Bernice Barrington is an account manager here at Zahra Media Group and an actual published author. Her debut novel, Sisters and Lies, came out last year and you can bet that she had a proper proofreader for that.
There was a time when a proofreader was as integral to publishing as a felt-tip red pen or horn-rimmed spectacles. But as a certain mop-headed crooner once sang: Times they are a-Changin’. Thanks to the worldwide web, anyone can publish his or her thoughts or feelings. The only problem is, not everyone can spell.
Sometimes it feels as if we’ve regressed to a grammatical Wild West, where words no longer hold their original meaning (‘fake news’) and punctuation has been relegated to a zero-hours contract. Far be it from me to suggest that language is a fixed, static entity with no capacity for change or growth; at the same time, if you are trying to promote yourself or your business as a professional entity, it helps to know the difference between ‘they’re’ and ‘their’.
The truth is, clients, pedants and people with even a passing knowledge of the English language will judge you if your grammar is below par. It shows a sloppiness and lack of attention to detail that may indicate the quality of your work in general. If you can’t be bothered to know where the comma goes, why should they be bothered to pay you their hard-earned cash?
Studies back this up. Grammarly, an English language writing-enhancement platform, analysed the LinkedIn profiles of 100 native English speakers in the consumer packaged goods industry. It 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.
With that in mind, if you’re setting up your own website, writing a brochure or hoping to progress in your career, invest in a proofreader or, at the very least, ask someone with a solid knowledge of the English language to read over your text before you publish it in print or online.
If you need further convincing, consider the following two sentences:
- Let’s eat grandpa
- Let’s eat, grandpa.
Whoever said grammar isn’t a life or death matter has never been in grandpa’s ‘sentence a’ position. Remember: use punctuation correctly. You could save a life.
Some common grammatical pitfalls:
Compliment means to give praise, express admiration or giving congratulations. e.g. ‘She complimented him on his new house’
NB: Complimentary means free, e.g. complimentary water (given as a courtesy)
Complement, on the other hand, means to complete something or to make something perfect. e.g. ‘The colour really complemented her skin tone.’
NB: Complementary medicine (medicine used instead of or in addition to regular medicine).
In everyday speech, affect is a verb. It means to influence something e.g. That movie affected me greatly.
Effect is mostly commonly used as a noun meaning the result or impact of something, an outcome. e.g. That movie had a great effect on me.
However, ‘effect’ can also be used as a verb, meaning: to produce or to cause to come into being e.g. The government was unable to effect any real change during its time in office.
Apostrophes are the bane of the pedant’s life because people constantly misuse them. As a basic rule of thumb, remember they are used to indicate possession e.g. Tom’s coat, the girl’s hairbrush etc.
There is an exception to every rule and here it is:
It’s versus Its
It’s is short for ‘It is’
Its is possessive (despite lack of apostrophe) e.g. the fox is known for its signature red coat.
Beware! Never use an apostrophe to make a word plural. E.g.: You should write 1980s not 1980’s and Tomatoes not tomatoe’s.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynn Truss: Hilarious and educational.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr: An utter classic.
First Aid in English by Angus Maciver: First published in 1938, it explains the basics very clearly.
And if you’d like some help in outsourcing your content, especially to an agency that prides itself on employing real writers, do get in touch!