9 Common Writing Mistakes That Kill Your Credibility

Common Content Writing MistakesDo you ever have to write any content as part of your business? If you said no, then I can’t imagine what business you’re in, but there’s no need to read the rest of this article. If you do any writing whatsoever, then you’ll probably want to pay attention. 

If you’ve been relying on Word or other programs to tell you when your spelling or grammar are correct, then you’re living with a false complacency that can seriously harm your credibility. There are some very common writing mistakes that I see all the time online. Maybe other people notice them. Maybe they don’t. Either way, if you’re marketing to a readership that is educated in basic English, you could be killing your image as an expert. 

I was discussing this just the other day with my daughter, who shares my high regard for the English language and who often helps me edit some of my PLR content. She agreed to write a guest post covering a few of the most glaring mistakes she’s seen.

Read on to see if you’ve made any of these yourself, or if you’ve noticed them. Then add your own in the comments at the end.

1. Adding images will compliment your articles.

Why It’s Wrong: The improper use of homophones is a common mistake in writing. Words like compliment and complement, affect and effect, plane and plain, sense and cents, etc. are homophones because although they sound similar, they have different meanings.

Make It Right: The correct sentence is, “Adding images will complement your articles”, because to “complement” means to complete or enhance, while to “compliment” means to express admiration or give something freely. Always check a dictionary when in doubt about a homophone!

2. Always follow up with a customer who you meet online.

Why It’s Wrong: Discerning when to use “who” and “whom” can be one of the most complicated tasks when writing. Let’s make it simple: “who” is a subjective pronoun, so it refers to “he” or “she”, while “whom” is an objective pronoun that refers to “him” or “her”.

Make It Right: This sentence should be written “Always follow up with a customer WHOM you meet online”, because you met HIM online.

3. Your always right.

Why It’s Wrong: Ah, the infamous “your” and “you’re”. This type of mistake is becoming less common, but is still alarmingly prevalent in a lot of professional writing. As long as you remember that “your” is a possessive that refers to something you own and “you’re” is a contraction that combines “you” and “are”, you’ll be fine.

Make It Right: “You’re always right” because YOU ARE always right!

4. Mark does more work in a day then most people do in a week.

Why It’s Wrong: I can’t even count how many times I’ve cringed at this common grammar mistake! People often use “then” and “than” interchangeably, but they mean two completely different things. “Then” refers to a time-specific action or event, while “than” compares two or more things.

Make It Right: The writer means to say “Mark does more work in a day THAN most people do in a week,” because he is comparing Mark to most people.

5. This website is very relatable to your topic.

Why It’s Wrong: Relatable is not a word. Repeat after me, relatable is not a word! Just because people use a word in everyday conversation doesn’t mean it is correct. Other common examples of this include “impactful”, “irregardless”, “supposably”, “alot” and “alright”.

Make It Right: This sentence could be written several ways, but I would say “This website is very relevant to your topic. “ When in doubt about a word, look it up in the dictionary! If it’s not there or it has a strange definition, don’t use it.

6. We’re gonna hold a contest on Pinterest tomorrow.

Why It’s Wrong: You are not “gonna” do anything, because “gonna” is not a word. Words like “gonna”, “wanna”, and “gotta” are inventions of the age of texting and pure laziness. Don’t use them unless you want to sound juvenile and uneducated.

Make It Right: “We’re going to hold a contest on Pinterest tomorrow.” Use “going to” instead of “gonna”, “want to” instead of “wanna”, and “have to” instead of “gotta” and you will instantly sound more professional.

7. Richard’s e-book is the reason why I started my blog.

Why It’s Wrong: If you looked at this sentence and thought it sounded just fine, don’t feel bad. This is one of the more difficult grammar mistakes to identify, but one of the easiest to fix! “Reason why” and “reason because” are incorrect because they are redundancies. Instead, say, “reason that” or “because of”.

Make It Right: To correct this sentence, write, “Richard’s e-book is the reason that I started my blog.” Words like “reason” and “because” only need a conjunction to connect them with the second half of the sentence.

8. I visited his store and bought them a book.

Why It’s Wrong: Did that sentence confuse you? It confused me just to write it! Using too many pronouns creates a jumbled sounding sentence like we have here. Who is he? Who are they? You need to clarify the subject at the beginning of the sentence and whenever you change subjects.

Make It Right: “I visited Jack’s store and bought my sons a book.” Make sure to state the name of the person, place, or thing you are talking about at the start of the sentence and always assume that the reader doesn’t know whom you’re talking about!

