Are you afraid to put anything in writing because you fear being cited by the grammar police?
Proper English usage is essential when youâ€™re marketing your company or your brand, but there is no reason to be afraid. If you correct even a few obvious errors before you pull the trigger, your missives will come across as more professional and refined.
Here are a few common mistakes to avoid.
A study by BrandwatchÂ found that the top five grammatical errors on Twitter involved the exclusion of apostrophes. Of course, social media is hardly the place for academic writing. But misuse of this little punctuation mark is apparently so egregious elsewhere that John Richards formed the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001.
Here are a few basic apostrophe rules to remember:
- Contractions, or two words pushed together in shorthand, such as canâ€™t, Iâ€™ll, and letâ€™s, always require an apostrophe. Do not confuse possessive pronouns like yours with like-sounding contractions; youâ€™re is another way of saying you are.
- Possessive pronouns, including hers, ours, and its never need an apostrophe. Note that itâ€™s is the contraction for it is.
- Plural nouns do not take an apostrophe (unless theyâ€™re being used in possessive form). Pay particular attention to this rule: If you write, â€śPurchase your football tickets here,â€ť the word tickets should not have an apostrophe.
Correct comma usage is more complicated than you may think, and the rules surrounding the deployment of commas have evolved over time. The idea that you should place a comma any place you would pause when reading the text aloud is, sadly, a myth.
Some comma rules are straightforward. For example, if you tweet â€śLetâ€™s eat Mom!â€ť you will have some explaining to do when the cops arrive. â€śLetâ€™s eat, Mom!â€ť is the less macabre version. For a complete primer on commas, read the rules offered by Georgia College, Grammar Girl, or UNCâ€™s College of Arts and Sciences. Very generally speaking, the fewer commas you use, the better.
Frequently Confused and Misused Words
Affect vs. Effect â€” Affect is a verb that means â€śto influence.â€ť You could say, â€śThe speakerâ€™s words affected everyone in the audience.â€ť Effect is usually a noun that means â€śan event, condition, or state of affairs that is produced by a cause,â€ť as in â€śthe visual effects were stunning.â€ť Most of the time, you want to use â€śaffectâ€ť as a verb, with one big exception: We effect change.
Their, There, and Theyâ€™re â€” Their is a possessive pronoun that indicates ownership. There is a location. Theyâ€™re is the abbreviated form of they are. Make a note of all three!
Yes, spelling and grammar are different topics, but this is important: So many apps now offer a built-in spellchecker that itâ€™s tempting to rely on one. However, although spellcheckers are sophisticated, but they donâ€™t catch everything.
When a spellchecker flags a misspelled word, take time to notice your error. Learn to depend less on that little red line! Additionally, read this list of 100 commonly misspelled words. Each comes with an easy way to commit the proper spelling to memory.
And please donâ€™t ever misspell grammar. How many times have you read a comment online in which someone is criticizing another personâ€™sÂ grammer? Egad!
Letâ€™s face it, the majority of your readers probably arenâ€™t any better than you are at using commas, apostrophes, and the like. Nonetheless, if you plan to invest big money in your prose â€” or you expect many people to read it â€” consider hiring a professional proofreader. Most are quite affordable and easy to find on popular freelance websites.
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