We’re living in the Age of the Keyboard. Faced with tiny touch screens, cruel character limits and a get-it-done-three-hours-ago mentality, we’ve thrown punctuation out the window, followed it with capitalization, and left spelling and grammar bleeding on the sidewalk below. Expedience has more to say about our language choices than our English teachers. and even tho its ok to ignore the rules sometimes when ur rushing off a txt, there are plenty of occasions when poor grammar can make you sound stupid. So before you dash off that business proposal, email or postcard ad, brush up on some of the basics and avoid these common mistakes.
Confusing Your And You’re
It doesn’t only happen in rushed text messages and emails. We’ve seen it in newspapers and even expensive print advertising campaigns. Maybe “Your going to love” the new sausage topped deep dish pizza, but the client sure isn’t going to love the mistake.
Here’s a quick tip: if you can substitute the words “you are” for “your”, then change it quickly to “you’re”.
Confusing Their, There And They’re
This is even worse than burning brain cells on the previous grammar rule. We’ve just made your job harder by 50%. The good news is that you can apply the same rule for using “they’re” as you can for “you’re”. Anywhere that you can use the words “they are”, you know you can use “they’re”.
But you’re still left with two choices and the only way around them is to know the rule.
Whose? Theirs. (Ok, we threw an “s” in. Don’t have a meltdown. Just go study your grammar.)
Abusing The Word “Literally”
Hearing people use the word “literally” in conversations and communications literally makes our heads explode.
No, it doesn’t. Because that’s exactly the problem with the way literally is commonly used. Literally means literal. Real. Not exaggerated. Not figurative. If our heads had literally exploded, someone would’ve mopped up brain fragments long before now and you wouldn’t be reading this article.
Reading improperly constructed sentences may literally be one of the most annoying things you have to do in a day, but it’s never been known to make a head explode.
Using The Word “Irregardless”
There’s no such word. Literally.
Misusing Me And I
We’ve been so browbeaten by our teachers to say, “Jim and I are going to the movies” that we also ask Jane if she “would like to go to the movies with Jim and I” even though that’s completely wrong. We’ve even heard people ask, “Can you bring those reports to I?” (Literally!) When it comes to me and I, most people seem to hedge their bets in favor of I, to sometimes hilarious consequence.
Instead of memorizing complex object/subject rules, try this one simple trick next time you’re stumped and feeling the urge to put your I where your me should be: remove the other person from the sentence and see which version makes more sense.
Would you like to go to the movies with Jim and (I or me)?
Would you like to go to the movies with I? (Probably not, you sound like a moron.)
Would you like to go to the movies with me? (Sure, you’re kinda cute, and smart, too.)
Now you can successfully (at least grammatically) ask Jane to the movies: Would you like to go to the movies with Jim and me?
Mismatching Nouns And Verbs
There are so many grammar rules that we’re never confident that we know what it all is. Of course, we’d be one step closer to better grammar if we know what they are instead.
We create such complex sentences out of complex thoughts that by the time we get to the verb we’ve forgotten what the noun is. Sometimes the disagreement is more obvious than others, but just in case you’re engaged in a battle of the singular vs. the plural, try simplifying your sentence first.
Here’s an example of incorrect noun-verb agreement: The papers that Bill put in the tray on my desk needs to be filed.
Ask yourself what needs to be done in the sentence above. Does the desk need to be filed, or do the papers need to be filed?
The desk needs to be filed. (Probably not, unless you’re a carpenter.)
The papers need to be filed. (Get to work quickly.)
It doesn’t matter how many words come between “papers” and “need” because the agreement is always the same.
We tend to exaggerate our stories for effect, which is fine when you’re retelling an old favorite over beer and burgers, but using redundant language in business can make you sound dumb – and can use up some of those precious characters if you’re counting. There are too many examples of this tendency to repeat to put them all here, but these are two of the most annoying.
“Our super high tech pot watcher is really unique!”
Something is either unique, or it’s not. It can’t be sort of unique or just slightly unique any more than it can be completely unique. Lose the qualifier.
“There’s a big, huge sale going on at South Street today!”
Big and huge mean essentially the same thing. The same goes for a “tiny, little favor”, an “old, ancient technique” or a “sweet, sugary treat”. Don’t say it twice if you can say it once.
Abusing The Word “Like”, As If, Like, You Never Got Over The Valley Girls
If you’re using the word like to mean anything other than the fact that you like the way the sunset creates a golden glow like Poseidon’s Crown atop the ocean, then remove it not only from your writing but from your speech. We totally like mean it.
Putting The Word “Of” After Should, Would Or Could
What you hear as “could of” is really the slurred and/or abbreviated version of could have, which you should have used in your writing if only you would have known the difference. Could of should of would of warned you if you’d asked.
Not Using Your Spell Checker
This one isn’t so much a function of grammar as a function of why the hell didn’t you pay attention to those squiggly little red lines in your Word document? Not everyone can devote that many brain cells to spelling mishaps and grammar debacles. And while it pays to know the basics so you don’t sound like a complete moron, there are helpful language tools built right into the common programs you use every day.
Spelling (and grammar) check is exactly why you should never use the words definate or catagories. It’s why your boss/colleague/client should never read about the acceptible bid you recieved for the job and how you beleive it is a good sing for your company that will help you excede last year’s profits. Ignorence is never bliss in busniess.
And just in case you’re wondering, it was actually quite difficult to write those last few sentences because the fantastic technologies of today kept auto-correcting and forcing us to go back and assert our errorhood. (You get an extra point if you can pick out all nine mistakes in the last two sentences.)
Taking a few minutes to brush up on basic grammar, a few more to run the spell checker and maybe even a few more to proofread your writing will make you sound like a polished professional.
In the words of one anonymous client: we couldn’t agree better.
What’s your spelling or grammar pet peeve?