A good education cannot guarentee a high standard of grammar. There’s always going to be the odd mess up here and there. None of us are perfect.
That’s OK, because English grammar is far from easy. As a copywriter I get that. The words and sentences that make perfect sense in your mind, all of a sudden turn into nonsense when you put pen to paper.
Plus, for the self-editor, it is super easy to let grammar mistakes slip by. Or miss them altogether.
"How do I get grammar right in my blogs and newsletters?", is one of the most common questions I’m asked by small business owners. So here’s a quick #101 to help:
The top #3 Common Grammar Mistakes
– ‘They are’ becomes ‘they’re’ (known as a contraction)
– Their (when you’re talking about something owned)
– There (when talking about a place)
This is a tricky one, as if often does not show up in spell check. So, take care to have your x-ray eyes on during the proof read.
– ‘Your are’ becomes ‘you’re’ (known as a contraction)
– Your (when you’re talking about something owned)
I can see you’re busy proof reading the content for your blog.
Your coffee is waiting for you when the proof reading is finished.
Even the most experienced writers can get caught out by this one. That’s because the rules you learnt for grammar points 1 & 2 are reversed (who knows why!?).
– ‘It is’ becomes ‘it’s’ (a contraction)
– ‘Its’ (shows possession)
Best to always grammar check on this one.
Then coming in close behind are these grammar bloopers:
4) Referring to your business brand as "They"
‘They’ refers to a group, it is used in the plural. However, your business/brand is not a group. It is a single entity.
The correct grammar is therefore ‘it’.
5) Affect vs. Effect
Most people muddle up these two words when they’re talking, and replicate the mistake in their written work too.
– ‘Affect’ – the act of change.
‘Effect’ – the actual change. The impact of the action.
Reading this blog affected me.
The blog’s effect was transformational.
Take care with this one as I is a blunder that your customers will spot, and pull you up on.
– "To" (used before a verb or a noun and describes a destination, recipient, or action)
– ‘Too’ (can be used to replace ‘also’, ‘as well’ or to describe something that is extreme)
I’m going to Paris for the weekend.
I’m having too much fun with my friend to worry about proof reading my blog.
She, too, is a small business owner.
Remember, as a general rule, when you use ‘too’ to replace ‘also’ or ‘as well’ you need to use a comma before and after (see above example). If you use ‘too’ at the end of a sentence then you don’t need to worry about commas, and simply finish with a full-stop.
7) i.e. vs. e.g.
I have a Post It note on my pin board reminding my of this tricky little rule, because I’m always getting it muddled myself. The key to realise is that the two are NOT interchangable.
– ‘i.e.’ (means ‘that is’ or in other words’)
– ‘e.g.’ (means ‘for example’)
8) Who vs. Whom vs. Whose vs. Who’s
OK this is a complex one.
– ‘Who’ (when you are asking a question about a living thing)
– ‘Whom’ (when you are asking a question referring to someone who is receiving something)
– ‘Whose’ (refers to ownership of an object)
– ‘Who’s,’ (a contraction for ‘who is’, identifying a living being)
This last one is where most people come unstruck. ‘Whose’ helps you to find out who an object belongs to. Whereas ‘who’s’ helps you to identify who it is that is doing something.
Whose pile of blog posts is this scattered across the desk?
Who’s going to proof read today’s blog?
Stylistically I really like semicolons. This is because I like to write simple statements and keep copy short and succinct. It can be used in two ways.
– Connect independent clauses (Phrases that could stand on their own, but are closely related)
– Separate items within a list (if you write a list within a sentence, and the items themselves contain a comma)
For example. There are two options for lunch: omlette, which is high in protein and low in carbs; or pasta & salad, which is high in carbs but has more fibre.
10) All the other stuff
Compliment, complement. Further, farther. Peek, pique. Not to forget colons, speech marks and so much more.
I’m a writer, and I adore the English language. However, I still feel incredibly frustrated by the tricky rules and inaccuracies. Sometimes it somply does not make sense!
Rest assured though, with practice and help from guides like this one you can improve. Or, you can drop me an email and ask for a fresh set of eyes to help make sure your grammar passes with flying colours.