Grammar Mistakes on the Rise: Five Tips to Keep from Similar Disasters

Relying on word programs that highlight errors won’t alert you to malapropisms. From a spelling perspective, there is nothing wrong with saying that Lance Armstrong was caught using rugs. Many people use rugs from time to time. Lance, on the other hand, was newsworthy for allegedly using drugs.

Last month while reading an online article on new technology, my eyes were distracted by an ad. It featured a beautiful steaming cup of coffee surrounded by lush coffee beans and bright yellow letters telling me to “Make it a great Monring.” Maybe their copy editor needed one more cup before hitting publish. It’s easy to see how typographical errors (aka typos) can slip past web editors. Similarly, in a world of NP, LOL, SMH and LMK, some of the basic rules of grammar can quickly be forgotten. Grammar mistakes and typos do add up. Grammarly, an online software program that helps folks avoid language problems, recently conducted a review of Linked-In profiles and found that those who failed to progress to a director-level position within the first 10 years of their careers made two-and-a-half times as many grammar mistakes as their director-level colleagues. Before you press publish on your latest newsletter, here are a few examples of marketing mistakes and tips to avoid similar disasters.

The most common mistake may be the failure to use apostrophes appropriately – and “Lets” versus “Let’s” is the biggest offender. If you are root root rooting for the home team, the appropriate phrase is always Let’s Go.  Similarly, the you, your, you’re array of options seems to flummox the greatest of internet writers, including big brands like Verizon. You may want to make a note to always double check your content for this potential landmine.

Spelling mistakes, like the Good Monring I was so cheerfully wished by the coffee company above, often happen when the graphics involved are special or complex. In the coffee example, the text was graphically perfect. It was the just right shade of pale yellow to pop against those gorgeous dark roasted beans. Similarly, Mitt Romney’s campaign did an incredible job with crisp and clean graphics when it extolled the candidate’s plan to make A Better Amercia.

Finally, relying on spellcheck or the function in word processing programs that highlights errors won’t alert you to malapropisms (using the wrong word). For example, from a spelling perspective, there is nothing wrong with saying that Lance Armstrong was caught using rugs. I too use rugs from time to time. Lance, on the other hand, was newsworthy for allegedly using drugs. Similarly, if I wrote about a new pogrom to change employees’ benefits, I would not have made a spelling error. I definitely wouldn’t endorse a plan for mass genocide of a group of people, and would instead have rather written about a new program to change employees’ benefits.  

Aside from keeping an eye on your apostrophes, watching for spelling errors in complex graphic design and not relying on spellcheck, how can you ensure you avoid mistakes? A few online editing tools could be helpful. While Grammarly, noted above as having performed the relevant survey, has gotten a fair amount of attention, I also think that the online tool Hemingway Editor can be of great use to content creators. That tool, an online interactive one, touts itself as highlighting lengthy, complex sentences and common errors. It helps writers avoid dense and complicated writing.  It also highlights phrases that use the passive voice. Find the program at  Grammarly, on the other hand, has more breadth to its application. It is a tool that can embed into your use of various programs including social media, documents and projects, and email and messaging.  You can learn more about Grammarly at

Lastly, the best way to avoid making grammar mistakes or potentially embarrassing typos may be to keep your content as short and simple as possible. And the best way to make sure that happens is to give yourself plenty of time. Years ago, I worked for a former editor at the Washington Post. His advice when presented with a grammar conundrum by two young editors at a magazine was to “Write a better sentence.” You are more likely to write coherently and without errors when you fully understand both your subject and your audience. Taking time to plan your content allows you to focus on common trouble spots, like your/you’re. Time and planning also ensure that you don’t skip over fully viewing your graphics for both looks and spelling. You also need plenty of time for proofreading to make sure you don’t mention a hat where a that was planned. And lastly, time allows you to run your content through either an in-person editor or online version of one.

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