The power of the proofreader
No matter which industry you work in, there will come a point in your career where you will have to write content; whether that’s a report, an article, minutes, or even a tweet.
Depending on what processes you have in place, these bits of content should be being proofed. Thoroughly. By more than one person. Things, understandably, slip through the net when you’re self-editing. Things, not quite as understandably, slip through the net even when a bunch of people proof content – as proved in this article ‘16 of the Worst Typos, Grammatical Errors & Spelling Mistakes We’ve Ever Seen’.
So, as Cornerstone’s self-confessed grammar geek, I am here to impart 5 pearls of grammar wisdom. A list of some of the most common grammar mistakes out there that you can read at your leisure, or even save for reference next time you’re unsure.
1. Its vs. It’s
Let’s start with something that may seem obvious, but trips up the best of us – even me from time to time. The confusion with a lot of people is that the ‘s usually indicates possession but in the case of ‘it’, it is a contraction of ‘it is’.
Its is possessive.
2. Passive Voice
Does your writing tend to sound like waffle? A bit jumbled? The first thing to try to combat this would be to check that you’re writing in active, not passive voice.
The passive voice puts the object of the sentence to the subject position like this:
The top was bought by me.
Whereas the active voice is much cleaner, once the object – ‘the top’ in this case – is placed after the verb, and the subject of the sentence is at the beginning, like this:
I bought the top.
3. Affect vs. Effect
Two very similar words, two very different meanings.
Simply put: when talking about the act of changing, the verb, you’ll use ‘affect’
The drive was affected by the weather.
When talking about the change itself, the noun, you use ‘effect’.
The weather had an effect on the drive.
I am a serial semicolon user. And undoubtedly misuse them here and there – guilty!
Semicolons should be used to link two connecting clauses that could be separate sentences but are very closely related. For example:
I have work tomorrow; I can’t go out tonight.
Those two clauses could be their own sentences but it makes more sense, stylistically, to join them using a semicolon.
5. Split infinitives
This is one of my personal pet peeves. The infinitive is when a verb doesn’t apply to any specific subject, like ‘to run’. Any adverbs should be placed outside the infinitive like this:
To run quickly.
To quickly run.
Hopefully these quick tips have helped with any everyday grammar gripes you may have – let us know if there are any further hints and tips you’d like to see!
There are a number of tools out there nowadays to help you with everyday problems such as these. I’d recommend looking at web extensions such as Grammarly, Ginger, and Slick Write. As with most programmes, you have pay for full access but their free-to-use functions are perfect for everyday spelling and grammar help when writing any sort of content in your Internet browser.