Tips for better grammar and error-free writing

September 19, 2018
A hand holds a pencil and prepares to write. Pencil shavings are strewn across the notebook paper.

Effective business communication is clear and concise. Whether you’re writing emails, marketing material, ad copy or blog posts, professional writing needs to be free of errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling.

When mistakes slip in, the credibility and professionalism of the writer are hurt. Errors can make clients, business owners and managers think that the writer did not consider attention to detail or was not careful enough to proofread the content before sending or publishing it.

Would you like to be more confident in your writing as you communicate with your audience in the Bellingham area? Here are some tips to get started, followed by recommended resources.

Tips for avoiding common word mix-ups:

Me versus I — There is a quick and easy way to check whether “me” or “I” is accurate — say the sentence without the other person’s name and you’ll find out:

“Our client will meet with Robin and I.” Is that correct?

Say the same sentence without Robin’s name:

“Our client will meet with I.”

This makes it clear that the correct version is, “Our client will meet with Robin and me.”

Five yellow Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils are arrayed next to each other on a notebook.A lot and alot — Before spell check, “alot” slipped through a lot (well, more often), but “alot” is not a word. Occasionally it still shows up, so it’s good keep an eye out and catch it before clicking “send” or “publish.”

It’s and its — A common error is to write “it’s” for “its,” or vice versa. “It’s” is a contraction that means “it is.” “Its” is a possessive.

It’s easy to see the cat enjoys its toys but not its food.

If you can substitute “it is,” use “it’s.” If not, use “its.”

Their, they’re and there — Even when you know the proper use of these three words that sound the same, it’s easy to accidentally type the wrong word — and spell check won’t catch it!

“Their” and “theirs” are the possessive forms for “they”: It is their idea. The idea is theirs.

“They’re” is a contraction for “they are”: They’re going to take it with them.

“There” means in or at a place: It’s easy to get there.

Helpful hints for catching errors:

Read it out loud. This is a simple way to find errors that we might miss when reading something we’ve written. Also, try reading it again when the text is in a different format, such as on your website when posting a blog article or in print in the context of a publication layout.

Use a grammar-check app. Some Whatcom County business professionals are checking their writing with to catch and correct errors. There’s even a browser extension you can load that will help catch errors in emails.

Reference books for grammar and punctuation questions:

  • The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. This book can also be found online at the Gutenberg Project.
  • The Associated Press Stylebook
  • Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, by Patricia T. O’Conner
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss

Using these resources can help improve your writing and give you added confidence in your business communication. We wish you success with your business writing projects!

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