Monday, 10 February 2014

Selling the comma down the river

Mark Twain once quipped “ People who can only spell one way are uncreative”.

Orthographical rectitude ( correctness in spelling and punctuation) is once again under attack. 

Associate Professor  of English ,John McWhorter of Columbia University has suggested the comma be abandoned in texting.  

Since Salespeople increasingly have heads down in their mobiles and tablets feverishly texting their boss, their colleagues and clients ,how should we respond to the liberal linguist John McWhorter's provocation or the edicts from conservative Grammar/Syntax/Spelling/Punctuation fascists?

Why does this matter in Selling ? 

Good written English from Salespeople conveys professionalism, creates an image of authority, establishes validity, enhances productivity, and retains a competitive edge over less literate rivals. 

The story  of Manager Mel's message to the Sales team

 A sales force led by Mel, a sales manager, once  received the following  from their Boss:-

“Time will not be wasted on small accounts.”

Half the team understood this to mean they should not call small accounts as Mel deemed this to be a waste of time. 

The other half interpreted the text to be Mel's opinion , suggesting that calling small accounts was a worthwhile exercise.

English is fraught with such dangers.

 In the development of English, the comma was introduced by Italian printers in the 16th Century. It replaced a kind of forward slash.

Not only can commas help with where to breathe, they can help in meaning. John McWhorter points out that texting is a form of speech.

What do you understand by the following sentence without commas?

Woman without her man is a savage.
Which is the savage,  the man or  the woman?

Maybe commas could help here .

Woman, without her, man is a savage   - Man is the savage

Woman without her man, is a savage.     - Woman  is the savage( Yet my Microsoft Word has done one of its squiggly green lines under man,  So I have offended the Grammar fascists at Microsoft , sorry)

 A response to Mel's  'small accounts' text  ( above) from one enthusiastic member of the sales team read

Let's sell Mel

Mel was not sure whether it was a comment on his/her management prowess or a sympathetic call to action and sell !

 All for a comma being sold down the river.

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