Even experts make mistakes. Sad, but true! Considering we do a lot of writing in our field, it’s a good idea to brush up on grammar rules. Here is a selection of common mistakes found in press releases and blog posts all across the nation.
Oh, and the silly joke in the headline? Yeah, people do that all the time.
This is a very common error, and not just in press releases. It’s understandable seeing as how the rules for possession and the apostrophe sometimes seem arbitrary, but you have got to learn the rule if you want to be taken seriously. And don’t just trust the little green squiggly line in Word – just now, it put a line underneath the “it’s” in the previous sentence. Silly Word!
Luckily, the rules are fairly simple. “It’s” is a contraction for “it is,” and “its” is used for indicating possession. If you didn’t mean to say “it is,” then don’t use it’s. That’s it!
Oh, and its’ doesn’t exist.
Example: Bob’s coffee table has a scratch on its leg. It’s going in the dumpster tomorrow.
Here’s another simple one otherwise intelligent people get wrong all the time. “They’re” is a simple one as it’s just another contraction. If you’re not trying to say “they are” then rule it out. Easy.
The other two are the ones that get confused the most. “Their” is used only for plural possessive. If you’re not talking about a group of people’s possession, then there’s no need to use it. If you’ve ruled the other two out, then “there” it is.
Example: Bob and Emily love it there. They’re going to take their kids there.
Here’s a more subtle one that’s sometimes hard to catch. Check out this sentence:
“Flopping on the ground, I grabbed the fish.”
Pretty obvious, right? The sentence makes it seems like I’m flopping on the ground while grabbing a fish. Unless that’s the truth, it’s a confusing sentence. Sometimes they’re not so easily identified, though.
“Focused and dependable, our company is comprised of award winning professionals in the field.”
The company itself isn’t focused and dependable, the award winning professionals are. The sentence is confusing. Make sure the subject is what’s described by the clause.
“Focused and dependable, the award winning professionals who work at our company are the best in the field.”
Another easy one to remember! If you can say “you are,” then use “you’re.” If not, use your, because you’re talking about something somebody possesses.
Oh, and no ur, please. Save it for texting with your BFF.
Example: Your “no bathroom break” policy means you’re the worst boss ever.
This drives me crazy and you see it all the time.
“I could of been there! You should of been there!” No, no , no! That’s all wrong!
Remember, the contraction for this is “would’ve,” not “would’f.” It’s could HAVE, would HAVE.
Another confusing pair of words! The best way to remember this rule is that, for the most part, “effect” is a noun and “affect” is a verb.
“The wine affected me like never before. It had a major effect on my productivity the next morning.
There are some rare times that effect and affect switch verb and noun responsibilities. “Affect” can be used as a noun to describe someone’s psychological standing:
“The tearstains on her pillow belied her happy affect.”
Plus “effect” can be used as a verb which means to bring about change:
“Karl hoped to effect change in the way Margaret felt about her life.”
Luckily those instances are few and far between. Remember effect as a noun and affect as a verb and you’ll more than likely be correct.
We all have those little grammar rules we just can’t get right. What’s your grammatical pet peeve?