I’m taking a bit of artistic licence here with grammar mistakes as I’m about to include spelling and punctuation as well, but as a whole the following goofs are almost guaranteed to make you look a bit foolish out in the business blogosphere, social media and business writing generally.
Think it doesn’t matter if you make some grammar mistakes in your text?
Wrong: it does. If that offends your sense of verbal freedom, tough. Get over it, and get your writing basics right.
OK, some of your readers and customers may not mind the odd grammar mistake. But whether you like it or not, some customers will be put off by your mistakes, thinking (as many people do) that if you can’t get your basic blog writing, website text and other marcom words right, what faith should they have in your business if that’s the benchmark?
Need we say more?
So ignore the so-called blogging and social media experts who think it’s OK to abuse the English language as in “who cares, it’s only words, as long as the punters understand the message grammar and all that sh*t don’t matter.”
And get your head around the following classic, hugely common and so, so avoidable grammar mistakes that can make you look unprofessional and foolish.
A.M. in the morning … needless repetition! A.M. means morning, so either say “3 a.m.” or “3 o’clock in the morning.” Similarly applies to P.M.
Apostrophes … these probably cause more anxiety than any other form of writing in English, and it’s utterly needless. As a general rule, you use an apostrophe 1) to show possession, e.g. “Suze’s book” and 2) to create a contraction, e.g. “it’s” for “it is.” (“It’s” and “its” can be a little confusing – see below.) You do NOT use an apostrophe for plurals of any kind – you just stick an “s” (or in some cases “es”) at the end of the word. If the noun is plural, e.g. “parents,” you put the apostrophe after the “s,” not before, e.g. “parents’ responsibility.” With words like “people,” “children,” etc. you revert to the original format and put the apostrophe before the “s”, e.g. “people’s,” “children’s.”
Brake – Break … brake (n. and v.) is a device to stop motion, or the act of doing so … break is to damage, often beyond repair
Capitalization … another one that trips up so many people, it’s not funny. No matter how important you think nouns may be, there’s no need to give them a capital first letter unless they are “proper” nouns – official names of people, places, organisations, countries or continents. I know that right now it’s fashionable to capitalize every word in a headline or title but trust me, it’s hard to read and very irritating. Do yourself a favour and capitalize only proper nouns and the key words of a headline. Remember that just because a word seems important to you and so deserves a capital letter, it probably isn’t as important to others, so just keep it all in lower case unless there are proper nouns involved.
Comprise / Consist of … so, so many people get this wrong – especially in the real estate / estate agency business. Once and for all, here’s how it works: something comprises (whatever) or consists of (whatever). Nothing ever comprises of. Ever. OK?
Definately / Definitely … it’s definitely. Definitely.
Did’nt … Is’nt … Would’nt … Should’nt … etc. WRONG! The apostrophe goes where the missing letter is, so the correct versions are didn’t, isn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t, etc.
Dissapointed / Disappointed … one S, two Ps. Always.
E.G – I.E. … not boring you with full Latin versions but e.g. means for example … i.e. means that is
Independant / Independent … all vowels are Es. Promise.
Irregardless … this word is a maverick. Unless you want to be trendy, stick with either regardless, or irrespective
It’s – Its … it’s is a contraction of it is … its is a possessive pronoun like his, her, their
Lose – Loose … lose (verb pronounced “looz”) means to misplace or be deprived of something. Loose (adjective pronounced with a soft “s”) means free from attachment.
Me – I … popularly goofed when associated with another person, e.g. “Howard and me went shopping” – no! It’s “Howard and I went shopping.” When in doubt, remove the other person and focus on your part in it – “me went shopping?”
Prostate – Prostrate … prostate is a gland within the male lower urinary tract … prostrate means to be lying down face down (I have even seen this mistake made in a medical PowerPoint presentation about prostate cancer. Go figure.
Rain – rein – reign … rain is water falling out of the sky … rein is part of horse’s bridle or harness (also used as verb e.g. “to rein in) … reign (n. and v.) = governance or office of royal person, act of doing so … another trio of very common, classic goofs in English
There – Their – They’re … there is a place, e.g. over there … their is something that belongs to them … they’re is a contraction of they are
Theirs – There’s … theirs means belonging to them … there’s is a contraction of there is
To – Too – Two … to (prep.) expresses motion or direction … too means also … two is the number 2
Your / You’re … your means belonging to you … you’re is a contraction of you are
(Adapted from “Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them.”)
As you can imagine there are many, many more, but these are the main ones I see over and over again.
What other common grammar mistakes should we include in this list? Please share your favorites!