Did you know that bad grammar can ruin a good message?
You could be missing opportunities to get your point across because your readers have to wade through awkward sentences that set their teeth on edge.
Common grammar mistakes can be avoided if you take the time to learn the rules and then apply them. Pay special attention to the eight that follow.
The 8 most common grammar miscues
Here’s a list of the eight most common grammar mistakes and ways to spot and fix them.
1. Me versus I: subject pronoun (plural subjects)
“Me and Janet completed the quarterly sales report.”
“Janet and I completed the quarterly sales report.”
Rule: When the subject is more than one, you need a subject pronoun (I, she, he, we, they, who).
Clue: Say the sentence without ‘Janet’. “I finished the quarterly sales report.” Now it’s easy to tell which pronoun is correct, right?
2. Me versus I: object pronoun (verb)
“Katherine hired Dave and I to draft the sales proposal.”
“Katherine hired Dave and me to draft the sales proposal.” is correct.
Rule: “Dave and me” is the object of the verb “draft” and therefore requires an object pronoun (me, her, him, us, them, whom).
Clue: Say the sentence without Dave. “Katherine hired me to draft the sales proposal.” It’s obvious now, isn’t it?
3. Me versus I: object pronoun (preposition)
“Between you and I, we got the job done.”
“Between you and me, we got the job done.”
Rule: In this sentence, “me” is the object of the preposition “between” and therefore requires an object pronoun (me, her, him, us, them, whom).
Clue: “I” is the subject of a sentence and will be followed by a verb “ran, went, jumped, cried.” “Me” is the object of a sentence and is preceded by a preposition “with, to, between, before.”
“Irene, Lloyd and myself finished the blueprints.”
“Irene, Lloyd, and I finished the blueprints.”
Rule: You can’t use a “-self” pronoun (myself, yourself, himself, herself, themselves, ourselves) unless it refers to another noun or pronoun earlier in the sentence.
Clue: Look for the referral word that precedes the pronoun and say the sentence without “Irene, Lloyd.” “I finished the blueprints.”
How many times have you read this incorrect sentence?
“Please feel free to contact myself if you need further information.”
“Please feel free to contact me if you need further information.” is correct.
5. To versus too
“Roger was to swamped and couldn’t complete the report on time.”
“Roger was too swamped and couldn’t complete the report on time.”
This might seem like an obvious mistake. It happens most often when you’re in a hurry – but that’s no excuse. Your reader will notice the gaff.
6. Lay versus lie
“Nigel was feeling light-headed, so his manager suggested he lay down in the infirmary.” is incorrect.
“Nigel was feeling light-headed, so his manager suggested he lie down in the infirmary.” is correct.
Rule: You lie down on a bed and lay down an object.
Clue: To lay is to place something down in a resting position. A chicken lays eggs, it doesn’t lie eggs.
7. There versus their versus they’re
“It was there turn to present sales projections.”
“It was their turn to present sales projections.”
“Their looking forward to presenting this quarter’s sales projections.” is incorrect.
“They’re looking forward to presenting this quarter’s sales projections.” is correct.
Rule: There is a place, their is a possessive pronoun, they’re is a contraction of “they are.” This grammar gaff is rarely due to not knowing the difference; rather, it slips through spellcheck.
Clue: This common grammar mistake can easily be avoided by proofreading your communications carefully before pressing “send”.
8. They/their versus he/his or she/her
As you probably know, the grammar convention for the use of “they” has changed. It is now acceptable to use “they” to identify an individual and allows for gender neutrality.
“They asked that their report be presented last” can refer to a single person.
Rule: In the appropriate context, “they/their” is a plural pronoun while he/his and she/her are singular. So, if you’re writing about someone who is previously identified as one male or female, “they” is no longer grammatically correct.
Clue: Are you referring to one person who identifies as either male or female? Or are you talking about a group of people or someone who wishes to remain gender-neutral? Attention to context is important with this grammar rule.
Why good grammar matters.
In the age of Twitter shorthand and texting shortcuts, good grammar and spelling are taking a beating. But according to experts in business communications, they’re still relevant.
If you take time to edit your writing – whether it’s an email to a peer or superior, a sales pitch to a potential client, or a summary of work you’ve completed – your message holds more weight when your grammar and spelling are accurate.
I always encourage my fellow writers to “make friends with good writing.” You can learn to avoid common grammar mistakes with my WordTrippers program. Sign up and have writing tips delivered to your inbox!
Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you communicate effectively:
What grammar miscues trip you up? Please share them here.