We’ve all heard these rules before but let’s be honest, the English language is tricky – even for us native speakers. How is anyone expected to remember all of the “must and must not’s” of the writing world? Unfortunately for anyone who publishes content, that’s not a good enough excuse for bad grammar. Also unfortunate is that this is one of those situations that falls into the category of, “no one will notice if you’re right, but EVERYONE will notice – and ridicule you- if you’re wrong.”
If you write copy for websites, brochures, blogs, or anything else intended to show your business in a positive light, listen up. This list includes ten of the most common writing mistakes made in the English-writing world today. All are easily fixable AND promise to keep you from looking like a noob.
- Incorrectly Positioned Apostrophes
One of the most common writing mistakes according to Oxford Royale Academy is the misplaced apostrophe. And both misrepresented contractions and those tricky possessives fall into this category.
Any time you’re using contractions, please have a real understanding of which words you’re smashing together. Can’t, Shouldn’t, Won’t, You’re, etc.
What about possessives for those tricky words that end in s? While it’s slightly controversial, I maintain that you write it as you speak it. Generally, this means that for a proper noun, you simply add the apostrophe on the end and for standard nouns, add apostrophe + s.
- Your Vs. You’re
Speaking of contractions, this is one that still trips people up time and time again. Just because the two words sound the same does not mean they have the same meaning or spelling!
“Your” indicates possession, as in, Is your small business doing well?
“You’re” is the contracted version of “you are” as in, You’re a great wellness writer!
- Its Vs. It’s
Another common slip up that falls into the same category is the difference between “its” and “it’s.”
“It’s” is the contraction of “it is” as in, It’s a nice day.
“Its,” on the other hand, refers to something belonging to an inanimate object. For example, “The Christmas tree looks festive with its new lights”.
- Subject-Verb Agreement
Simply, if the subject of a sentence is singular, the verb must also be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must be plural. https://authority.pub/common-grammar-mistakes/
Mary create a strong marketing plan.
The children was eating ice cream.
Mary creates a strong marketing plan.
The children were eating ice cream.
- Who vs. Whom
Using the word whom can sound a bit stuffy and over-professional, but it really does have a purpose. When you don’t use it correctly, it’s one of those mistakes that makes teeth gnash. How do you know when to use who vs whom?
Think of it this way, if you can answer the reverse question with the word “him” then use the word whom. (Both words end with the letter ‘m’)
If you would answer with the word “he” then use the word who.
With whom are you going? (I’m going with him!)
Who sent you that information? (He sent me that information)
- No Comma Following An Introductory Element
That extra comma is easily forgotten, but technically correct. A comma is important to give the reader a chance to breathe after reading the introductory word, phrase, or clause. It also makes the sentence more understandable.
“Before you make your business, create a plan.” Notice how the comma after the word “business” gives a slight pause between the two active clauses?
Also, don’t forget to use it after the introduction to an email or letter.
“Hello, Mary, It’s nice to speak with you again.” The comma looks a little extraneous but is technically correct.
- Missing Comma In A Compound Sentence
A compound sentence is made up of two or more independent clauses. To bring more sense to the sentence, a comma is necessary to separate these clauses. Place the comma after the first clause and before the conjunction.
Incorrect: John went to the meeting and he made a good presentation.
Correct: John went to the meeting, and he made a good presentation.
- Passive Voice
Passive voice occurs when you place the object of a sentence at the beginning instead of at the end. (https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/common-grammar-mistakes-list) This not only makes the sentence action weaker than it could be, but also often leads to confusion as to what or who is the actual object of the sentence. Use active voice to make your writing clear and lively.
Passive Voice: The business plan was made by John.
Active Voice: John is making the business plan.
Passive Voice: The tents were set up quickly.
Active Voice: They set up the tents quickly.
My favorite trick is to add the words “by zombies” at the end of the sentence. If the sentence makes sense, then you are using passive voice (that’s bad.) Get rid of the zombies!
- Unfinished Comparisons
This one is less common, but is a big red flag when I see it written out.
“Our small business marketing plan is more detailed.
This statement doesn’t specify what your marketing plan is compared to. A correct way of writing it would be:
“Our small business marketing plan is more detailed than Mike’s marketing plan.”
- e. vs e.g.
Think of it this way, you’ll use e.g. when you want to give an example of something (EG-xample)
- There were many white things ruined during the rainy wedding, e.g. linens, the bride’s dress, and the outdoor tents.
Use i.e. when you want to explain something in another way, such as:
- The wedding was a disaster, i.e the rain ruined everything.
In most cases, an extra round of proofreading will fix the large majority of these mistakes. Even better, read all of your content out loud before you hit publish. My guess is you’ll catch 98% of mistakes before anyone else ever realized they were made.
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