There’s an unpleasant term used to describe people who point out grammatical or spelling errors on social media these days. I’m not going to validate it by using it here, but it implies that caring about the proper use of the English language is somehow a bad thing. And while I know many people who wouldn’t care if there was a typo in a promotional e-mail, or a missing apostrophe in an advertisement; I know just as many who would care enough to take their business elsewhere. If a business doesn’t care about mistakes when they’re promoting themselves, what DO they care about?
The most common editing change I make is adding or removing a comma. Most of us know that a comma indicates a pause, but more importantly, it’s used to separate clauses. For example, “I enjoy cooking my family and my dog.”, is missing commas after cooking and my family. Although it’s obvious what the writer was trying to say in that example, businesses are often writing about complex subjects that their audience may not be as familiar with. The use of commas then becomes even more important to ensure your meaning is clear to your readers.
The second most common change is removing apostrophes. Apostrophes are not used to pluralize words! I think I yell that at something I’m reading on social media at least ten times a day. Apostrophes denote ownership, e.g. Have you seen Jane’s car? They are used in contractions, e.g. that’s, what’s, it’s, but they are NEVER used for pluralization. More than one ape is apes, more than one doe are does. People seem to have the most trouble remembering this when a word ends in a vowel.
I’d also like to address the misuse of the word, ‘myself’. After being told by our mothers, “it’s Jimmy and I, not Jimmy and me”, many people are under the mistaken impression that the word ‘me’ should never be used when speaking about themselves and another person. The fact is, Jimmy and me is correct, depending on what you’re saying. I’ve received many e-mails and correspondence containing some form of the phrase, “don’t hesitate to contact either Jimmy or myself.” It’s usually someone trying to sound businesslike and professional, but it makes the opposite impression. Would you say, “please contact myself with any questions”? (I most certainly hope not, and if you do, please stop immediately!) No, you would say, “please contact me with any questions”. Adding Jimmy to the equation doesn’t change that.
These are some of the more common errors, but nothing can find all of your typos. Spellcheck can’t tell you when you’ve used desert instead of dessert; or my personal favourite, loose instead of lose. Most of us know how difficult it is to proof our own work, so a second set of eyes is never a bad idea. Remember, everything you put out there matters, whether it’s a tweet or a mission statement; anything can be someone’s first impression of your company.
If you would like to learn more about grammar or need help copy editing I would be happy to help. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org