How can I avoid some common grammatical mistakes?

Photo By Chaz Larson

I before E except after C.

We can all recall this simple rule as we were learning proper grammar at a young age. While most of us are far removed from the elementary school classroom, we still grapple with some common grammatical conundrums in communicating with clients.

In business, grammar is important to how you communicate both orally and in writing. A blog, Web content, or even a tweet that is riddled with grammatical errors will only harm your professional reputation.

An occasional error is understandable and forgivable, but enough of them could drive potential clients away. After all, if you’re that careless with your own work, it could be indicative of the work you’ll produce for your clients.

The next time you post that tweet, update your Facebook status, or write that blog posting, avoid these seven common grammatical errors.

1. Your vs. You’re

Your is the possessive. It belongs to you. You’re is the contraction of “you are.” That goes for all of the ‘re words, like “they’re” and “we’re.” Mentally replace the apostrophe with an “a” and you’ll always remember this rule.

  • Incorrect: Your on target to meet you’re year-end goals.
  • Correct: You’re on target to meet your year-end goals.

2. Then vs. Than

Then can be used as an adverb, adjective, or noun, but no matter the context, it always indicates time. Than is used to make a comparison.

  • Incorrect: Our proposal for redesigning your Web site is better then the competition.
  • Correct: Our proposal for redesigning your Web site is better than the competition.

3. Compliment vs. Complement

Compliment is a flattering remark or an accolade. Complement has several meanings associated with matching. It’s a common mistake because they are homophones, words pronounced alike but have different spellings and meanings.

  • Incorrect: Your blog will compliment your outreach and marketing initiatives.
  • Correct: Your blog will complement your outreach and marketing initiatives.

4. Loose vs. Lose

This is one common mistake that frustrates me. I see it frequently in blogs when people mean to say lose, but use loose instead. I suppose we can attribute it to carelessness. Loose means not tight. Lose is the opposite of win.

  • Incorrect: If you keep making the same mistakes, you will loose the account.
  • Correct: If you keep making the same mistakes, you will lose the account.

5. Affect vs. Effect

Affect is a verb meaning to change or influence. Effect is a noun meaning result or consequence.

  • Incorrect: The bad press can effect our company’s image.
  • Correct: The bad press can affect our company’s image.

6. Semicolon vs. Colon

This is a common mistake I’ve seen many clients make. A semicolon (;) connects two independent clauses where the second one reinforces the first. A colon (:) introduces an element or series of elements that illustrates what comes before the colon.

  • Incorrect: The new committee will include the following people; the marketing director, PR director, social media manager, and the vice president of communications.
  • Correct: The new committee will include the following people: the marketing director, PR director, social media manager, and the vice president of communications.

7. Parallel Structure

Always use parallel structure in your copy. Parallel structure is a balance of two or more similar words, phrases, or clauses.

  • Incorrect: Kate enjoys to meet with clients, brainstorming ideas, and resolve issues.
  • Correct: Kate enjoys meeting with clients, brainstorming ideas, and resolving issues.

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About Daniel Casciato

Daniel Casciato has his own business as a social media consultant, freelance copywriter, ghostwriter, and ghostblogger. The Pittsburgh native loves his Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates. Learn more about him at www.DanielCasciato.com.