There was almost unanimous consent when we recently asked if good writing still matters. Everyone agreed that writing solid content – not just interesting but put together well – is still essential in today’s marketing world. That’s all well and good, but in order to build a beautiful house, the first step is to make sure you have an extremely strong foundation. In the world of writing, that foundation consists of good grammar (and spelling). While spell-check on computers can help you to a certain extent, there are some grammatical errors that software programs just won’t catch. That is because the words may be spelled correctly but the usage is incorrect. Unfortunately, some people may draw negative conclusions about your company’s professionalism based on poor grammar, so it is something you want to make sure you have a strong grasp on before beginning to blog or create other content, online or offline.
With all of that in mind, our five tips today have to deal with some of the most common grammatical errors we run into as we review blog posts, articles, and more. We hope these tips help!
1. Could have / Should Have versus Could of / Should of
We often see people write things like this: “I could of done better at that meeting.” In actual fact, the wording is “could have.” An easy way to remember this is to consider the spelling of the contraction. If it was supposed to be “could of” the contraction may be spelled “could’f.” If you remember how the contraction is spelled – with a “ve” at the end, it might help you recall that it’s have instead of “of.”
2. Then and Than
Another extremely common error is confusion between “then” and “than.” “Then” is used more to distinguish a passage of time. For example, you would say, “I’ll see you then.” The word “than” is used to compare things. “X is bigger than Y.” A good way to remember this is to remember that “compare” and “than” both have the letter a in them.
3. Loose versus Lose
Confusion between these two words is something we see quite often. The word “lose” means lost (and similarly “loser” is a way to talk negatively about someone). Loose is the opposite of tight. Confusing these two words can create some awkward situations, so you want to make sure you are careful. One way to remember the difference is to tell yourself that losers only get one o.
4. Its versus It’s
Differentiating between its and it’s comes down to remembering what the apostrophe stands for. When you use the apostrophe what you are really doing is writing “it is” in a shorter form. If you want to use its to indicate ownership, you don’t want to use the apostrophe. You wouldn’t say about a restaurant, “It is cookies are really good,” right? So use the its with no apostrophe when you want to talk about possession.
5. To, Too, and Two
We’ll end today’s tips with this triplet of trouble. Usually we see confusion between “to” and “too,” so how can you remember the difference between these *two* words? One way is to remember that “too” means “too much” because it has “too” many “o’s” in it. “To” with one o goes with actions, and an easy way to remember that is to remember that “go” and “to” both have just one o in them. Once you have those two figured out, you can remember that the weirdo with the “w” is the number 2 spelled out.
As we said, these kinds of mistakes are not always picked up by word processing programs. You need to have a good grasp of them so that you know what you are looking for as you proof your work (which we know you do, of course).
What other grammar issues do you tend to have trouble with, or what do you commonly see that you wish people would learn? We’d love to hear from you.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eli_reusch/2912898000/ via Creative Commons