Do you pause before you hit ‘send’ on that email? Does your finger tremor as you type out another social media update? Do you find yourself editing posts the moment after you’ve uploaded? If not, then perhaps you should. Because poorly written copy can cost you clients.
Here’s the thing about the English language: it’s a minefield. And it rarely makes sense. Think about it…dough, rough, though and through don’t rhyme even though they look like they should. Read and lead rhyme, but read and lead don’t rhyme; but read and led do. It’s baffling.
And we haven’t even got to the grammar. English grammar can be so frustrating because, a little like our politicians, there always seems to be an exception to the rule.
My particular deer in the headlights moment comes when I have to choose between inquiry/enquiry. Even though I’ve researched their definitions a hundred times, when I come to type the word my brain freezes as I try to remember which one it is that I need. We all have our own grammatical phobias, the words we tiptoe around in a sentence. In some cases, we’ll just reroute the entire narrative flow to avoid using them.
So why does accurate grammar even matter? With spell check and autocorrect, even the most self-confessed grammar-phobe can make themselves understood nowadays. A quick scroll through the text speak on a social media page will reveal that much.
It matters because your words reflect your business. Your product. Are you selling the real deal, or a knock-off Louis Vuitton handbag?
High standards should extend to every inch of your business persona. Your public photographs should be professionally taken. Your website should be professionally designed. Your food hygiene rating shouldn’t be a black and white photocopy. It smacks of mediocrity, cutting corners, watering down the wine. If you can’t be bothered proof reading your content, what else couldn’t you be bothered to do?
I’ve creamed the top six grammatical goofs off the churning grammatical mire that is sucking customers from your grasp. Keep a watch on these:
Let’s start with a really obvious one. But of course, they’re/their/there all obvious, when you know them. Even a seasoned grammar pro slips a your/you’re mistake in every once in a while. The problem comes when you don’t actually know the distinction and so your content comes across as hit and miss. Just remember that the apostrophe in you’re indicates a missing letter – ‘a’ – because you’re is short for you are.
You’re suggests being or doing something eg. you’re slow, you’re going, you’re probably feeling confused…
Your is a possession, something that belongs to you eg. is that your bag? I saw your son the other day.
How’s your training going? I hear you’re planning to swim the Channel soon!
I’m not jumping into a lesson on how to use an apostrophe here; quite the opposite. This is about when not to use an apostrophe.
One of the main apostrophe mistakes that can really repulse clients is putting one in where it simply doesn’t belong. Like throwing your gran into the middle of a mosh pit, somethings just stick out like sore thumbs.
Incorrect apostrophe placing
If you don’t understand them, you’ll either use them too much or not at all. Let’s keep the comma simple. Use it for one of two reasons and you’ll be fine:
Loosely put, if you don’t know the difference between loose and lose, you’re liable to lose customers. Don’t be a loser.
Please, please don’t make this mistake. It really is such a common misspelling it could almost be forgivable. But it really isn’t. This gaff comes about from our lazy tendency to shorten words in every day speech, could have becomes could’ve, and with the pronunciation emphasis being on the latter part of this compound making an ‘uv’ sound, it’s easy to see how the incorrect ‘of’ made its way into our written communication.
But it’s ‘have’. Have, have, have.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have recoiled in horror at the misspelling of this particular word. Usually because it is printed on a flyer trying to promote a company’s services to me.
The problem with spelling the word professional wrong is pretty self-evident. It totally cancels out the statement you’re trying to make due to the total unprofessionalism of the error.
If in doubt, if you know spelling is your Achilles’ heel or that grammar gives you nightmares, run your copy by a proof reader, or simply pass the job over to a professional copywriter who will relish the task