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Stop Making These Writing Mistakes (Pt 1)
You want to be seen as an authority in your industry, right? One of the best ways to achieve this is through your website content. But what if your content is full of typos and grammatical errors?
Well, this can reduce your credibility. Some people won’t notice and won’t care, but, on the other hand, you’ll have prospective clients who visit your website and will know a mistake when they see one—and will care. And you know what these types of consumers will think? Something like “if they are sloppy on their website, why should I trust them to help my business?”
Common Grammar Mistakes
To make your life easier, I’ve compiled a list of common grammatical and usage mistakes I’ve seen on various websites:
Fewer vs. Less
Often, I see “less” used in a sentence when it should be “fewer” instead. Here is the basic rule: “Fewer” is used to modify a noun that is quantifiable—something you can count.
Wrong: Draco Malfoy has less friends than Harry Potter.
Right: Draco Malfoy has fewer friends than Harry Potter; Harry has less money (fewer pieces of gold) than Draco.
“Friends” is quantifiable, whereas “money” is not. A good rule of thumb? “How many” usually precedes quantifiable nouns and “how much” usually precedes nouns that you can’t count (how much money do you have? How many friends do you have?).
Homowhat? Even if you don’t recognize the term “homophone,” you have undoubtedly heard of it and seen it. Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings (and often different spellings). Two common misuses I see are:
- Compliment/complement: To compliment is to express praise or admiration. To complement is to enhance or supplement. The pictures do not compliment the room—they complement the room (unless you have talking pictures…and that’s weird, unless you’re at Hogwarts).
- Insure/ensure: To insure is to secure or protect against something. To ensure is to guarantee or make certain. The company’s extensive experience does not insure a more successful project—it ensures a more successful (or guarantees) projects.
Hyphen After “ly”
Hyphens are pretty tricky. I don’t want to get into too much detail about hyphen usage (after all, this isn’t a grammar book and your eyes would probably glaze over after three or four sentences), but one thing I see a lot is hyphens after adverbs ending in “ly.” Examples:
- The forest where Harry finally faced Voldemort was dimly lit by his wand.
- Kudos to him because Voldemort is a severely scary villian.
Hyphens are not needed between adverbs ending in “ly” and adjectives. If you’re interested in learning more about hyphen usage, I find Grammar Girl (QuickandDirtyTips.com) helpful.
Capitalization in Titles
I know it’s easy to think that if a word is short (like “is,” “and,” etc.) it’s not capitalized in titles. For the most part, conjunctions and prepositions aren’t capitalized. But verbs are always capitalized. Yup, that means “is” and “are” are always capitalized, even if they aren’t the first word of the title. And no matter what the last word of the title is—or how small it is—it is also always capitalized. Here is a correctly written title: Why Is Harry Potter an Awesome Book Series? (Read it and find out!)
Wrong Use of “Comprise”
Many other words are used wrong too, but I see the wrong use of “comprise” a lot—surprisingly so. I would be guilty of not knowing if I hadn’t taken an amazing editing/newspaper class junior year of college. The dictionary meaning of “comprise” is: consist of; be made up of. I’ve seen too many sentences with “comprised of.”
Wrong: Hogwarts is comprised of four houses.
Wrong: Four houses comprise Hogwarts.
Right: Hogwarts comprises four houses.
There is no “of” that follows it, and the bigger unit/the whole always precedes “comprise/comprised.”
Not so bad, right?
Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon (and don’t worry—I promise not to use more dorky Harry Potter references)! (Editor’s note: Watch out. She didn’t promise not to use any dorky Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones references.)
About The Author: Alanna is the Quality Assurance Manager in Blue Corona's Maryland office. When she's not triple-checking websites and content for errors and consistency, you can find her at the gym with her twin sister or urban exploring with her husband.
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