Ugh! Grammar Nazis. Don’t you just hate ‘em?
Oh, you used “your” instead of “you’re.”
Did you mean to put that apostrophe there?
How can you not know the difference between lie and lay?
Really, it’s just exhausting. And the quickest way to bring them out is to make a minor error on a blog post or a Facebook status. The Grammar Nazi Sharks really start circling then (now there’s an image for you).
As a copywriter, people just assume that I’m judging their character and worth based on their spelling, punctuation and grammar. Case in point: here’s a book my sister bought me as a gag gift for Christmas. Well, I think it was a gag gift anyway.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth…honest! Everyone – including me – makes mistakes now and then. It’s just going to happen. And, listen carefully now, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.
However, the fact remains that first impressions are important. And in this day and age, when impressions are often made online rather than in person, it’s wise to pay extra attention to spelling, apostrophes and commas. Too many mistakes in your writing can lead people to believe that you are unprofessional or take a lackadaisical approach to your business.
To help you out, here are 10 of the most common grammar mistakes I see in writing. When proofing your work, check for these before you publish and you’ll be well on your way to making a great first impression!
- Apostrophes (or not)
With very few exceptions, apostrophes are only used in contractions (can’t, don’t) or to indicate possession (the cat’s collar). Never use an apostrophe in a plural (a collar for cats).
- A lot, not alot
Alot is not a word. Confession time: this tripped me up for years. But then I read something that helped me get it straight. You wouldn’t write “abunch,” “alittle,” or “adog.” So don’t write “alot.”
- Loose and lose
“Lose” means that you can’t find something. “Loose” means something is not tight or is free from constraint. If your dog darts out the door, he’s gotten loose. If you don’t catch him right away, you might lose him.
- They’re, their and there
“They’re” is the contraction of “they are.” “Their” is possessive (meaning it belongs to others). “There” means that something is elsewhere.
- Its and it’s
This is another one that trips me up. “It’s” is always the contraction of it is. (It’s a nice day out.) “Its” is the possessive of “it.” (I love its color.) Which means that “its” is one of those exceptions when it comes to apostrophes indicating a possessive. SO confusing!
- Do’s and don’ts
This is not a hard and fast rule. But according to AP Style (which many writers use), the correct use of the apostrophes in this case is as you see above. Another one of those exceptions to the apostrophe rule.
- Who and that
“Who” refers to a person (the person who gave me your name) and “that” refers to a thing (the necklace that my mother gave me). Now, in the pet industry, I personally think there’s an exception to this rule. When referring to an animal, it should technically be “that.” But I almost always write and say, “who.” So sue me, Grammar Nazi Sharks.
- Quotation marks
It may seem counterintuitive but periods and commas should go within the quotation marks at the end of a sentence, not outside of them. For example: I thought it was funny how she said the word, “olive.”
- Affect versus effect
“Affect” means to influence and is usually used as a verb. (The trainer affected my dog’s behavior immediately.) “Effect” is typically used as a noun and refers to a result. (The effect on my dog’s behavior was immediate.)
This isn’t a word. Period. End of story. Please don’t use it ever. Use “regardless” instead.
I hope this helped! If you have questions about any of the above – or if I left out any of your particular pet peeves – please share with me in the comments below.
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