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Ten Grammar Mistakes You Don’t Need to Make

Everyone makes mistakes with their grammar. Even after years of writing and millions of words, I still find myself checking things.

But if you’re writing copy for your website, grammar and spelling are important. As far back as 2011 the BBC had an article on poor spelling ‘costing millions in online sales.’

Does it really matter when ‘should of done it b4 he went’ is almost common usage? For me, the answer is an emphatic, ‘yes.’ I absolutely will not stay in a hotel that has a grammar mistake on its website. My reasoning is simple: if they can’t be bothered to check their website properly, why should I think they’ve bothered to clean my room properly?

So here’s a crib sheet; ten grammar mistakes that you don’t need to make any more. I hope it’s helpful – and if you’d like any more advice on grammar and how it might be impacting on your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

  1. Should of/Should have

‘I should of listened to my Dad…’ Right, and if you had he’d have told you it was should have. It is also would have, not would of.

  1. The Ellipsis…

Is the omission of words that are superfluous, when those words can be understood from the context. So, ‘Spurs scored three, Everton two.’ Most frequently the ellipsis is seen as those three little dots at the end of a sentence that signify there’s more to come. Not two, not four, not however many you fancy. Three, and only three. Christian Grey looked up from his desk. “Sit there,” he ordered. “I’m going to B&Q…”

  1. There/Their/They’re

Easy. There as in ‘over there’ or as in Mr Grey’s directions above.

Their means belonging to them. “It is their car.”

They’re is short for they are. ‘They’re going into town in their car. It’s the green one over there.’

  1. Its/It’s

One that trips up a lot of people. It’s is short for ‘it is.’ So, “It’s my bike.” Its is the possessive, as in ‘the dog chewed its bone.’

Read the sentence out loud. If you can replace its with it is and it still makes sense then you need the apostrophe. If you can’t – the dog chewed it is bone – then you don’t need the apostrophe.

  1. Whose/Who’s

Similar to the one above: who’s is short for who is. “Who’s that knocking at the door?” Whose is the possessive. “Whose bone is that?” “It’s the dog’s bone.”

  1. The possessive apostrophe

What is it with cafés? Why is it that someone opening a café seems to lose all touch with the English language? Tea’s, coffee’s, delicious scone’s. Nay, nay and thrice nay. The apostrophe signifies possession: it does not signify a plural. So, ‘It is the cat’s dinner’ is correct. ‘Home made bun’s’ should see you sent to jail.

  1. Practice, Advice and Principles

More complicated in the US, but in the UK it’s simple. Practice is the noun, practise is the verb. So:

You will improve with practice. Bill joined the GP’s practice.

You need to keep practising.

A similar principle applies for advice (the noun) and advise (the verb). And seeing as I’ve used the word, principle is a noun – this idea has been our guiding principle – which you’ll frequently see used about rights or beliefs.

Principal is most generally used as an adjective, meaning ‘most important.’ The principal reason for visiting Finland was the outstanding pickled herring.

It’s also a noun, again with the meaning around most important. The new principal of our college is…

  1. Imply/Infer

Here’s another couple of scallywags lying in ambush. But another easy one. The person speaking or writing does the implying: someone else infers something from the information they receive.

My teenage son implied that I was an idiot

What can I infer from your letter?

  1. Your/You’re

Another relatively straightforward one to finish. Your is the possessive, you’re is short for you are.

Your dinner is in the oven (or the dog, if you’re very late…)

You’re right, darling. I am a useless husband.

  1. Football

I know football isn’t a grammatical term, but it must be source of more crimes against the English language than any other sport. If there’s five minutes to go and your team’s scored two and the opposition have scored six you’re going to lose. You’re not going to loose. Loose is what my trousers would be if I went on a diet. And while we’re on numbers, the convention is that numbers under ten are written, numbers over ten are in figures.

As I say, I hope that helps. No-one will ever ring and say, ‘I would have stayed with you, but you confused you’re and your so I booked somewhere else.’ But the evidence from the BBC clearly shows it’s happening.

SimpleWords offers two services:

We’ll check your site for grammar, spelling and the correct use of English. We’ll quote a price and we’ll have the work done in seven days.

If English isn’t the first language of your business then we’ll re-write the English language section of your website in modern, grammatically-correct English that reflects the personality and image of your company.

For both these services simply get in touch and I’ll come back to you the same day.

Comments

  1. A good check list, thank you. I have also seen ‘are’ where there should be an ‘our’ which plunges me into the depths of despair.

    It is often hard to see your own mistakes when you are writing. It is so easy to get caught up in what you think the words and sentences are saying rather than the other messages you are unwittingly conveying.

    • First of all thank you for the comment – the first one on the new site so you deserve some sort of award! And secondly, I hope you’re (sorry, your) not a football fan. If you truly want to weep read the comments after any football report. ‘Ower forwards should of scored more. Then we wouldn’t loose so often.’
      And yes, I absolutely agree with you: after you’ve worked on something for a while you’re proof-reading what you thought you wrote, not what you actually did write. I do two things to try and overcome this: before I publish anything or send work to a client I let it go ‘cold’ – sometimes just for half a day, sometimes longer. Secondly, I always proof-read by reading out loud, ideally in a Welsh accent. That seems to force me to concentrate on the words I’ve actually written.

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