Common Grammar Mistakes that Drive Your Readers Crazy

Written on:May 16, 2016
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While not every reader will pay attention to the grammar and mistakes on your website, you can be certain that at least a few will. No matter what business you are in, the last thing you want to do is to turn off potential customers by creating material that looks unprofessional. There are a few common grammar mistakes you can watch for that will help you give your writing that extra edge over the competition.

Grammar Mistakes and How to Spot Them

There are a series of steps I take when editing my own work that help me tremendously and which I think will help you as well. While no one can catch every mistake made, this will help you reduce the number of mistakes made.

Step # 1: Read Out Loud

The very first thing I do when I finish an article or any written material is to take my time and read it slowly out loud. You’ll be surprised what you “hear” that you don’t see. The human brain likes to see the writing the way we meant it to read. So, you might read through it 100 times and never see a mistake. However, reading out loud triggers something because it is auditory as well as visual. You will find any awkward phrasing, missing commas, and other issues quickly and easily when you read out loud. I also recommend you do a read out loud as your final edit, too.

Step # 2: Do a Spell/Grammar Check

Go ahead and use the spelling and grammar checker built into your Content Management System (CMS), in Word, or an online one such as Grammarly. This will help you see any blatant errors that you might have missed in your initial edit. However, never, ever rely totally on these checkers. For example, if you put the word cat instead of bat, the grammar checker will never catch it. It is spelled right and may even look like it makes sense. However, here is an example of how crazy it can sound to have a spelling typo.

I locked the front door and went to bed.

I licked the front door and went to bed.

Um, yuck! Germs! But, seriously, don’t ever rely solely on that spell/grammar checker.

Step # 3: Know Your Weaknesses

If you’ve been writing for a while, even for your own blog, then you likely know what your own weaknesses are in your writing. If you often use passive verbs, then check your piece over for those and fix them. If you often spell the word “specific” as “pacific” then do a search/find for “pacific” and replace any incorrect uses of the word.

If you are unsure of what your weaknesses are, consider hiring a professional editor to point them out to you the first time or two. An excellent editor will train you so that at some point you only need her to proofread for you. For example, when I edit books for my clients, I try to train them within my changes and comments so they understand the changes and can learn to write with less grammatical errors. You might think I am working myself out of a job, but it actually works out because I get referrals and my future edits are faster and cost the client less money because they take less time. Seek out an editor who is also a teacher.

Step # 4: Check for Common Issues

Understand and look for correct usage of:

  • Commas – I often see issues where people don’t use commas correctly with prepositional phrases and with the word “however”.Correct Example: I love horses, however, I love cats more.Correct Example: In the next two weeks, I have three graduations and a wedding to attend.
  • Capitalization – The biggest issue I see is with the use of “Mom” and similar words. If there is a qualifier in front of the word “my mom”, then it is not capitalized. If there is a proper name after, then it is (Aunt Mary).Correct Example: My great Aunt Mary loves to play Rook.
    Correct Example: My mom loves roses.
    Correct Example: When I went to visit her, my aunt took me sightseeing.
    Correct Example: I wish my mom would make me some fudge.

Tools to Improve/Check Grammar

Of course, there are so many other instances of grammar and the English language is quite tricky. Unless your business is at a point that you can just afford to hire someone to do the work for you, you will want to look grammar just like any other task you’d learn to keep your business running smoothly. You wouldn’t try to keep your accounts without ever studying bookkeeping would you? Writing is the same way. Learn the craft and do the best you can.

There are a few tools that can help, such as Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, a good dictionary, and tools such as Grammarly. When you can afford it, hire a good editor who will train you. If you can do these things consistently, your website and publications will stand out and current and potential clients will see that you put excellence into everything you do.

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