Mar 232012

Better Grammar for Business Writing

Better Grammar for Business Writing

Fifteen minutes of fame!
Hey, ain't that your name?
Damn, what a shame,
You're lookin' lame!

Writing for a small business audience? Whether you are a freelance writer, business blogger, or penning content for pay, one blunder you cannot afford is that of being constantly incorrect. We all know your articles and blog posts should be well-written, look good, and easy to scan. Just as importantly, they should be reasonably free of common grammatical errors.

15 Minutes of Fame, Your Name on The Marquee

Between dealing with dangling participles and literally dying of shame is a whole world of grammatical mistakes that plague writers from all walks of life.

Unless they’re writing a book and have an assigned copy editor, writers don’t get to suffer in silence because their names are splashed across blogs, guest posts, and comments on other people’s writings. Even worse, when producing paid content for small business owners or online journals, their fame spreads exponentially, perhaps even making a bad first impression on their next would-be client. With your name in lights — so to speak — wouldn’t you agree it’s best to be … correct?

It’s A Doggone Shame!

In a guest post he wrote for BasicBlogTips, 5 Ways Your Blog Might Be Irritating People, Mitch Mitchell names “grammar” as his number 2 pet peeve (with spelling following right on its heels).

Where did you learn to write like that? Most of the time people don’t ask that question because they like the way you write, and that’s a shame. Everyone isn’t perfect; I get that. However, I see more people that write worse than they talk, and that’s a shame. I like to think I’m one of the few people I know who writes much better than I speak; that’s a shame as well but at least in writing I’m not bad. — Mitch Mitchell

You might say it’s easy for so many to talk about not making grammatical mistakes, but where is the help you need to do a better job? Below is a visually appealing infographic created by CopyBlogger: 15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly. But before you see it in all its glory, let me just say this: If your grammar sucks, it might not be your fault!

Right-Brain Inspiration, Left-Brain Content Production

No, really! It may have more to do with your learning style and/or right-brain vs. left-brain dominance. That sounds kind of highfalutin’ but the explanations are a bit simpler than it sounds. Although I have a pretty good grasp on grammar, when it comes to math, a calculator is my best friend. I’m told that’s a direct function of left-brain/right-brain activity.

According to experts in the fields of education,

The brain is composed of two hemispheres, known as the left and right hemisphere. While each hemisphere has unique functions, which one side performs and the other does not, both hemispheres possess the ability to analyze sensory data, perform memory functions, learn new information, form thoughts, and make decisions. — Art Institute of Vancouver

So what?

Well, what this means is that adult writers who have a difficult time with grammar might need to consider why they’re having such difficulties and take a new approach to overcoming those hurdles. Thinking about learning styles and left/right brain dominance aren’t necessarily on your daily To Do list, yet they might be worth a look.

The Principal Paradox

Overwhelmingly, many writers are right-brain learners and thinkers (creative) which gets in the way of the necessary left-brain (analytical) skills required for learning and retaining grammar rules. (This is NOT always true!)

The Writing Eight exercise (as described in the Brain Integration Therapy Manual) transfers the process of writing from the left (thinking) hemisphere, to the right (automatic) hemisphere, making the writing process much easier. . . . The “Winston Grammar Kit” is a good right brain grammar program . . . — Dianne Craft, Private Education Consultant

Craft apparently works mostly with children but my point here is that there is a whole field of experts devoted to applying the principles of left/right brain activity to learning grammar. This is the place where some empathetic soul will say, “You are not alone!” Jokes aside, if you are a writer who has tried traditional methods of “learning grammar,” now you have some further food for thought.

And now, CopyBlogger’s cool infographic to give you a headstart.

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly (Infographic)

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
Like this infographic? Get more copywriting tips from Copyblogger.

Add Your Thoughts

  • What are your favorite grammatical mistakes to make (I mean overcome)?
  • Got any tips for those of us struggling with grammar?
  • Which one’s ones tick you off the most when you see them in an article you’re reading?
  • Extra Credit: How many words from the infographic were used in this article? :)

Share your thoughts in the comments below. And if you’re so inclined, here’s the link to the Vancouver Art Institute’s Right Brain vs Left Brain Creativity Test. Thanks for reading!

[amazon_image id=”B002ASFPYQ” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips)[/amazon_image]       [amazon_image id=”0470546646″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]English Grammar For Dummies[/amazon_image]       [amazon_image id=”B004HHP340″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage[/amazon_image]       [amazon_image id=”B002FKNTLK” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Painless Grammar (Barron’s Painless)[/amazon_image]

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Vernessa Taylor

Technology Consultant, Business Writer at Local Business Coach Online (LBCO)
Founder and editor of the blog here at LBCO. Thanks for reading, sharing, commenting and visiting. See you next time.

