31/10/2013 - 04:36

Times change, standards shouldn’t

31/10/2013 - 04:36


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Making a good first impression can be as simple as getting your spelling right.

I graduated from Haddonfield Memorial High School in 1963. No computers, no cell phones, no internet, no email, no texting, no credit cards, no cassette tapes (let alone cds), and no cable TV.

How did I survive? By playing ball every day after school, by riding my bike, by being active.

Back then, Haddonfield was a middle/upper middle class town of 12,000 with a high school of around 1,000 kids. All smart.

Dress code: If you wore blue jeans to school, they sent you home.

It was a different time.

Kennedy was president. Our history teacher made everyone subscribe to The New York Times, and every day he assigned us reading. The thing I remember most were the weekly Kennedy press conferences. They published the entire text. Kennedy had an amazing sense of humour. I devoured every word.

We just had a 50-year school reunion, and part of the weekend included a Saturday tour of the high school. Amazing to think about how big it looked back then, and how small it looked today.

On Sunday there was a memorial service to remember classmates no longer with us. Friends, good friends – happy and sad all at once. And the reality that age is setting in.

After the service almost no-one left. We started talking about high school and some of the teachers and classes.

So many of the stories were similar – we were grateful for the teacher or teachers who emphasised

writing and grammar. English. (The language currently undergoing a complete overhaul through the mediums of email and texting.)

Personally, I had a teacher who gave a grammar test on the use of words every day. 'They're, there, and their. You're and your'. They were lessons repeated and repeated until every kid got it.

Little did I know that 30 years later it would be the foundation for my writing career.

How's your grammar?

How's your use of your and you're?

How's your use of to and too?

Are you aware of how important grammar is when you put your emails, texts, blog posts, Facebook posts, and tweets out into the SMS and cyber world?

My classmates and I sang a chorus of appreciation for the grammar lessons. Although at the time those everyday tests and lessons were being given, every student complained.

Then I thought about what would be happening in the same situation today: parents complaining about too many tests; teachers' unions balking about too many papers to grade; kids texting and protesting about abusive educational practices; and pressure forcing a 'testing policy' to be fair to everyone.

Talking with a friend of mine tonight about the grammar lessons from high school, he said:

"Whenever I see a grammar error in the subject line of an email, I delete it without opening it".

Note well: Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control.

Note well: It's the little things, the details that matter – your look, your image, your quiet confidence, your presentation skills, your knowledge of the customer, and your writing skills (including grammar). And salespeople think it's the big things, like the price of what you're selling and your sales techniques.

So go to your next reunion; not just to see the people, but also to remember and be grateful for the lessons that shaped your future.

My reunion was an affirmation that I got a great fundamental and foundational education – and then had enough sense to implement the information. I hope you did, and you do, too.


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