More on the pesky problem of spelling and punctuation…

Anybody who happens to see my Facebook posts on a regular basis won’t have failed to notice that I’m a bit of a pedant when it comes to spelling and punctuation. I have talked about the whole issue of apostrophes elsewhere, and I think it’s time to expand on this a wee bit!

If you run a business or if you’re starting to think about it, it stands to reason that you want all your business bits and bobs like your website, your business cards and your social media pages to look tip top. You want to come across as professional and trustworthy without losing sight of your own individuality, so what you’re aiming for is to create an eye catching personal brand, and it goes without saying that you probably want to spend a bit of time working on what you want to say to get the customers flocking in.

Unfortunately it can be very easy to spoil the effect of a lovely website or sales page with a few pesky old spelling and punctuation or grammar mistakes.

Here’s a selection of some of my favourites and a few hints and tips on how to correct the errors.

Although I’ve covered this before, I think the dreaded misplaced apostrophe deserves a recap, and it’s most commonly used in a plural where it is not needed.

To give you an example, how about book’s. The plural of book is books. The only time you need an apostrophe is if you plan to write something like, ‘The book’s an excellent read’ (short for ‘the book is an excellent read’) or ‘The book’s contents’. If you have several books, you might say something like, ‘The books’ covers were all shiny’.  The apostrophe always goes at the end if it’s the possessive of a plural.

Continuing on the subject of apostrophes, it’s is short for it is, where its is a possessive, e.g. ‘the tree has lost its leaves’.

Confusion is common when it comes to your/you’re and they’re/there/their.

You’re is the contraction of you are and your is a pronoun, e.g. ‘you’re going shopping later’ or ‘your mum’s going shopping later’.

They’re is the contraction of they are.

There can be used in a sentence with a verb e.g. there is a bird in the sky.

Their indicates possession, e.g. their house is lovely.

Not to mention the use of should of instead of should’ve (the contraction of should have).

Moving on, what about words that sound the same but have different spellings?

A few examples are…

Accept/except. Stationery/stationary. Affect/effect. Compliment/complement. Principle/ principal.

I accept your apology for eating the chocolate, even though there is nothing left for me in the fridge except cheese.

I bought some stationery before I went to catch the train, which was already stationary at the platform.

She knew how to affect him, and the overall effect was spellbinding.

Her friend gave her a compliment on the beautiful shoes that complemented her dress.

He refused to change his mind as it would be against his principles, despite being confronted by the principal person in charge.

Even pedantic people like me can be guilty of slip-ups – have you ever found yourself looking at a word for so long that it starts to look wrong?

Yup, me too.

The moral of the story is, if you’ve got important words out there that you want other people to take seriously, always get someone else to proofread them before hitting publish!

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Is your marketing message causing confusion?

We all know how important it is to get our marketing messages across clearly, and some of you eagle eyed readers may have spotted this recent picture on my Facebook page

odd text

At a first glance, this suggests to me that presenting the voucher will get you one free child, and at a saving of £9.50, that’s a bargain for a completely new member of the family!

My mother has been picking me up on any and all misuse of the English language since I was a child, and that’s probably why I’m such a pedant now (I should point out she still tells me off for using the word ‘hopefully’ incorrectly in a sentence, so I’m very careful not to use it in her presence). One of her bugbears is the use of the phrase, ‘for free’, when it should be ‘free of charge’ or ‘for nothing’. The picture above commits a similar wording crime, so my suggestion is that it should be re-worded as ‘1 free child place’ or ‘1 child goes free’ – what do you think?

This is why it’s so important to get somebody else at least to glance over your copy and content before it goes out to the wider world. If there’s any chance that what you’re saying could be misconstrued in any way, you might have looked at it so many times that you’re no longer noticing the mistakes, and somebody else will be seeing things with a fresh pair of eyes. I know I will be reading this post several times over before hitting ‘publish’, and even then I will worry about the odd typo.

And if you’re at all unsure about your spelling, punctuation and grammar, regardless of what you’re writing, it goes without saying that you should be getting somebody to proofread your work.

I’ve still been busy looking out for misplaced apostrophes on my travels, and this one is a recent favourite.

apostrophe alert

They nearly made it! So near and yet so far….plus you only get one cappuccino.

I’d love to see some more #apostrophefails, so if you spot one when you’re out and about, please pop over to my Facebook page and share your findings!