If you say “this is she” rather than “this is her,” or “it must have been they” rather than “it must have been them,” your high school English teacher would give you a gold star. But your customers? Not so much. The reason: Most people often don’t use traditional grammatical rules in conversation, so you run the risk of sounding stilted—or even wrong—if you always stick to those rules.
That’s why you might need to fudge some rules when you communicate with customers, whether on the phone or in your marketing copy. “I will confess that I sometimes make the technically wrong but conversationally right choice under these circumstances,” writes Julia Rubiner at Editorial Emergency. “Because sometimes, the technically right choice—’It is I,’ for instance, instead of ‘It’s me’— makes you sound like the Scarlet Pimpernel.”
If you’re nervous about using incorrect grammar, Rubiner cites feedback like this from Grammar Girl’s Mignon Fogarty: “Most … grammarians agree that unless you’re answering the phone for the English department at the University of Chicago or responding to a Supreme Court judge, it’s OK to use what sounds right rather than what’s grammatically correct.
Like it or not, language is in flux. And while it can be downright painful for grammarians, going with the conversational flow might be what it takes to connect with your customers.
“I can only conclude,” says Rubiner, “that there’s nothing wrong with being right. It’s just that sometimes, in life as in branding, it’s better to be unstuffy than right.”
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