Three Grammar Rules that Will Make You Look Smart


Even if you hire the top guns to write your web pages and other marketing content, you need to avoid the kinds of routine writing mistakes that will erode your brand.

Small business owners often make these gaffes in emails, proposals, and presentations. They can make you look unprofessional, sometimes downright stupid.

Increasingly, business people fumble the language ball because they count on spell check or auto correct to catch their mistakes. Often the flubs “sound” right.

I’m not referring to the silly old rules that don’t help us understand each other, such as prohibitions against dangling prepositions and sentence fragments. Just as business casual has replaced three-piece suits, so a more conversational approach to grammar has overtaken rigid formalities.

But agreeing to what we mean by a certain spelling or use helps us understand each other. This kind of grammar matters. The Harvard Business Review agrees.

A study of LinkedIn profiles by Grammarly’s Brad Hoover backs me up too.

Fortunately, you need to focus on only a few simple rules, which reflect the most common goofs I see with executives, small business owners, and professionals.

Here they are.

  1. Confusing contractions and possessive pronouns, especially “you’re” with “your” and “it’s” and “its.” Never, ever embarrass yourself by writing “its’.” This rhyme should help: It's, apostrophe, means it is. Its is possessive, just like his.
  2. Mixing up sound-alike words, such as writing “except” when you mean “accept” or “horse” when you want “hoarse.”

    You can learn more about these rules and see more examples here.
  3. Misusing “I” or “myself” to avoid writing “me.” Many people mistakenly believe this will please the ghost of their grammar teacher or make them look humble. In fact, "me" is often the correct choice and “myself” should be your pick only when you’re writing about something you did yourself. There's more about me, I, and myself here.

So that's it: three simple rules. Apply them and you'll look smarter.

Class dismissed.

Image via Flickr

About the Author

Barb Sawyers

Barb Sawyers is the founder of Sticky Communication, a site dedicated to turning good talkers into great writers so they can connect with more people. With 30 years of experience and a master’s degree, her simple formula is captured in her book and online learning series, Write Like You Talk Only Better.

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