Brush up on the fundamentals of writing.
Quality communication is essential in all areas of life, and most especially when it comes to writing; yes, even for quick emails. Business writing must be professional, polished, accurate, and readable. How well you articulate and present yourself to the world determines how you’ll be judged. While verbal communication comes easily, written communication can prove to be much more difficult. Poor writing is distracting, and worse yet can make a writer look unprofessional, even tarnishing credibility. Writing mistakes can undermine what you are trying to accomplish. Do not rely upon spelling and grammar checker, which cannot fix anything but the most basic of errors.
On the other hand, quality writing increases credibility, clarity, effectiveness, and professionalism, while decreasing confusion and misunderstandings. Indeed, quality writing has the power to encourage, convince, and increase profitability.
The top 10 common writing mistakes to avoid are as follows:
1. Incorrect use of apostrophes. Apostrophes are for contractions and ownership, not for indicating multiples of something. Use apostrophes for you’re, didn’t, don’t, they’re, you’ll, etc. and for Bob’s computer or the President’s car. Incorrect: CD’s (correct CDs). Instead of 1990’s, it should be 1990s.
2. To, too, and two. Two indicates the number two. Too means additionally: she wants to go to the store too. Too can also be used to emphasize something: I will too make that basket! To is used for all other instances: in the direction of, for instance.
3. Your vs. you’re. Your is a possessive, as in your car or your house. You’re is a conjunction of you are: you’re correct.
4. Whose vs. who’s. Whose is a possessive, as in, “Whose car is that?” Who’s is a contraction for who is or who has.
5. Its vs. it’s. It’s is a contraction for it is, so if you can use it is in the sentence, it is appropriate to abbreviate with it’s. For instance, “It’s going to rain today.”
6. There vs. their. There is used to indicate place (let’s go there) or as a pronoun (there is always hope). Meanwhile, their is a possessive, indicating that something belongs to someone (their advice, their dog).
7. Me vs. I. For instance, “She’s bigger than me” isn’t correct. “She’s bigger than I” is correct (she’s bigger than I am). If you eliminate the other person, it’s easier to figure out the correct usage. Correct: Billy and I went to dinner. Incorrect: The stranger gave candy to Billy and I (correct: the stranger gave candy to Billy and me).
8. Would’ve. Instead of would of, the correct usage is would have (as in would’ve which sounds like would of.)
9. Fewer vs. less. If you can count the number of items, the correct usage is fewer. If the substance is uncountable, use less. Correct: There were fewer surfers in the water today. You should eat less sugar.
10. A lot. A lot is always two words, never one: alot (incorrect).
While there are numerous mistakes writers make, these are some of the big ones to look for, the ones that will make you look inarticulate. Grammar and sentence structure are the fundamentals of any written communication – don’t be afraid to freshen up on your writing skills. Make it a point to double check yourself, find a proofreader or hire a professional to write and edit important communications.