To, two, too.
There, their, they’re.
These word variations, and so many others, were drilled into our heads over and over from age 6 to 16. Elementary school taught us these spelling and grammar lessons initially, but when they failed to stick, we were corrected again and again by teachers in our later years.
Red marks on papers and tests denoted our grammar deficiency. However, whether it was in elementary, junior high or high school, most of us eventually got the hang of it.
Unfortunately, what we did not learn is why grammar and spelling are important. As soon as we left the classroom, we reverted to our old ways — shortening words, making contractions out of uncontract-able words and ignoring punctuation completely.
It is easy to think that grammar does not matter, that everyone makes mistakes, and it is not going to affect you if you conjugate your verbs incorrectly every once in a while. And for the most part, it is true — most people will not even recognize the mistakes you might make in everyday speech.
However, some people will. Those few people could be individuals who have enormous impact on your future.
For example: You are on a date with someone whom you have never met. Things are going well; your date is stunningly attractive and seems genuinely interested in what you have to say. The conversation moves to movies and the blockbuster that came out last week. Your date asks you if you would like to go, and in response you say: “I already seen it.”
Suddenly your date becomes distant and fidgety. When the dinner comes to an end, he or she does not mention a second date or seem interested in sharing a cab.
To some, being thrown off of a love interest by a simple grammar slip might seem ridiculous, but it is not all that rare. What might seem like an innocent mistake to you might be a glaring beacon of your lack of intelligence to someone else. Maybe it is a quick judgment, but sometimes that is all we have.
Here’s another scenario: You are at a job interview. Whether from strength of your resume or desperation on the company’s end, you’ve made it this far. You are becoming comfortable with the interviewer, settling into the rhythm of question and answer. You give your potential employer a few work samples, which he quickly scans. One small mistake, one misspelled word in your sample, and it might be the end for you.
In that moment, the employer may decide that because you do not know the proper spelling of the word “definitely,” there is someone else out there who's a better fit for the job.
Whether it’s the love of your life or the career that carries you to wealth and fame, these opportunities can be missed through what seems like an innocent mistake.
Granted, there is no reason why you can’t drop casual speech and terminology in a conversation among friends.
The important thing is to know when grammar, spelling and punctuation matter: in first-impression situations. We are creatures of quick thinking and as such, generate conclusions based on our first set of facts, whether we like it or not.
Do not give an employer, a potential lover or even a stranger on the street a reason to think you are less intelligent than you are. Bad grammar might be a hard habit to break, but it matters.
The little differences it will make and the people who will think just a little better of you can really add up in the end.