In today’s social and digital era, proper spelling, grammar and punctuation in our personal lives has slipped off the radar in place of rapid-fire sharing of content using heavy slang, trending colloquialisms and digital shorthand. But what about in the corporate world? Does it really make much of a difference if something is hyphenated properly or not? Our answer is a resounding yes – writing mistakes do matter!
Correct grammar and punctuation in the professional space is still just as essential now as it was before. Why? Because whether it’s in print, online, in an email or on a billboard, it says a lot about you and your brand. A well-written resume can be the difference between landing your dream job and not even making the interview process; a precisely-crafted letter can persuade your audience to respect your advice and take action; and a media release that’s properly constructed is more often than not the difference between securing a great news feature and having it deleted from a journo’s inbox.
If you’ve ever wished you had listened more in class when these seemingly-boring things were taught, never fear! Improve your writing one apostrophe at a time with our top 10 writing mistakes to avoid.
An organisation is a single entity, so you would say P4 Group is promoting this blog, not P4 are promoting this blog. Think about it like this – Sophie is also a single entity, and you wouldn’t say Sophie are promoting this blog, would you? This is known as subject-verb agreement. (TIP: collective nouns are also singular, so the same rule applies when referring to teams, departments and groups).
There is only one instance where it is appropriate to use an apostrophe in this word, and that’s when it’s a contraction of ‘it is’. So if the sentence doesn’t make sense saying ‘it is’ in place of ‘its’, then you know you don’t need the apostrophe.
No, it’s not a delicious ice-cream…it’s the annoying use of a comma where a full stop or semicolon should be used. In other words – don’t join two separate sentences with a comma when they will each serve as a standalone sentence.
Apostrophes should never be used in a plural. For example, ‘I’m having a 1920s party’, not a 1920’s party. And you have three dogs at home, you don’t have three dog’s at home.
Hyphens are so important, and yet they are so under-used in written language. Hyphens serve many purposes (in fact, as many as 20!), and act as the glue to show connection between two words. Use a hyphen between two words that modify a noun, for example an on-brand messaging or state-of-the-art design. Other times to use a hyphen include to show ages (two-year-old child), family relations (great-grandfather), fractions (two-thirds), prefixes before proper nouns (mid-December) and many more!
In contrast to hyphens, capitals are extremely overused. They should be used only to start a sentence, as an acronym (NASA), initial or proper noun (McDonald’s). It’s the proper nouns that trick people up most often. For example, Queensland requires a capital; state does not. Brisbane requires a capital; but the city does not. Generally speaking, if the word is not a part of an actual name for something (Sheraton Hotel vs. the hotel) then it doesn’t need a capital.
One of the most common writing mistakes is capitalising job titles. Account Director should actually be in lower case, however because it has become common practice to capitalise titles, the general rule we go by is to keep it consistent whichever way you write it.
A quick and easy way to determine which to use is to identify if the two parts of the sentence have equal weighting (use a semicolon), or if the first section can’t stand on its own (use a colon). Most commonly, colons are used to introduce lists. Within the list, however you choose to end each bullet point (comma, semicolon, nothing) is fine, as long as it’s consistent.
Ever struggled with ‘the media is’ vs. ‘the media are’? Further to Point 1 (is vs. are), whenever you’re using a Latinate plural (e.g. media meaning more than one medium; data meaning more than one datum) it should be followed by ‘are’, not ‘is’. For example, even though it’s very common practice, writing the media is friendly is actually incorrect because the word ‘media’ is a plural. The best way to think about it is to replace the word ‘media’ or ‘data’ with the word seagulls. Would you say the seagulls is friendly? No – and so the same goes for Latinate plurals.
This is one of the most common writing mistakes thanks to Microsoft Word American-ising our Spellcheck. Words like ‘organise’ and ‘capitalise’ are spelt with an ‘s’, not a ‘z’. Keep an eye out for Spellcheck automatically changing your correctly-spelled Australian words to the American version and make sure the spelling of these words stays consistent.
Sentences should never be difficult to follow, or contain too many different trains of thought. To reduce reader fatigue, eliminate excessive comma use, and maintain flow, read the sentence to someone else out loud. If need be, restructure it by splitting equally-weighted phrases into separate sentences.