Of all the possible grammar mistakes, there are three types that are, by far, the most common, ones that we see every day. Most, if not all, of us have made these mistakes at one time or another, whether or not they actually “made it to print.” But the fact that they are so common in print and online advertisements, company websites, and social media tools means that businesses are leaving serious money on the table.
Customers want to do business with professionals and companies that are serious about getting it right. When errors litter your marketing materials, prospects lose confidence in your company and current customers have a difficult time recommending your company to someone else.
Avoid these common grammar mistakes like the plague. Avoidance will do wonders for your business.
Contractions or Possessives?
A contraction is basically a shortcut; it’s formed by combining two (or more) words into one and adding an apostrophe. A lot of people use it incorrectly, often mistaking a contraction for a possessive (e.g., â€œitâ€™sâ€ for â€œitsâ€ or â€œtheyâ€™reâ€ for â€œtheirâ€) or vice versa.
Here are a few examples of contractions:
It’s = It is
They’re = They are
There’s = There is
The Fix: The easiest way to remember which one is which is thinking of contractions as â€œshortcutsâ€ and understanding that a contraction requires an apostrophe. It’s far easier to understand the difference between a contraction and a possessive when you think of contractions as shortcuts.
A similar grammar mistake is using a singular contraction when the plural form should be used. â€œThereâ€™sâ€, which is formed from â€œthere isâ€, is the most commonly misused contraction, and has become the default for referring to the presence of things, like in â€œThereâ€™s dishes in the sink.â€
Since â€œdishesâ€ is plural, a plural contraction is necessary for the sentence to be grammatically correct, so the following is true:
â€œThereâ€™s dishes in the sink.â€ (Incorrect)
â€œThereâ€™re dishes in the sink.â€ (Correct) (It is important to note, however, that the contraction, â€œthereâ€™reâ€, is usually avoided because it sounds awkward.)
â€œSound-a-likesâ€ are words that sound the same but are spelled differently, and the correct usage has eluded people for years.
Examples of Sound-A-Likes:
There vs. their
Hear vs. here
The Fix: How do you remember the difference? You need to see these words like you do a friend or a neighbor. When you see your friend’s face, you know exactly who it is. When your favorite waiter serves you at dinner, you know it is your favorite waiter. You can do the same with words. Start paying attention to how the words look and it will eventually stick.
Words that kind of look and sound the same have also caused widespread confusion. They look and sound so similar that it is hard to remember which is which.
Examples of Mistaken Identities:
Farther vs. further
Later vs. latter
Allude vs. elude
Affect vs. effect
Lie vs. lay
The Fix: So, how do you remember which one to use? My suggestion for mistaken identities is the same for â€œsound-a-likesâ€. There really isnâ€™t any quick fix that will help you understand or remember the difference. Studying the languages from which the words derived would be extremely beneficial, but very time consuming. It’s best to keep a grammar or style book handy until the proper use of these words has sunk in.
So, have you made these common mistakes? What other grammar troubles have you had?
About the Author: Jody Calkins is a freelance business writer who writes about business development, risk management, security protection, and business standards. Visit www.emeryroad.com for more information and samples.