Looking for an easy, incredible return on investment for your business writing? You don’t need exhaustive grammar lessons or online courses to up your game and capture your audience. You need 5 minutes. We’ve gathered our top writing tips, based on the errors we most commonly correct for our clients.
First, check out Part 1, here.
- Homographs and Easily Confused Words
Words that are spelled differently, sound similar/identical, and have different meanings are called homographs. We often see one used in place of another.
Examples include accept and except, insure and ensure, compliment and complement, piece and peace, principal and principle.
However, there are other words with such similar spellings that they’re easily confused, like contact and contract, form and from, casual and causal.
Speedy typing is usually the culprit. Keep an eye out for homographs that trip you up or commonly used words in your industry that, with a letter or two switched, take on a whole new meaning.
- Which vs. That
Use “that” when what follows is necessary to understand the sentence/context. Use “which” when what follows could be removed without affecting the meaning of the sentence.
For example: The file that I need is saved on the cloud. The white paper, which I wrote in a hammock on the beach in about 25 minutes, failed to impress my boss.
See how you could take the parenthetical out of the second sentence and still have the same meaning (with fewer details)?
Need it: that. Could do without: which.
Note: This explanation applies to North American English; in the U.K., there is greater flexibility in these usages.
- “Not Only But Also”
You don’t need commas before, in the middle, or after that phrase. In fact: You can not only leave out a comma but also reject any guilt over doing so.
- Quotation Marks and Punctuation
Periods and commas should be set inside quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points only go inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material.
Here’s the difference: She asked me, “Are you crazy?” If, by that, she means an unfathomable genius, then yes, I’m “crazy”!
- Latin Abbreviations
E.g. is short for the Latin exempli gratia, meaning for example. I remember it by thinking of “example given.” You can use one example or many, just don’t use “etc.” with “e.g.”
I.e. stands for id est, or “that is.” I remember it by thinking of “in essence.” Use this abbreviation when you’re about to restate something—rewording for clarification.
Both are always followed by a comma unless you’re writing in the U.K. or your style is anarchy (e.g., no government, no rules, no grammar). In the latter case, we highly recommend professional help (i.e., a quality proofreading company).
- When in Doubt, Check It Out
A good dictionary is a great place to start.
- In-House Style Guide
If your grammar is all over the place, you can clarify expectations and standardize on-brand messaging with a Style Guide. This may seem like a gargantuan undertaking, so we’ll be sharing exactly how to develop a Style Guide in the near future.
- Still Need Help?
Short on time? Need to ensure a client is impressed? Hate commas with a vengeance? Send your business documents to us. We’ll take care of the nitty gritty, and you can claim all the glory.
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