Committing grammatical errors in business writing is like having body odor during an important meeting. Some may be able to look past it—or even fail to notice it—but others might end the relationship immediately because of assumptions they’ll make about everything else about you.
You never know which it’s going to be, so it’s best to shower.
Mistakes to avoid
Your / You’re
Your is possession. You’re means “you are”. “You’re causing your own problems.”
There / Their / They’re
There is for location. Their is for possession. They’re is a contraction of “they are”. “Their coats are over there, but it looks like they’re dirty.”
Its / It’s
“Its” is for possession, like, “The dog licked its bowl.” It’s is a contraction of “it is”.
To / Too / Two
To is the regular/most-used one. Too is for “too much”, or “too little”, or also. Two is the number. “I thought two dollars was too much as well.”, “I am going to the party, too. That’ll make two of us.”
i.e. vs. e.g.
i.e. means “id est” (something like it is) in Latin. It’s basically a summary of, expansion on, or reiteration of, the previous text. E.g. also comes from Latin, and is short for “exempli gratia” (for example). It’s what you use when giving a list of examples of the previous text. “We need a number of tools, e.g. saw, wrench, hammer…”
Hear / Here
Hear has to do with sound. Here is a location. “Stand over here and you might hear it.”
“Susan and I” vs. “Susan and Me”
This one doesn’t belong on the basic list because most people don’t know how to do this correctly. Basically, we’ve been taught not to say “and me” when saying “Susan and I are going to the store.” But that’s because you can’t say “Me am going to the store.”
In the case of, “The lease had to be signed by Susan and me”, you don’t want to switch the “me” to “I” because you wouldn’t say “The lease has to be signed by I.” Basically, you just have to remove the other person to see what the correct pronoun is.
Who’s / Whose
Who’s is a contraction of “who is”. Whose is for possession. “Who’s going to find out whose it is?.”
Write / Right / Rite
Write is for putting words on paper. Right is for a privilege, or the direction. Rite is a ritual.
Lay / Lie
Lay is for when you set something down. Lie is for when you get ready to go to sleep. The crazy part is that the past tense of lie is lay, so, “Lay Sarah on the bed. ‘Lie down, Sarah.’ Sarah now lies on the bed where I lay sleeping last night.”
Rein / Reign / Rain
Rein refers to freedom and control, like trying to “rein in” a horse. Reign has to do with ruling, like a king. Rain is, well, the stuff that falls from the sky.
- Yes, I am aware that I have a good number of fragmented sentences and otherwise poor writing on this page.