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Thoughts on Writing

Details Matter: Avoid Common Errors

Elementary school was a long time ago.  Word pairs that we once knew well (because Mrs. Jenkins was going to quiz us on them) slide into confusion as we rush to type out our daily work. 

Most people know better than to abuse these word pairs, but how often have you seen someone in business write, your welcome to come into the store or the company reported it’s third quarter earnings? How about we don’t want to loose your business?

These errors come not from ignorance but from carelessness and rushing. Standards are slipping for many people, especially with the prevalence of tiny-typing typos on cell phones. But in business – and for people who value quality – standards should not slip. We need to use these words correctly, no matter how hurried we are.
Why make the effort to avoid common errors?  Because people judge us based on our writing.

In my business writing workshops, I ask people, “When you receive an email or document that contains typos, misused words, and errors in grammar and punctuation, how does it affect your opinion of the sender?” There is always a charitable soul who says, “I just figure the person was busy.”  The majority is less forgiving. People use words like “careless” “rushed” “inattentive to detail” “incompetent” “uneducated” and of course, “stupid” to describe the writer who sends out documents full of errors.

Every time you write it’s when you mean its, you are contributing to the sense that you don’t care about getting the details right. These small impressions can add up to an overall impression that you value expedience over quality.

So watch out for these little words. Take the time to proofread and see what favors Autocorrect has done for you before you hit “send”.  Send this Writamin to your colleagues who are constantly writing your welcome when they mean you’re welcome. Details do matter. Glossing over small errors undermines your efforts to build an impression of competence and professionalism.

Its and It’s

ITS is the possessive pronoun of it. It means belonging to it.
IT’S is the contraction of it is.
If you are ever wondering which to use, write it as it is and see if it makes sense.
The dog lost it’s bone = The dog lost it is bone. Clearly this does not make sense, so the correct word must be its.
It’s time for the company to announce its new policy.

Lose and Loose

LOSE is the opposite of win or gain.
LOOSE is the opposite of tight.
Your loose speech may lead you to lose your job.

Should have and Should of

Should of is never correct. It is always should have.
I should have known better than to rely on him.

Then and Than

THEN (adverb) describes time. It means at that time or soon afterward. Sometimes it introduces a logical consequence, as in the pattern If ..., then . . .
THAN (conjunction or adverb) is a word that helps differentiate between two elements in a comparison. Than compares things.
He beat me at every game; then I knew that he would always be a better tennis player than me.

They’re/Their/There

THEY’RE is the contraction for “they are.”
THEIR indicates possession.
THERE refers to a place or the existence of something.
They’re sure that they left their car over there.

To and Too

TO (preposition) means in the direction of.  It is also used to form infinitive verbs.
TOO (adverb) means in addition to or to an excessive degree.
Are you going to the conference too?

Your and You’re

You know the meaning of these words. Just don’t rush and use your when you mean you’re.
So you’re the person who left your laptop in the room.




© 2013 Elizabeth Danziger  All rights reserved

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  • Taught by a professional writer. +

    These courses are not taught by a general skills trainer who happens to teach writing. Elizabeth Danziger has been published by major publishing houses such as Random House and Harcourt Brace. Her work has appeared in many national magazines. She is an expert writer and editor who brings her knowledge as a resource to participants.
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    With plenty of exercises and opportunities for interaction, the Worktalk trainings move quickly. Subjects that were terrifying in grammar school become fun and interesting in these outstanding programs.
  • Proven results. +

    In trainings all over the country, Ms. Danziger has enabled participants to streamline their organizing process, eliminate persistent errors, and drastically cut their revision time. Clients spend less time on key communications while producing better relationships and results. Sales people get more positive responses from prospects.
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