9. The company did good on its annual report.

Why It’s Wrong: Prepare for my ultimate grammar pet peeve. When my brother was in first grade, his teacher gushed to my parents how GOOD Jacob did on his spelling test. This mistake is so common, it has unfortunately become acceptable in everyday conversation, but it will be sure to annoy your customers as much as it annoys me. “Good” and “bad” are adjectives that modify nouns while “well” and “poor” are adverbs that modify verbs.

Make It Right: “The company did WELL on its annual report,” because the sentence is describing HOW the company did on its annual report, which is a verb. Conversely, the company had GOOD profits this year, because now the sentence is describing the company’s profits, which is a noun.

There we have 9 of the most outrageous, most annoying, and unfortunately most common writing mistakes that will have your customers doubting your expertise. I could probably go on to list 100 more grammar mistakes that set my teeth on edge, how about you? What are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to writing and grammar errors?

Tell us in the comments below and your suggestions might make it into the inevitable Part 2 of this post!

Author: Rachel Sheldon

Rachel Sheldon is an honors high school senior and recipient of several awards for her academic achievements in English. Rachel is currently an editor for Business Content PLR and contributing writer for www.SharynSheldon.com. When she isn’t preparing for college, she loves reading the classics and hunting for antiques.

Image: P^ – Paul on Flickr

Comments

  1. LOL well I have definitely messed up complement, compliment before!! And sometimes I say ‘gonna, wanna, gotta” too he he!

    Great reminders especially if you are writing for a client or selling PLR!

  2. Gotcha! (Oops, I should have told Rachel to add that too.)

    The complement/compliment mix-up drives me crazy, especially since I had people writing articles for me for a wedding site that I co-own. It’s a word that gets used all the time when you talk about things like one color complementing another or a specific wedding favor being a complement to your overall theme, or giving complimentary gifts to out-of-town guests. Guess I’m just a little bit anal about that kind of thing.

    The funniest thing is when my kids correct other people. They used to give me a hard time when I corrected their grammar, but it finally sank in. My son actually said he corrected his teacher the other day when the teacher used “good” instead of “well”. Luckily that teacher had a sense of humor. I told my son to stop being a smart-ass or he’d end up getting a bad grade!

  3. Grate post, Rachel! I wisht Ida wrote it.

    Seriously though, one of my peeves is when people say “less” when they mean “fewer”. Like “The Mercedes has less doors…”

    I think we all have our blind spots. Just ask Sharyn catching me on mine. 😀

    Peggy

  4. Hi Peggy,

    I can’t believe I missed that one, that bothers me to no end too! And don’t worry, my mother would never correct anyone’s grammar…out loud… 🙂

    Rachel

  5. I was raised by a single mom who was a firm believer that no matter what your income level, poor grammar is a sign of laziness. Needless to say, I regularly went through being corrected as a child. The big one that sticks in my mind was the whole “them/those” dilemma. You’re not going to pick up THEM books at school…you’re going to get THOSE books! Of course I then spent about a week or two using both in a sentence as I corrected myself before mom got the chance to!

    My son’s big one was the good/well. My boyfriend was born in Mexico so English is his second language. Surprisingly he knows most of the slang/euphemisms that we use here in the U.S., but that good/well thing he doesn’t deal with at all. I find my son catching me using GOOD where I know better simply from hearing my honey use it so often so I’ve had to become aware again. 🙂

    I do have a question though. It took me a long time with blogging to get comfortable with writing more naturally so that it’s “ME” coming through my blog rather than “me after my English teacher has graded my paper” persona.

    That being said, I certainly use gonna, wanna and gotta…. any thoughts on removing those sort of adapted words without letting go of the conversational me?

    Thanks for the article!!

    Debi J

    • Hi Debi! I’m going to reply to this one since Rachel’s off doing some volunteer work at the moment. I think there’s a lot more you can get away with when you’re blogging than when you write something like an ebook, report or white paper (or any type of printed material as well). It’s really going to depend on your audience and what you feel comfortable with. Still, you can sound casual and personable without making major grammar mistakes. For instance, not every sentence really needs to follow the “subject, verb, object” format. You might just say “Dead simple” on its own. And everyday euphemisms and slang can be appropriate in the right scenario. I’ve used the phrase “no-brainer” and that’s certainly not grammatically correct! There are certain words I just would never feel comfortable writing because they sound uneducated to my ear and take away from someone’s credibility when I see it in writing, even though it might sound ok when spoken. “Gonna” is one of those words. I might use it when I’m talking to someone, but I’d never use it in writing. I once bought an ebook that used the word “gotta” in practically every other paragraph. I finally had to stop reading because it was driving me crazy! Of course, I’m sure there are other people who didn’t care at all. As I said, it depends on your audience and what you feel comfortable with.

