Can You Read Me?

Corporate employees barely make the grade on a grammar quiz.
Alan RappeportJuly 11, 2007

Corporate employees tend to be quantitative types, good with dollars and cents and derivatives. Reading and writing might be another matter, according to a new grammar survey released by the TD Consulting Group.

The survey quizzed 130 management and staff-level corporate employees on basic business-sentence construction. The average grade was a 61 percent — a low ‘D’ in most grammar schools. A common error was the lack of agreement between a possessive and a gerund, as in the sentence “I object to you making those remarks.” (The “you” should be changed to “your.”)

“The figures confirm what many senior executives know only too well: that the business-writing skills of typical employees in corporate America need improvement,” said William T. Buckley, director of editorial services at TD Consulting.

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Not all respondents struggled with the 10-question multiple-choice test. Eight scored 100 percent, and 55 scored above 70 percent. Indeed, most correctly chose the phrase “we hope” over the commonly-misused “hopefully,” for example, and picked “between you and me” rather than the incorrect “between you and I.”

But 75 respondents scored below 70. The overall results surprise Abby Marks Beale, CEO and founder of The Corporate Educator, which runs business-writing workshops. “I think people have had to remember back to the recesses of their brain to what they learned in grammar school,” Beale says.

But all tests are not equal, Beale warned, and missing a few answers on a 10-question quiz does not make someone illiterate. Also, the types of questions selected can deflate the results on such a short test.

“I’m skeptical about studies and quiz results,” Beale told “I think there’s a challenge there with just 10 questions.”

TD Consulting Group, which runs its own business-writing training programs, offered respondents an answer key to figure out where they went wrong.

“Once people feel more comfortable with their grammar, we can then turn our attention to improving their writing style and organization,” said Laura Winterroth, partner and managing director at TD Consulting Group.