5 common grammatical mistakes to avoid in your writing

Basic writing errors look careless and unprofessional, and
give the wrong impression of your brand. Here are 5 common grammatical mistakes to avoid in your business copy

A photo of a pug in a blanket to illustrate a post about common grammatical mistakes

Photograph by Matthew Wiebe

Your business materials are often the first point of contact for new customers, and carelessly written copy will give the impression that you’re casual, lackadaisical and, ahem, none too bright. Incorrect spellings, wayward punctuation and dodgy grammar hardly inspire confidence and are unlikely to convey a sense of reliability and professionalism. There are several common mistakes that people often make that you could probably get away with in speech, but the harsh truth is that there’s no excuse when it comes to writing. I’m not talking about super formal rules here such as the who/whom debate or whether or not you can end a sentence with a preposition – just basic stuff that’s definitely wrong. Here are five common grammatical mistakes to watch out for.

1. Should have, not should of
Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. They’re contractions of should have, would have and could have but when you say them out loud they do sound a bit like should of, would of, could of, hence the confusion in some quarters. The haves have it, however – should have, would have, could have, will have, won’t have, must have, might have… you get the idea.

2. Less/fewer
Less refers to an amount of something singular, while fewer refers to an amount of something plural. So, less money but fewer coins; less confectionary but fewer sweets; less reading but fewer books; less traffic but fewer cars. Once you know the difference, less cars sounds kind of hideous.

3. There’s/there are
This is another singular/plural issue. There is [something singular] or there are [something plural] – that much you already know. There is an elephant at the zoo; there are many animals at the zoo, obviously. And yet when there is is contracted to there’s, that simple rule is often forgotten:

There’s lots of things to do at the park.

There’s drinks and snacks on the table.

There’s times when I just want to sit down and have a cup of tea.

Those sentences don’t sound too bad, do they? But remove the contraction – change there’s back to there is – and the error becomes clear.

4. Joanna and me
It’s the kids’ classic – “Joanna and me made a den”, instead of Joanna and I, as it should be. There’s an easy test if you’re not sure – take Joanna out of the sentence and see if it sounds right: “Me made a den”, or “I made a den”? Whereas, “It was difficult for Joanna and me to make the den” is CORRECT because, without Joanna, “It was difficult for me to make the den”.

5. I was sat/I was stood
I’ve said it before here and I’ll say it again (and again and again but not to your face because I want you to like me) – you were not sat and neither were you stood anywhere. You were sitting and you were standing, for the same reason that you were walking along the road, riding your bike to the shops and watching a rugby match. You wouldn’t say, “I was walked along the road” or “I was rode my bike to the shops” or “I was watched a rugby match”, would you? You can say “I was sat” or “I was stood” in conversation and call it a colloquialism or a regional variation if you really must, but in writing it’s entirely unacceptable.

And breathe…

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