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  63 Responses to “Get Around Those Grammar Goofs”

Comments (62) Pingbacks (1)
  1. Really great point you discuss with us. your point is very helpful for me. thank you so much for sharing this post.

  2. Hi V
    One thing that I really struggle with is…
    Practice and Practise.

    I have to remember Advice and Advise, which I never get wrong – well almost never.

    You guys in the US don’t have to bother with that one.

    And… using whom after a preposition i.e. to whom, by whom, with whom.

    And don’t even mention split infinitives… “to boldly go” has become the norm, probably because it sounds better.

    Nice piece V – enjoyed it.

    • Hi Keith,

      Those are good ones: advice/advise. Yes we do have to deal with them, even though people get them mixed up. (What ever gave you the idea that we don’t bother with them?)

      Yeah, Star Trek made “to boldly go” famous, and we might never get it right again! :) (I haven’t even heard the term “split infinitives” since I left school!)

      I always have to pause with “may” and “might.” I ask myself a quick question: am I talking about “needing permission [may]” or about “power to do something”.

      Thank you, Sir, for chiming in here.

      • Hi V
        I know you have Advice and Advise, but not Practice and Practise.
        Or am I showing my ignorance… yet again?

        So what about this one… and no Googling:

        Is it “a hotel” or “an hotel”… I said no Googling!

        • Ohhhh! No, to my knowledge, we don’t use “practise.” Can’t say I’ve ever come across it at all. How is it used?

          Now, as for those lovely hotels . . . Popular usage is “a hotel” (I use it too) however I believe proper usage is “an” before it. I oftentimes use what I think is the correct form (an “H…”), only to be questioned or “corrected.”

          (The self-appointed grammar police lady Sherryl will definitely know without Googling!)

          So, which is it?

  3. Vernessa,

    My biggest pet peeve is using “me” as a noun. (This is closely followed by substituting your for you’re.) I used to be an elementary school reading teacher. When my children were young, I was the grammar police in the neighborhood. I’d gently correct the grammar of every child who set foot in our house. Whenever I heard the words “Me and Jenn are going to . . .”, I’d always ask, “Would you say ‘me’ is going to . . .”. The response would always be a sheepish shrug of the shoulders. Imagine my delight when one of my neighbor’s children (an adult woman now) thanked me for always correcting her grammar when she was growing up. Children repeat what they hear and these days, they hear a lot of poor grammar on TV and in music. It’s a shame.

    • Hi Sherryl,

      That is a good quick test:

      Whenever I heard the words “Me and Jenn are going to . . .”, I’d always ask, “Would you say ‘me’ is going to . . .”.

      I don’t know about other adult writers, but I need rules and little pithy sayings to help me sort out grammar and spelling sometimes. (Yep, I still recite “I before E and sometimes Y!”) You did the neighborhood children and your kids’ friends a HUGE favor!

  4. I can’t stand it when people add an apostrophe + s to make a word plural, most likely because that word happens to end in a vowel.

    I ate a plate full of Oreo’s after I ate my Spaghettio’s.

    Or, when they make their names possessive (The Johnson’s) on their Christmas cards or on the carved wooden signs attached to their home’s (just kidding on that last part – it’s homes).

    • Hi Kristen,

      You answered a question I’ve had: “why do people add that aposthrophe?” Maybe subconsciously they feel the vowel is being violated! I hadn’t noticed the possessiveness of names on Christmas cards or signs. Folk probably feel that since the home (or the name) belongs to them, they ought to act like they know it. 😀

      Thanks for sharing those. These are little holes that business writers can take care to avoid.

  5. Hi Vernessa,

    Not being an English native speaker, I’m constantly improving my writing and I know that some errors can happen.

    Even using several translator online and spellcheckers after several days I see omg! what a fault or directly I didn’t learn, still, that mistake, so it isn’t in my English portfolio yet :)

    The #3 is lurking me often 😉



    • Ah yes, you are not along on #3, Gera! I like how they have broken it down. I have typed it out for you (since one can’t copy from the graphic!). Print this comment, stick it on your screen. :)

      THEIR is for OWNERSHIP when more than one person is involved.
      Does it belong to more than one person? It is THEIR house.
      Short form: The house is THEIR’S. (Add the apostrophe and add an S.)

      Where are you going? I’m going over THERE.
      Where is the house? The house is over THERE.
      In order to get THERE, turn left, then right, then left . . .

      THEY’RE is for MORE THAN ONE plus “are”
      The crayons are blue. THEY ARE blue. They’re blue!
      The people are talking. Yes, THEY ARE talking. They’re still talking!

      I’m really proud of how well you speak and write, since English is your second language! :)

  6. BTW I’m getting this error in Commentluv:

    “Error. Parsing JSON Request failed. Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 100663296 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 122880 bytes) in /home/…/class-simplepie.php on line … ”

    You’d check it.

