Do you realize that every written word you produce is a reflection on you, your company, your products and your services? At Stokes, we take quality very seriously. We all know what our strengths and weaknesses are. There are several copywriters and proofreaders employed at Stokes and we each have our own unofficial “specialty.” Mine is commas. “Keep Calm and Use Commas” posters were made for our office and I like to think I inspired them. Deirdre is who I go to when I need to interpret an AP Style Guide rule. Nicole has got the best handle on the most current social media terminology. We work together to produce work of the highest possible quality in everything we do – whether video, web, or print.
No matter what business or industry you are in, quality and attention to detail are attributes you would like your client base to associate with you. Spellcheckers, manual proofreading and trying to avoid common grammatical pitfalls are some simple ways you can ensure all your written correspondence – both casual and professional – present you in the best possible light.
General proofreading tips include writing a draft to let your thoughts flow uninterrupted and then rewriting, making corrections as you go along; always remembering to fact check details and dates; using a spellchecker; and having someone else proof your final copy (at Stokes we call this “fresh eyes”). Naturally, the more spelling and grammar knowledge you have to begin with, the easier the writing process will be. I’ve compiled a list of the most common errors I see when proofreading and added a little advice to each for avoiding these errors:
1. It’s and Its/Who’s and Whose
If you can substitute it is, use it’s. If not, then use its, even though you are showing possession.
Correct: It’s time to give the dog its supper.
If you can substitute who is, use who’s. If the usage is possessive, use whose.
Correct: Who’s going to pay for all this damage? Whose camera was damaged in the accident?
2. They’re, Their and There
If you can substitute they are, use they’re. Their is possessive – something must belong to them. Always use there to indicate a place or location. Correct: They’re going to the movies and will use their Fandango gift cards when they get there.
3. Comma Splices
A comma splice is a type of run-on sentence. It is a term used to describe the linking of two independent clauses (phrases that have both a subject and a verb) with a comma. The two
independent clauses can be made separate sentences or they can be joined using a semicolon or a comma with a conjunction.
Incorrect: I got up late, I didn’t have time for breakfast.
Correct: I got up late; I didn’t have time for breakfast. I got up late, and I didn’t have time for breakfast. I got up late. I didn’t have time for breakfast.
Apostrophes are most commonly used to make contractions and to make nouns possessive. (Except for the possessive form of it and who; see #1 above.)
Contractions are the easier of the two to figure out, but a contraction that seems to give people trouble is the contracted form of should have, would have or could have. Use should’ve, would’ve or could’ve, NOT should of, would of or could of.
There are just a few simple rules to making nouns possessive. To make singular nouns possessive, add ‘s. Correct: The boy’s shoes were new. The team’s trip was sponsored.
To make plural nouns possessive, add ‘s or just an outside ‘ if the word ends in s.
Correct: The women’s choir performed at a retirement home. The residents’ applause indicated how much they enjoyed the concert.
5. Subject-Verb Agreement
A singular subject goes with a singular verb, and plural subjects go with plural verbs. Sounds simple, but remember: words like team and staff are singular nouns.
Correct: Honesty was what he was known for. Many projects we worked on were nominated for awards. The team is struggling to move up in rank. The teams were struggling to reach first place in the division.
I hope this list is helpful. Please send any questions or comments to me and I will answer them in a future blog post. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need Deirdre’s “fresh eyes” to go over this before we publish …
– Elena Malfi (Executive Assistant to the President)
The opinions in this blog post are my own and do not necessarily represent Stokes Creative Group, Inc.’s positions, strategies or opinions.
Any questions or comments please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.