Avoid the Top 5 Grammatical Errors in Your Writing

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Whether you’re writing advertising copy, ebooks, or business or personal correspondence, you look better in print if you use correct spelling, usage and punctuation. I’d like to share with you the most common mistakes I see while editing other people’s writing. Some mistakes are due to careless editing or no editing at all. Some folks, however, want to write correctly, but don’t know how.

1. It’s vs. its. Generally, if you can substitute it is, then you can safely use it’s with an apostrophe. Otherwise, use the possessive its. Example: It’s nice to see that my plant has regained its strength. The possessive its – referencing something belonging to it - has no apostrophe.

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2. No apostrophes in plurals. While we are on the subject of apostrophes, let me get one of my grammar pet peeves off my chest. Plural words don’t have apostrophes! Cats has an apostrophe only as a contraction (The cat’s running up and down the stairs again, as in, The cat is running up and down the stairs again) or a possessive (That cat’s fur is very shiny). Do not use an apostrophe in the plural form: My cats are very affectionate.

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3. You’re not having trouble with this in your writing, are you? The great you’re vs. your conundrum is similar to it’s vs. its. You’re is a contraction for you are. If you can substitute you are, use you’re. When referring to a possessive – something belonging to youyour is appropriate.

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Incorrect: Your not going to the party, are you?
Correct: You’re not going to the party, are you?

Incorrect: I like what you’ve done to you’re hair.
Correct: I like what you’ve done to your hair.

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4. Commas, periods and quotation marks, oh, my! Commas and periods always go before quotation marks.

Incorrect: “I think I’ll go to the store”, said John.
Correct: “I think I’ll go to the store,” said John.

Incorrect: The man said, “I’m glad to meet you”.
Correct: The man said, “I’m glad to meet you.”

5. CAPS gone wild! Some people like to Capitalize Words For No Apparent Reason. There are more capitalization rules than I plan to cover in a short article, but keep a close eye on your use of capital letters. Proper nouns always begin with a capital letter, as do initials, such as those indicating certifications or academic degrees after names. Capitalize seasons only when used as part of a title or formal name. Talking about the summer in general is nice, but only something like Summer Under the Stars Concert Series deserves the capitalization. Capitalize a person’s title only when used before his or her name. Example: Our office enjoyed a visit from Assistant Vice President Carlton Smith, who mentioned that he is president of his local PTA.

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When you write your next marketing piece, cover letter with a resume, email, publication, or e-zine, I hope these tips will help you make a positive impression on your readers.

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Beth McIntire is a marketing writer, technical writer and computer geek who can be reached at http://www.zodsquad.com

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