College & Workforce Readiness

Software Co. CEO Has ‘Zero Tolerance’ for Poor Grammar

By Anthony Rebora — July 24, 2012 1 min read
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Last month, we highlighted a story on the reported decline of grammar skills in the workplace. Now we can add Kyle Wiens, CEO of the online-repair-manual company iFixit, to the list of executives who believe this is not merely an academic issue.

In a fiery post for the Harvard Business Review, Wiens says he flat out won’t hire people who are careless with grammar. And to ensure that no offenders slip through, both of his companies—Wiens is also the founder of the documentation-software maker Dozuki—have instituted mandatory grammar tests as part of the hiring process.

Wiens explains that this vigilance is a matter, partly, of building and maintaining a strong corporate image in an age of proliferating communication venues:

[G]rammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn't make grammar unimportant. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can't tell the difference between their, there, and they're.

But he also believes that conscientiousness about grammar is indicative of potential job performance:

Grammar signifies more than just a person's ability to remember high school English. I've found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing -- like stocking shelves or labeling parts. ... I hire people who care about details. Applicants who don't think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren't important.

Who knows, maybe that’s a “real-world” perspective you can share the next time you have a student ask you why he or she should care about the difference between “it’s” and “its” or why the placement of a particular comma really matters. Might be particularly effective, considering Wiens’ position, with kids who have dreams of going into software development or other IT-related careers.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.