By Kendall Martin
It’s not uncommon to get stuck in the pattern of making the same writing errors over and over again. In some cases we have been making the same mistake for so long that we are unaware of the offense. Perhaps we were never corrected for the errors during our school years. I’ve certainly seen some of them go by without any correction in the workplace. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on writing grammatically sound emails, blog posts and proposals.
Correct these common mistakes now:
- Different than vs. different from. You may catch yourself saying “This image is different than the original.” What you should say is “This image is different from the original.” Why? When we compare objects, we move them away from one another. We use the word than when comparing the degrees of an object’s similarity or difference. Examples: further than, faster than, slower than.
- I.e. vs. e.g. This one is pretty simple once you know what the abbreviations stand for. The Latin phrase id est means “that is,” and exempli gratia means “for example.” You would use i.e. in a sentence when making something clearer and e.g. when providing examples.
- Of vs. have. I see people make this mistake because they write out what they hear when they say “should’ve.” They write “I should of gone to the meeting.” No, you should have gone to the meeting. The same goes for “could’ve” and “would’ve.”
What habitual errors have you made in your past?
By Kendall Martin
I recently received an email from a professional proofreader claiming to “offer an affordable profreading service” (italics added).
I’m sure the writer was simply typing quickly and hit Send before reading over the sentence. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that she did not properly execute the very service she was promoting.
In a world where we are constantly writing emails, text messages, tweets and blog posts, it’s easy to hit Send or Post without carefully proofing what we have written. That hurried approach and lack of attention to detail may turn away readers and potential customers—even if you aren’t advertising a proofreading service. Follow these rules to avoid embarrassment:
- Read it twice. Even when sending a quick text message, stop to read two times what you have written.
- Read it aloud. Before posting a blog entry or sending an e-mail, read it out loud. You will catch errors that the spell-check software on your computer missed or that the AutoCorrect feature on your smartphone inserted.
- Add another set of eyes. Have someone else read over your blog entry before submitting it. If your business counts on your blog for marketing, you don’t want to lose customers because of poor proofing.
- Slow down. When using Twitter or sending an email, you don’t get a second chance once your words are out there. Give yourself plenty of time to read over with the eyes of a proofreader what you have written.
Have you ever changed your mind about using a business or service because of poor spelling or grammar?
Don’t make others question your intelligence or professionalism. If you’re not confident about your business writing skills, check out Proofread Like a Pro.
My friend Jessica thought she was going to bust her daughter for playing on a smartphone when the girl was supposed to be studying spelling words. Instead, Abi explained “I wanted to hear how to pronounce this word,” and the phone said “Autumn.”
The 9-year-old explained to her mom that the Dictionary.com mobile app will speak words for you.
Abi’s story led me to check out dictionary applications for my smartphone, and I download the Merriam-Webster app, which offers similar features to the Dictionary.com app.
Here’s what you can do from your smartphone or iPad:
- Voice search for a word. The feature worked when I pronounced “downtown” with my best Pittsburgh accent, “dahn-tahn,” and successfully located “y’all.”
- Listen to the correct pronunciation of a word.
- Find synonyms for the words you look up.
- Learn a Word of the Day.
You don’t need an Internet connection to search words, but you may need one for some features, depending on the app. Free apps are available, or you can pay $2.99 for an ad-free version with premium features, such as illustrations.
With an app like that at your fingertips, you have no excuse for making a mistake with a word, even if you didn’t study your spelling words when you should have in elementary school.
What apps do you recommend?
By Catherine Welborn
As far as we nitpickers are concerned, proofreading should be standard practice with all writing, regardless of the medium. Lately I’ve noticed an additional reason to proofread before you tweet, though: Tweets are being quoted all over the place. And many of the ones I’ve seen include the dreaded “[sic]” notation.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Latin word, in brackets after a quote “sic” indicates that any errors in the quote are from the original source, not from a mistake in transcribing it. It’s the writer’s way of saying “I know there’s a mistake, but it’s not my fault.”
My stomach always turns when I see a “[sic]” following a quote. I feel uncomfortable—embarrassed for the speaker.
Tweeting, like texting, is pretty informal and can be rapid-fire, so it’s not surprising that many errors sneak through. The problem is that, unlike texts, tweets go out to the public. And at a growing rate, news sources are going to Twitter for “sound bites” from organizations, celebrities, politicians and other high-profile people. As the chances of tweets being reprinted increase, so too should your emphasis on proofreading them.
Don’t risk embarrassing yourself or your organization by tweeting without proofreading. Not only might your followers notice your mistakes, but so might many more people if your tweet is retweeted or picked up by a popular blog or news source.
What’s the most embarrassing error you’ve seen in a tweet?
By Amy Beth Miller
I overlook most of the typos on the papers my daughter brings home from school. One annual notice has had the same mistake for several years. I always wonder why no one seems to notice and correct that one. I don’t mention it because I try to keep my complaints to important matters. We all know what the form means, but I do hope that someone who isn’t a professional nitpicker will speak up one day.
I chuckled at another typo, but later I had a more serious reaction. The invitation to a kindergarten class program for Father’s Day began: “Dead Fathers.” I understand how a slip of the finger on the keyboard resulted in the “d” instead of an “r.” I hope that none of the students’ families had recently experienced the father’s death, which would make a simple typo a painful experience.
Church bulletins seem to be rife with typos that are amusing or embarrassing, depending on your perspective. While I am not sure whether the church bulletin errors you can find posted on the Internet are true, it’s understandable that a congregation’s “singing” could show up as “sinning” and “held” could be typed as “hell.”
What’s the worst typo you’ve seen?