Gramlee Blog

Jack Welch learns that punctuation really matters

What is common sense to most of us was a painful lesson for one of America’s greatest CEOs, Jack Welch. When recent unemployment figures emerged from the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), Mr. Welch tweeted this.

Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers

What ensued was nothing short of a hailstorm for Mr. Welch.  Was Jack insinuating that the BLS numbers are baked to favor one political party over another less than 30 days from a presidential election?

Later, in an interview with Wall Street Journal, Mr. Welch said this.

As I said that same evening in an interview on CNN, if I could write that tweet again, I would have added a few question marks at the end, as with my earlier tweet, to make it clear I was raising a question.

Punctuation matters

Replacing a period with a question mark may have sheltered Jack Welch from a public hailstorm.  While it’s clear from his post that his intent is to raise doubt on the veracity of the numbers, adding a question mark to the end of his tweet would have framed it as his personal hypothesis.  Instead of making a statement, Mr. Welch’s tweet would then only raise a question.

One question mark would have saved his image and perhaps tens of thousands of dollars in PR and travel expenses he has incurred since that tweet.

Surely, punctuation isn’t just for kids.  Or, in light of Jack’s woes, maybe I should pose that as a question. Do you still think punctuation is just for kids?