We’ve all been there. You’ve spent hours working on the perfect pitch or article and in a proud state of exhaustion, you publish without a second thought. Only then do you, and all your colleagues and followers, realise that you’ve made some key mistakes. Mistakes you could have easily fixed. Mistakes that just chip away at your credibility as a knowledgeable resource in your field. Mistakes I can help you avoid.
I have created a basic checklist that should help you avoid some of the common mistakes. Use it wisely.
There vs They’re vs Their
It is so easy to mix these up.
There has a number of meanings. It can be an adverb, a pronoun and adjective or a noun. It generally refers to a place, but not always. For example
My cup is over there.
Is there anybody out there?
My cup there is empty.
We’re going over there.
Their is a possessive adjective. This means it is indicating that you own something. For example
You can borrow their ball to play soccer on Thursday.
They’re is a contraction. This means it is a shorter way of writing they are. For example
They’re coming over for dinner after the game.
If you would like a more detailed explanation, read this article on E Learn English Language, which explains it all in more detail.
Loose vs Lose
This is an incredibly common mistake, which can fundamentally change the meaning of your sentence.
Lose is a verb to describe the loss of something. For example
I lose my keys if I don’t leave them in the same place.
Loose is an adjective to describe the opposite of tight. For example
When I lose weight my trousers become loose.
Desert vs Dessert
Mixing these two up could be the difference between a delicious chocolate mud cake and eating sand.
Desert has two meanings and two pronunciations. The first is a noun describing a dry, baron land. The second is a verb to describe abandoning someone or something. For example
I thought I found an oasis in the desert, but it was just a mirage.
A loving mother does not generally desert her child.
Dessert has just the one meaning. It is the noun to describe the tasty treat you have, or shouldn’t have, at the end of a meal. For example
My husband forgot to share his chocolate dessert with me because it was too delicious.
You’re vs your
Your is a possessive adjective. This means it shows that you own something. For example
Did you bring your book to class?
You’re is a contraction. This means it is a shorter way of writing you are. For example
If you’re going to go for a walk in the rain, I suggest you bring an umbrella.
Everyone’s favourite pedant Ross Geller explained it his way when breaking up with Rachel.
The dreaded apostrophe
The apostrophe is a mean and complicated beast. Knowing where to put it can have even the most engaging writers stumped. There are many ways to use and misuse the apostrophe and Scribendi have written a really comprehensive article on the proper use of apostrophes. One of the most common mistakes people make is in relation to plurals. Plurals that are not possessive do NOT require an apostrophe. For example
I play football on Thursdays.
Don’t let your computer do all the work
By all means use tools such as spell check and grammarly. Please don’t let that be your last line of defence. The great thing about these tools is that they will often pick up on major mistakes or incomplete sentences, but they will never be able to pick up your intent. You need to read over your work to make sure you haven’t altered your intent with a well-spelt typo.
Is your spell check on the right region? It’s easy to forget that even though we are speaking the same language, sometimes our spelling is specific to our country.
Read it aloud. If it doesn’t sound right when you speak the words, chances are, it’s wrong. Reading it aloud will give you a realistic feel for the rhythm and feel.
Finally – NEVER PROOF YOUR OWN WORK.
Even experienced editors and proof-readers follow this rule. When you are personally invested in the content it is so much harder to pick up the small mistakes. Always ask a colleague or friend to give your work a once over, just to make sure.