> power
> suit to a job interview, it doesn't really help doing a good
> interview, but
> it doesn't distract the interviewer either.

___
M. David Orr
Orr & Associates/Usability Management
7366 N. Lincoln Avenue Suite 101
Lincolnwood, IL 60646 USA
Phone: 847-677-1920
mailto: whitears -at- orrnet -dot- com
http://www.orrnet.com




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