      – Sharyn

      • By the way, Debi, I just took a look at your blog and I love it. It’s so funny that we have almost that exact same title and tag line. On my Facebook page, my tag line is “learning to build an online business….one byte at a time”. We must be on the same wave length. Do you have a FB page? Mine is http://www.facebook.com/SharynsInternetMarketingCafe.

        • I agree on the grammar thing. And I took the article as a “everywhere I write” type of idea. In an ebook, Kindle book (unless fiction inside someone’s dialog I suppose) and those types of writings yes, the whole gonna/gotta/wanna is definitely out! 🙂 Good to know I can use it on my blog though or I was GONNA have to spend a lot of time with the Find/Replace button! LOL

          I just had to go check out your blog. That’s funny! (and yes, I suppose great minds think alike eh?) 🙂 I like your FB page too. I have a FB account and I created a page under DebiJ but haven’t gotten over there to do anything with it yet. If you got anywhere near my post about DLGuard you’ll understand why…more technical stuff to learn…ugh!

          Thanks for the compliment and the ideas though. I truly appreciate all feedback. And I will definitely be stalking…er, following you… to see what other insights I can gain from your posts!!

          Debi

          • Wow. Yes, this is why I tire of the technical stuff. I actually went to a link of yours to “check out” your blog…because it didn’t dawn on me that having come to THIS post via Twitter that I was already there! (And to think I used to be a computer programmer!!) LOL

          • Thanks Debi. I’m looking forward to trading tips with you. And don’t even get me started on the technical stuff. I’ve wasted more time trying to figure out that “one little thing” needed to make something work. Squeeze pages are a huge challenge especially. However, I use DLGuard and just did everything with Sam’s step-by-step guidance. (He’s the developer).

            So glad you found me via Twitter too. That’s one area I’m trying to build up. More stuff to learn, of course!

  6. I shake my head at all of those mistakes, but also when people confuse ‘to’ with ‘too’. I don’t really know why this one bugs me more than anything else (well this is almost on a par with your/you’re). Wait, it gets worse – when ‘too’ is written as ‘two’. Arrrghh!

    Everyone is prone to making the odd grammatical mistake, but proofreading is a wonderful thing!

    Now, I sure hope my proofreading eyes are working as I hit the post comment button…

    • Hi Mena!

      Of course! How could we have forgotten the to, too, two mix-up? Proofreading is great, but there comes a time when you have to just publish and know that you missed something. No matter how many times I go back over something I’ve written I’ll find a little edit to make here and there. I always give writers the benefit of the doubt, unless I see the same mistake over and over. Then there’s no mercy. 😉

      – Sharyn

  7. I find myself guilty of sometimes committing those errors. These are all common mistakes that I have overlooked at times because of how basic they were. Now I know I need to be extra cautious to avoid being tricked.

    • Hi Felicia!

      I know what you mean. Even when you know what’s correct, it’s easy to make some grammar mistakes just because there are ones that have become so accepted. You start to wonder when you hear the same mistake over and over, “am I the one who’s wrong?” Luckily, there’s Google there to look up what’s correct!

      – Sharyn

  8. No. 7 almost got me, but one thing I remember from my English classes is to take out unnecessary words, and the sentence makes sense without using ‘why’.

  9. Grammar is king! I must say that I do judge a person’s credibility when I read their writing in regards to spelling and grammar. It’s hard to focus on what you are reading when there are mistakes jumping out at you. I generally ask someone else to read my post before publishing, as I can never seem to catch all the mistakes. 🙂

  10. This article made me laugh and cringe at the same time.. Grammar has always been something that comes naturally to me, so it really baffles me when I see adults that still can’t remember these simple rules! It really does have a great influence on your credibility, which can really affect your reputation as a skilled writer. Some things are forgivable and not so noticeable that anyone would care, but many stick out like a sore thumb!

  11. I may not be a grammar expert. I most certainly don’t always spell everything the right way, but something that annoys the heck out of me is when people use “there”, “their” and “they’re” incorrectly.I mean, come on, this is crap that I mastered back in second grade…

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.