Common Writing Errors: Avoid Business Embarrassment

Avoid business embarrassment

Avoid business embarrassment: correct these glaring errors in your writing

Most of the time, no one in business will notice if your grammar is slightly off, or you use a comma when a full stop would be better. But if you make a writing error that’s so, well, bad, your readers may well decide to take a far less positive view of you and your business abilities.

Below are three of the most glaring mistakes people make. While they’ll only take a few seconds to learn and correct, they’lll save you a lifetime of annoyance and evil stares from colleagues and clients.

Here goes…

Unless you’re talking about Plato, you want to use “learnt”

In the States, “learned” means both, “Yesterday I learned how to stand on one leg while juggling” and “She’s such a wise, learned old lady.”

In the UK, things are different. Here, “learnt” is the past tense of “learn”, while “learned” is pronounced “lur-nid” – and it refers to the types of people who read a lot of books and spend their days making wise, insightful statements.

A minority of people believe that “learned” instead of “learnt” is also acceptable this side of the pond. We (and most others in this country) choose to ignore them.

Learnt or learned

That sound effect is affecting my hearing

Don’t, whatever you do, get “effect” and “affect” muddled up. We’ve seen beautiful, well-delivered slide presentations and pitches achieve little more than a look of pity as a result of this mistake.  

Rather than bog you down in grammar-related terminology, let’s just look at an easy way to remember which word to use in which circumstance.

  • “Effect” is a noun, and it also means “consequence”.
  • “Affect” is a verb (a doing word), and it also means “transform” or “to transform”.

Whenever you’re confused about whether to use “effect” or “affect”, just swap in one of the above alternative words and see if it still makes sense.

  • “This will consequence [effect] the results.”
  • “This will transform [affect] the results.”
  • “What transform [affect] did her complaint have on your business?”
  • “What consequence [effect] did her complaint have on your business?”

While we’re here… “to effect change” is actually correct (meaning “to bring about a different state of affairs”). It’s a bit of an anomaly, but don’t worry about remembering it. Instead, erase that phrase from your memory and never, ever use it: it’s lame.

Effect or affect

That was myself, Lord Sugar*

*This will only make sense if you ever watched The Apprentice.

People seem to love using “myself” instead of “me” these days – presumably because it sounds more professional or proper in some way. Only problem is, it’s completely and utterly incorrect.

Here’s a quick and easyish way to remember when to use “me” vs “myself”:

  • Use “myself” when you are doing something to you (i.e. in situations when you’re both the subject and the object of the sentence). E.g. “I hate myself”; “I asked myself, ‘Why, Dave, did you have to be rude to that little old lady?’”; “I looked at myself in the mirror and shuddered.”
  • Use “me” for when you’re just the object of the sentence (rather than both the subject and the object). E.g. “He kicked me”; “Please send your comments, complaints and praise to me”; “It was a happy time for me.”

Most of the time, you’ll need to use “me”.

Me, myself or I

Get it? Got it. Good!

See? Only a few seconds to learn and to master. Now you’ve got those under your belt, let us know what other words/phrases confuse you; we’ll then include them in another post soon.

More Common Writing Errors:

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