    If you want, you can delete this comment after reading, like mission impossible haha :)

  7. Hi Vanessa!

    Nice to learn the common grammar error here. Sometimes we can not avoid the error even the native
    english one. thanks for the tips!

  8. I learned a lot about common grammar error. This is so useful in business writing. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  9. All right, I got a mention! lol

    Actually, the thing about the S and the apostrophe comes from when and where people might have gone to school. I was taught that one always put an apostrophe in when you were talking contractions such as “it is”, plurals or possessives. Then again, I went to school in the mid 60’s when I learned grammar, because I was also taught that certain words should be pronounced the same way, even though once I moved to New York it seems that “truth” isn’t true here, since I wasn’t born here.

    So there are rules like that which don’t bother me. What drives me nuts are phrases that don’t really exist like “these ones”; I cringe every time I hear and see it, and I just had a shudder writing it. lol

    BTW, CommentLuv seems not to be working; here’s the message I’m getting:

    Error. Parsing JSON Request failed. Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 100663296 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 30720 bytes) in /…/class-simplepie.php on line 14186

    • Hi Mitch,

      I know what you mean about those made up phrases. I’ve probably made up my share of them, too, as well as a few words! Coming from the North, I still hear “yous” but being in the South it’s “y’all.” I know one is absolutely incorrect and the other ain’t far behind. LOL

      My daughter and I were having a conversation (about grammar, of all things!) and my 8-year old grandson corrected us about something (I forget what exactly). She and I told him his correction was incorrect . . . and he promptly showed us the grammar rule in his language arts book! Well! Apparently it’s not just 60s-style grammar that has taken a backseat.

      BTW, Thanks for pointing out the CommentLuv error. Gera mentioned it too. I took a look in the backend but nothing jumped out at me so I’ve put in a support ticket.

  10. I so like your infographic about grammar goofs. Many bloggers can write interesting content. They only fall flat on the grammatical issues. Especially when you talk about “it’s and its” together with “your and you’re”.

  11. I’d love to Tweet this article for my day job at a publishing company, but . . .

    The introductory paragraph has a grammar error that seems as serious as any of the 15 in the infographic. Specifically, “should be well-written, look good, and easy to scan” sets up an unparallel series. The “should be” clearly applies to “well-written”; it is also necessary for “easy to scan.” But it can’t apply to “look good,” which already has its own verb. One possible revision might be “should be well written, look good, and be easy to scan.” (I’ve removed the hyphen from “well written” because the phrase is a predicate adjective here.)

    My apologies for pointing this out. I don’t mean to kvetch. This is such a great post overall, well worth disseminating otherwise. But a post about grammar must be a model of correct grammar itself, or it undermines its own authority.

    • Hi Lester,

      Nice to meet you! Thanks for those corrections. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a grammar expert. Most of us aren’t expected to be experts; the primary points are about how to avoid common gaffes and whether (or not) it’s a good idea to look at why learning grammar might be hanging us up.

      When it comes to split infinitives and predicate adjectives, I have to yank out a grammar book or head over to Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) or UNC Writing Center, two excellent resources for writing assistance.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  12. Love the infographic! It really annoys me when people can’t spell. I don’y understand why they always confuse “your” from “you’re”.

    • Hi Jaemi – I think the errors happen most often when we fail to ask ourselves a question or two: “Is this the right one? Which one should I use here?” Also, the most common mistakes happen when we don’t read back over what we’ve written.

  13. i find that i dont notice peoples spelling mistakes unless i re-read their article a bit slower, i might be the only one in this discussion but im more interested in the content than the way its written

    • Hi Gladys,

      Of course you’re right in thinking there’s no need to major in minors. The content IS what’s most important. Unfortunately, if it is fraught with common spelling and/or grammatical errors, that can detract from both the meaning and the reader’s enjoyment. A good balance is the key.

      BTW, on visiting your site, I noticed the video that automatically starts playing doesn’t seem to have any controls to Pause or Stop it. Maybe I missed them?

  14. So true. I remember going over this stuff in high school as far as grammar goes but it’s easy to forget. Thousands of people end up reading your blog posts so it’s important to get it right when you can.

    • Richard, you’ve got the right idea: “when you can.” I like infographics like this because they provide visual cues to help us remember. Helps take the stress off while giving us a leg up.

  15. Website owners should keep that grammar chart with them when they write new content. It’s always good to remember the simple and basic grammar rules because it will help you in the SERPS.

    • Hmmm, never thought about good grammar helping in the SERPs, but I can see your point. If someone is looking for a particular phrase, and we’ve managed to mangle it, it won’t be found! (Another blog bites the dust!) :)

      Jokes aside, that’s something to think about, John. Thanks for sharing it.

  16. I am a better writer than a speaker. I commonly make grammatical errors when I speak than when I write. Hey, I enjoyed the infographic. Cool. Those were the basics. Sometimes, people just get confused with words. I guess, we all have to undergo some basic grammar lessons.

