November 09, 2015

5 Common Grammar Mistakes to Avoid in Business Writing

5 Common Grammar Mistakes to Avoid in Business Writing
If you own, operate or represent a business, it is extremely important that you are able to communicate effectively in writing. This includes communicating in advertisements, in blog posts, when sending emails, when posting on social media, and when interacting with customers or vendors. A big part of this is learning to avoid embarrassing grammar mistakes.

The problem with bad grammar is that it damages credibility. If your writing is riddled with spelling and grammar errors that you have left uncorrected, people will wonder about the care you put into your products and services. Grammar errors also make your writing less effective. In fact, if you are stating a strong opinion, or you are making an emotional appeal, poor grammar can make your words unintentionally humorous.

There are many grammatical errors that you can make in business writing. However, there are 5 that we believe are most common. Here they are, along with some advice on how to recognize and avoid them.

1. Confusing i.e. and e.g.

The reason that these two abbreviations are commonly confused is that they both have Latin roots and they have somewhat similar meanings. The translation of the abbreviation i.e. to English means 'that is'.  When you see this abbreviation, replace it in your head with the phrase, 'in other words'. The abbreviation e.g. means for example. You would use this at the beginning of a list of supporting examples after you make a statement.

Usage Examples:

We aren't getting the foot traffic we used to get on Sunday afternoons, i.e., we only had five customers come through our door last Sunday.

We employ several different methods of measuring the success of our brick and mortal location, e.g., number of customers per day, dollars in sales per week, and the feedback on our customer comment cards.

2. Using I Instead of Me and Vice Versa

For some reason, many of us instinctively want to replace the word me with the word I when we are referring to more than one person. How many times have we sent or received emails with sentences like the following:

Will you follow up with David and I via email?

Just tell David and I when you are ready to go forward with the project.

At first glance, they might seem okay, but they are both incorrect. How do you tell? One way is to take the other person out of the equation, then look at the sentences again.

Will you follow up with I via email?

Just tell I when you are ready to go forward with the project.

Grammar Hint:

Now, it is easy to see the difference. It may help to try and remember that...

I do something, and something is done to me.

3. Writing Utilize Instead of Use

This one is fairly black and white. If you are writing the utilize in your business writing, you should stop doing that. It is one of those words that appears to be more formal and more professional, but it simply is not. If you find yourself typing the word utilize, back space and replace it with use. Better yet, set up an auto correct option to change the word when you type it.

4. Participles that Dangle

Any word that ends in 'ing' is a participle. They are intended to modify the word or phrase that follows them. If you place the noun following the participle in the wrong place, you can unintentionally change the meaning of your sentence. Here's an example:

Working more efficiently than ever, the computer room staff were thrilled with the new servers.

This sentence appears to say that the computer room staff was working more efficiently than ever. However, if that is true, what about the servers?

Here is the sentence after it has been corrected:

Working more efficiently than ever, the new servers thrilled the computer room staff.

5. Using Quotation Marks Where They Are Not Needed

For some reason, many people believe that placing a word or phrase in single or double quotes indicates emphasis. It does not. In fact, single quotes around a word or a phrase, especially one that makes a claim is read as an indication that something is not quite true. For example:

We keep your financial information 'safe' and 'secure'!

Customers will read this as if you are stating that you won't keep their information safe or secure. It may help to visualize a very sarcastic man using air quotes while reading your statement aloud.

There are times when it is okay to use quotes around a word or phrase. If you are indicating to the reader that something isn't exactly true, it is acceptable to use quotes. Here is an example:

We offer a vegan wrap with hummus, diced cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, and 'cheese'.

Your readers would know both from the context clues and the apostrophes that you were referring to a cheese like food, but not to real cheese.

Replacement Options:

Try using bold print, underlining, or even beginning and ending a word or phrase with an asterisk. Each of these indicates emphasis. Just remember to avoid using all capital letters for emphasis. This is often interpreted as anger or hostility.

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