I started my business career in a busy logistics office. One day, the boss asked me to type a letter. However, my respect for the man evaporated when I read his rough draft. Until then, I’d considered this man to be a cultured individual. When I saw his writing mistakes, I had to hide my laughter. My English teacher in business college would have made mincemeat of him. I realise I judged the man harshly. He was running a busy office under constant pressure. But had he taken a bit of care with his writing, he wouldn’t have had his young office assistant thinking he was a moron.
8 examples of unnecessary writing mistakes
The following is a list of the writing mistakes to avoid if you don’t want to look dumb.
1. Don’t mix up ‘your’ and ‘you’re’
The word ‘your’ refers to something that belongs to you. The word ‘you’re’ is short for ‘you are’.If you don’t want to look dumb, don’t confuse the two.
2. Don’t mix up ‘its’ and ‘it’s
If you write ‘the sun rose in all its glory, that’s fine. ‘Its’ refers to the sun’s glory. But ‘it’s’ is a shortened version of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. The two cannot be used interchangeably.
3. Spelling mistakes
Any type of spelling mistake looks careless and sloppy. But it’s good to pay attention to the type of English you’re using. There are several spelling differences between US English and UK English. So what appears to be a mistake might not be one at all depending on the context. If you live in the UK, it’s British English. If you live in the US, it’s US English. If, however, you don’t live in either country and you’re corresponding with someone from one of them, you may prefer to use the English of the person in the country you’re addressing. Just make sure that the type of English being used is the one agreed upon.
4. Avoid long sentences:
Some of us use sentences that are way too long. Long sentences are hard to read. Reading flows well when there is a mixture of short and moderate sentences. Before making a final copy of a piece of writing, it’s a good idea to read through a draft to check for mistakes. If you find sentences that are way too long, you should edit them. Either cut out unnecessary words or make two shorter sentences.
5. Avoid subject/verb disagreement
I give, you give, he gives, she gives. We don’t say ‘you gives’, or she give. Always check a piece of writing before you submit it and ensure that the verbs and subjects are in agreement. It’s such an easy mistake to make.
6. Avoid missing commas
Make sure to use your commas and to use them correctly. A missing comma can totally change the meaning of a sentence. An author once wrote a book dedication for a book he’d written. While he was writing, he’d received emotional support and encouragement from his parents and from his friends, John Smith and Mary Jones. When the book was published, the dedication read: ‘For my parents John Smith and Mary Jones’. He forgot to write the comma after the word ‘parents’ and made it look as if John Smith and Mary Jones were his parents.
7. Wrong word choices
There are some words that sound the same but are spelt differently. Sometimes, people choose the wrong word by mistake. They say ‘I wish to except this offer’ when they mean ‘I wish to accept this offer.’ Or they might order some ‘stationary’ for the office when they really mean ‘stationery’. Or they could say ‘let’s precede with the ceremony’ when they mean ‘let’s proceed’.
8. Avoid vague pronoun reference
Mary gave Joan a book. She was very happy. Who was happy? Mary? Or Joan? Clarification is required.
How to avoid making dumb writing mistakes
There are ways to avoid these mistakes.
- Always proofread your writing work. If necessary, wait for some time and then proofread. The distance in time will give you perspective. Try reading the piece aloud to hear how it sounds.
- Use a spellchecker. You can also install a grammar-checking app. Some of them have a free version.
- Spend some regular time working on your grammar. There are online courses, many of them free. You can improve with some care and dedication.