  17. Love the infographic. Did you get a good response to the infographic by sharing? I hope so. Also, I totally agree with this whole grammar thing. It totally ruins your credibility.

    • Totally! Well, maybe not totally … but your comment so reminded me of those cool turtle dudes in “Finding Nemo,” I just had to echo it! LOL

      People really like that infographic, Jim, can’t you tell from the comments? :)

  18. #2 is my arch nemesis.

    Its easy to remember but someone when I’m flying through a document taking notes its the most frequent mistake I have to correct when I do the spell and grammar check. Am I the only one who think it looks weird and wrong? Hahaha

    Thank for posting this Vernessa! I need all the help with my word play that I can get.

    • Hey Lewis,

      You made me scroll back up to see what #2 was — even though you dropped plenty of hints in your comment!

      I’m with you on this one. I have to do the test — actually say (to myself) IT IS so I know whether to use the contraction (it’s) or the pronoun.

      You gotta love words to go through this much trouble! :)

  19. This is such an amazing infographic and it’s super for my upcoming corporate writing trainings. And thank you for the resources.

    • Hi Marcie,

      It really is a cool infographic! And it would make a neat handout. 😀 Wishing much success with your training series. Thanks for dropping by.

  20. great information and great infographic. My biggest grammar error is the effect and affect. I always mix those up.



  21. I always hate making grammar mistakes. This is a great post because it’s the basic grammar mistakes that most people will notice. I have found that when I finish an article I wait a little to post. After a little bit and reread it and see if it still makes sense.

  22. Vernessa,

    That Copyblogger infographic is great! Grammar to me is an issue if the errors are blatant but simple occasional mistakes on a blog should be tolerated. It happens… Most blogs are not the New York Times…


    Ryan H.

    • Hi Ryan,

      Most blogs are not the New York Times

      Ha ha! How right you are. We all make grammatical mistakes. In his comment above, Lester graciously pointed out my own. :) The goal is to check for the most common ones and get a handle on them, as much as we’re able.

      Thanks for weighing in today.

  23. Such a nice grammar quick guide! I think that those nice infographics should be printed and I would hang them on my wall!

  24. I had fun reading your grammar goof and I totally learned a lot from it too.

  25. This is a great infographic. Very well detailed and constructed. I will be looking for my mistakes and goofs more often now thanks.

  26. Lose and loose is the one that always trips me up; along with role/roll and pole/poll. I think everyone has one or two grammatical stumbling blocks. I’ve found the best thing to be simply remembering which words you tend to get wrong and to then go back and check them after the fact.

  27. Really great points you discuss in detail and are very helpful for me.Cool infographic as well to share about grammar writing. Thank you so much for sharing this post.

  28. Awesome post. I did mistake of its and it’s in past although I knew the difference but in speed I did this mistake but now I take care and avoid doing this mistake because it might look stupid to other that I don’t know the difference.

  29. Interesting info-graphic and thanks for sharing such good points. It is really very necessary to take of these things even though they seems to be of lesser importance. Sometimes minute grammar mistake changes the whole meaning of a sentence. :)

  30. Fantastic graphics have made this post a pleasure to read , where did you get them or did you make them yourself ?
    Having read your post it makes me nervous writing a response as I am sure I do make some of this simple errors in all my articles , but from now on I will try to remember these 15 goofs. As you correctly say a grammar error can change a sentence completely . My favorite example is “let’s eat children ” it should be “let’s eat , children”. Thanks for a informative English lesson .

  31. I usually see these grammar slips on the facebook statuses of young people – highschool and college students or young people around this age group and it’s just sad. It’s like they are not paying attention to what is being taught to them in school. There are some – and some even bloggers – who also are guilty of these. I sometimes commit the same mistakes but it’s usually because I was in a hurry and didn’t review what I wrote. So always review and edit!

  32. I’ve found the best thing to be simply remembering which words you tend to get wrong and to then go back and check them after the fact.Thanks for the great tutorial.

  33. The most common blunder I come across once in a while is lose vs loose. Come on. It’s very elementary but honestly, even some of my friends mistake one for the other. I guess that is when an infographic like this becomes useful.

  34. what an excellent quick guide for grammar, nicely presented on the eye too, easier to digest those ideas, am toying with the idea of printing it and posting on my office wall

  35. While using left/right brain belongs to cognitive psychology. Good example for learning promotion. I appreciate you as a writer.

  36. great post and useful infographic, this is just what I need :), bookmarked it, thank you

  37. These common grammar error will help me a lot in my future business writing work. Thanks/

  38. I feel in love with the infographic. As a person who isn’t very sharp in skill of writing, I am happy that I able start to know when to use “less or fewer” and “me and I” instead of just guessing by the way it sounded in my head.

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