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Copywriting 101: 7 Grammar Mistakes Professionals Make (but Shouldn’t)
By Tonya Thompson on Jun 3, 2015
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Does the very word ‘grammar’ induce traumatic memories of boring classes and hypercritical teachers?  Do you equate those who correct you on grammar and spelling to the worst kind of trolls on social media?

If so, you shouldn’t and here’s why. You’re a professional and you handle your business like one. In client meetings and networking events, you make it a point to look polished and together because you know that first impressions count.  The same is true for communications you create, whether that’s social media posts, email, reports or content for your website.  

So what are the most common grammar mistakes that professionals make, but shouldn’t? Take a look and see if you’re guilty.

Grammar mistake #1: Your vs. You’re

Internet memes abound about this one, and there are people with advanced degrees who still can’t get it right. “Your welcome” doesn’t make logical sense, unless the person you’re speaking to owns a “welcome” and you’re referring to it as their possession.  That doesn’t make sense to you? Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to us either. The correct spelling is “you’re welcome,” as in “you are welcome.”  Now go edit all your social media posts and thank us later, you’ll appear 100 times smarter.

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Grammar mistake #2: Nauseous

If you’ve ever used this word in the context of something making you sick, you’ve used it incorrectly.  If you say “I am nauseous,” what you are really saying is that you have the ability of making someone else sick. A certain smell might be nauseous, or early pregnancy might be nauseous, but if you are referring to yourself being sickened, the word you are looking for is ‘nauseated.’

Grammar mistake #3: The correct use of ‘Moot’

Here’s the scenario: you’re debating a topic with a co-worker and she brings up a point that seems irrelevant to the conversation. So your response is “that’s a moot point,” believing (like many others often mistakenly believe) that the information she is adding is unrelated to the topic. The meaning of the phrase “moot point” is a “point that is arguable and open to debate.” The point you’re discussing is a moot point (obviously, because you’re debating it).  The information she brought up that is irrelevant is just that….irrelevant.

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Grammar mistake #4: Whether vs. If

If you’ve been using these words interchangeably, you’re in good company - grammatically incorrect company, but good company all the same. However, they are not interchangeable and are dependent on how many alternatives you’re suggesting. ‘Whether’ is used when there are one or more alternatives; ‘if’ is when there are no alternatives and only one result.

Ex. “I don’t know whether I will go shopping or go to a movie.”   

“I will gain weight if I eat too much sugary food.”

Grammar mistake #5: Fewer vs. Less

There are several ways to explain the grammar rules with these words, but the simplest explanation is to consider whether the noun that is counted is singular or plural.  If singular, use ‘less’.  If plural, use ‘fewer’.  

There are a few words that seem like exceptions to this rule, but they really aren’t exceptions.  For example, if you were asked whether $1,000 dollars is plural or singular, you would likely immediately think plural. However, put it into a sentence: “I told my daughter that $1,000 is a lot of money.” When we refer to money, although it might be multiple dollars or coins, we tend to refer to the amount in the singular, therefore we’d use ‘less’.  

Ex. “$1,000 dollars is less than what I’d expect to pay for that car.”

The same is true of other quantities, such as quantifying time and milage. For example, one might say “25 miles is a long way to go to get coffee from Starbucks.”  Therefore, when deciding between ‘fewer’ and ‘less’, the correct choice would be: “We are less than 25 miles away.”

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Grammar mistake #6: Further vs. Farther

The rule for remembering this one is easy, simply ask yourself whether the distance you are referring to can be measured.  If you want to go 10 additional miles, you’re going ‘farther’ down the road.  If you are referring to the fact that adding a third cat to your household might cause additional problems, you’d say that another cat in the house might cause ‘further’ complications.

Grammar mistake #7: Affect vs. Effect

We saved this one for last because far too many people get it wrong and it’s really a simple rule, so there’s no excuse at all to not follow it.  If you’re using it as a verb, it’s ‘affect’.  If you’re using it as a noun, it’s ‘effect’.  

Ex. “The river’s depth has been seriously affected by all of that rain.”

“The effect of so much rain was flooding.”  

A final word

While being a perfectionist at grammar might be best left to English teachers and college professors, the correct use of it speaks volumes about your level of professionalism. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a little refresher to remember some of the long-lost grammar rules that keep you on top of your game.  

And yes, that’s an entirely moot point.