Business English Quick Tips: of or have? And other common goofs


Business English Quick Tips

Quick tips to help you write better for business

If you need to write for your job or business in English, these quick tips will help you succeed…

Of, or have? And other common goofs

…Of/have: such commonly spoken and written words, but sadly not interchangeable. If you’re talking about something in conditional terms, you need to say “I could have … would have … should have.” The use of the word “of” instead is incorrect and despite it sounding right when you speak it, should not be used in your writing if you want to be correct.

But that’s not the only common mistake we tend to be guilty of in our business writing … in fact I researched the most common goofs currently in business use recently and came up with more than 1.500 terms … and that’s still growing exponentially. I’ve put all my findings together in an eBook you might like: Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them.”

In the meantime, here is a selection from the book of the most commonly goofed-up terms in business and other writing. I’ve dealt with two truly major areas of confusion – “they’re/their/there” and “your/you’re/yours” separately.) Although you’re unlikely to incur the death penalty for getting these and other common goofs wrong … to do so can and often does make you look unprofessional.

Accept – Except … accept = to agree, to agree to receive … except = apart from, leave out

Allude – Elude … to allude to something is to hint at or refer to … to elude means to escape or bypass … e.g. “he alluded to his recent comments about her but what he meant eludes me…”

Allusion – Illusion … allusion = something hinted at or suggested … illusion = imagined vision or sight

Alot – A lot … A lot needs two words. Or you can allot something, which means to allocate or give out.

Altogether – All Together … altogether = completely, entirely … all together = everyone at once

Brake – Break … brake (n. and v.) = device to stop motion, act of doing so … break = to damage, often beyond repair

Bridal – Bridle … bridal = to do with brides and weddings … bridle = what a horse wears on its head

Chile – Chili – Chilly … Chile = country in South America … Chili = very hot, spicy vegetable and its derivatives … chilly = rather cold

Cite – Sight – Site … cite (v.) = to mention or point out … sight = vision … site (n.) = given area, e.g. construction site

Coarse – Course … coarse = rough … course = conduit for water, etc., also series of lessons or instruction

Could of … Might of … Should of … Would of …etc. WRONG! Of is a preposition and doesn’t belong here. It’s could have … might have … should have … would have … etc. If you want to be picky, it’s called the conditional perfect tense of the verb.

Currant – Current … currant (n.) = berry fruit e.g. blackcurrant, also type of dried grape … current (adj.) = of the moment, up to date

Dependant – Dependent … dependant = noun, e.g. someone who depends on you … dependent = adjective … so in theory you could say “this dependant is dependent on me for …”

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.

Elicit – Illicit … elicit (v.) = to draw out of … illicit = not permitted

Emigration – Immigration … emigration = leaving to become a citizen in another country … immigration = arriving in another country to become a citizen there. Remember that emigration only has one “m.” TIP: remember which is which by the fact that “immigration” goes IN, with an “I,” and emigration goes out, as in EXIT.

Eminent – Imminent … eminent = famous … imminent = due to happen very soon

Fewer – Less … fewer = smaller number of things you can count … less = smaller quantity of something that can’t be counted e.g. water, etc.

Hear – Here … hear = to listen to … here = at this point or place

Irregardless … this word doesn’t exist! It’s either regardless, or irrespective

Lets – Let’s … lets = allows, or (UK) rents out … let’s = contraction of let us

Lose – Loose … lose (v., pronounced “looz”) = to misplace or be deprived of something … loose (adj., pronounced with a soft “s”) = free from attachment. Spellings often cause confusion, but then so does much of the English language…

Palate – Palette – Pallet … palate = the roof of your mouth … palette = type of tray on which artists lay out

Patience – Patients … patience = calm perseverance … patients = people receiving medical treatment

Prostate – Prostrate … prostate = a gland within the male lower urinary tract … prostrate = lying down face down

Right – Rite – Wright – Write … right (v., adj., adv.) = correct, correctly … right (n.) = opposite of left, also something you’re entitled to … rite (n.) = formal act or ceremony … wright (n.) = worker, e.g. wheelwright, playwright … write (v.) = to put words together, the physical act of doing so

Seperate – Separate … separate = WRONG! Correct spelling = separate (v. and adj.)

Stationary – Stationery …stationary (adj.) = at a standstill … stationery (n.) = writing materials, paper, etc.

To – Too – Two … one of Banana Skin Words’ early purchasers asked me why I hadn’t included this one and I said because I thought it was too obvious! Anyway, for reference … to (prep.) = expressing motion or direction … too = also … two = the number 2

Were/wasn’t … many people use the word “were” when they’re just talking about themselves in the past tense. It’s not quite so simple, though:

  • I was at the meeting
  • You were at the meeting
  • S/he was at the meeting
  • They were at the meeting
  • I wasn’t at the meeting
  • You weren’t at the meeting
  • S/he wasn’t at the meeting
  • They weren’t at the meeting

Whose – Who’s … whose = belongs to whom? … who’s = contraction of who is

Now: for something a bit different, try the exercises associated with this article in my “30 Day Business Writing Challenge” – Click here

More next week … and if you have any questions about business writing in English please add them here in the comments section; I will try to answer them as well as I can!