It’s time to review some nasty writing mistakes that damage our credibility. Not normally a fun task, but absolutely necessary.
I promise to keep you amused to diminish the pain (or at least I’ll give it a shot).
I also feel compelled to mention that copywriting and blogging should be conversational and engaging, and breaking formal grammatical and spelling conventions can often be a good thing.
That said, I also believe you have to know the rules in order to break them. Plus, there are some errors that you’ll never convince anyone you did intentionally in the name of style (outside of a joke), and even then some people will still assume you’re dumb.
So, let’s take a look at some of those types of glaring errors you never want to make — common writing mistakes that can diminish the shine and credibility of your message.
1. Loose vs. lose
This one drives a lot of people crazy, including me.
In fact, it’s so prevalent among bloggers that I once feared I was missing something, and somehow “loose” was a proper substitute for “lose” in some other English-speaking countries. Here’s a hint: it’s not.
If your pants are too loose, you might lose your pants.
2. Me, myself, and I
One of the most common causes of grammatical pain is the choice between “me” and “I.”
Too often people use “I” when they should use “me.” Since “I” sounds stilted and proper, it must be right, right? Nope.
The easy way to get this one right is to simply remove the other person from the sentence and then do what sounds correct.
You would never say “Give I a call,” so you also wouldn’t say “Give Chris and I a call.” Don’t be afraid of me.
And whatever you do, don’t punt and say “myself” because you’re not sure whether “me” or “I” is the correct choice. “Myself” is only proper in two contexts, both of which are demonstrated below.
Many consider Chris a punk, but I myself tolerate him. Which brings me to ask myself, why?
3. Different than vs. Different from
This one on our list of writing mistakes slips under the radar a lot, and I’ll bet I’ve screwed it up countless times.
It boils down to the fact that things are logically different from one another, and using the word “than” after “different” is a grammatical blunder.
This vase is different from the one I have, but I think mine is better than this one.
4. Improper use of the apostrophe
Basically, you use an apostrophe in two cases:
- For contractions (don’t for do not)
- To show possession (Frank’s blog means the blog belongs to Frank)
If still in doubt, leave the apostrophe out. It causes more reader confusion to insert an apostrophe where it doesn’t belong than it does to omit one.
Plus, you can always plead the typo defense if you leave an apostrophe out, but you look unavoidably dumb when you stick one where it doesn’t belong.
Back when I talked about bullet points, one of the tips involved keeping each bullet item in parallel by beginning with the same part of speech.
For example, each item might similarly begin with a verb:
- Deliver …
- Prompt …
- Cause …
- Drive …
When writing a list of items in paragraph form, this is even more crucial, and failing to stay in parallel can result in confusion for readers and scorn from English majors.
Check out this non-parallel list in a sentence:
Over the weekend, Kevin bought a new MacBook Pro online, two software programs, and arranged for free shipping.
Do you see the problem? If not, break the list into bullet points and it becomes clear:
Over the weekend, Kevin:
- Bought a new MacBook Pro online
- Two software programs
- Arranged for free shipping
Stick the word “ordered” in front of “two software programs” and you’re in parallel. Your readers will subconsciously thank you, and the Grammar Police won’t slam you.
6. i.e. vs. e.g.
Ah, Latin … you’ve just gotta love it.
As antiquated as they might seem, these two little Latin abbreviations are pretty handy in modern writing, but only if you use them correctly.
The Latin phrase id est means “that is,” so i.e. is a way of saying “in other words.” It’s designed to make something clearer by providing a definition or saying it in a more common way.
The Latin phrase exempli gratia means “for example”, so e.g. is used before giving specific examples that support your assertion.
7. Could of, would of, should of
Please don’t do this:
I should of gone to the baseball game, and I could of, if Billy would of done his job.
This is correct:
I should have gone to the baseball game, and could have, if Billy had done his job.
Why is this one of our common writing mistakes?
They could’ve, should’ve, would’ve been correct, except that the ending of those contractions is slurred when spoken.
This creates something similar to a homophone, i.e., a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning, e.g., of, which results in the common grammatical mistake of substituting of for have.
If you enjoyed this refresher, you won’t want to miss our upcoming live content writing training …
Copyblogger’s Content Writing Masterclass
Starting Monday, March 23, 2020, Stefanie Flaxman will be hosting a live learning experience called the Copyblogger Content Writing Masterclass. This is a live, interactive, 5-day workshop that is built for all types of content creators who want to build an audience of interested prospects.