Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Common Writing Mistakes--Part 1

We've all been told that when you write something for your online readers you write as if you're talking to them. And while it's good advice it's not as easy as it sounds.

You see, when you talk to someone you don't have to worry about how things are spelled or what punctuation to use. However when you write you don't want to throw your reader off with a lot of glaring mistakes.

Now no one is perfect and we all make make an occasional writing mistake. I know because I've not only seen the occasional error on others' sites but I've also had some of mine pointed out to me by my readers. And although we're all going to make a few mistakes the goal is to keep them to a minimum.

So this week and next week I'm going to go over 2 areas where the most common online writing mistakes are made. This week we'll cover 3 of the most common types of improper word usage.

3 Types of Improper Word Usage

  1. Contractions that sound like other words:

    There - Their - They’re

    * There indications a location.

    * Their is the possessive version of they.

    * They’re is a contraction, short for they are.

    Its - It’s

    * Its is the possessive version of it.

    * It’s is a contraction, short for it is.

    Your - You’re

    * Your describes the possessor as someone else.

    * You’re is a contraction, short for you are.

    Were - We're

    * Were is the plural version of was.

    * We're is a contraction, short for we are.

  2. Sound alike words:

    Know - No

    * Know is usually a verb meaning to understand.

    * No is a negative reply, refusal or disagreement.

    To - Too - Two

    * To is a function word to indicate relative position.

    * Too can indicate excessiveness or in addition to.

    * Two is the number 2.

    A lot - Allot - Alot

    * A lot is an indication of amount.

    * Allot means to distribute.

    * Alot is not a word.

  3. Common misused words:

    Loose - Lose

    * Loose is an adjective, the opposite of tight or contained.

    * Lose is a verb that means to suffer a loss.

    Choose - Chose

    * Choose is a present tense verb meaning to select.

    * Chose is a past tense verb meaning to select.

    Effect - Affect

    * Effect is usually a noun meaning result.

    * Affect is usually a verb meaning to influence.

    I.e. - E.g.

    * I.e. means in other words.

    * E.g. means for example.
You may think that using a good HTML editor or word processor will help you catch these types of common mistakes. Actually an HTML editor won't help at all and a word processor will help but it won't catch or fix all of them.

For example, I found that my version of Word:

  • caught and automatically fixed the your - you're usage

  • caught and highlighted the chose - choose usage but didn't fix it

  • didn't catch the were - we're usage

And neither FrontPage or Nvu caught any of them.

So the next time you're writing an email message, article or web page remember to use your tools to check your spelling and word usage and then carefully proof read what you've written. Making an occasional mistake is 1 thing however making lots of mistakes or the same mistake several times can really hurt your credibility.

If you liked today's tip or would like to add to the list please leave a comment. - Thanks.

To Your Success,


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