Grammar Fails and 3 Tips to Avoid Them

Grammar Fails and 3 tips to Avoid Them

Why grammar, punctuation and clean copy matters for your business.

For most business owners, you have a website, a social media platform (you should!), and marketing materials such as business cards or a brochure, at the very least. If you’re killing it, you also have a blog. Well done. But what can set all those efforts in communication and marketing back tenfold? Bad grammar and incorrect punctuation. “Bah!” you say. “I’ve never been good at grammar or punctuation.” As a business owner, this is just one more arena in which you need to step it up. Nothing says “unprofessional” or invalidates your authority as an expert as much as poor copy can. In fact, it can be downright embarrassing. Cringe-worthy, even. Worse, it can make you look like an idiot.

Case in point, devastating grammar fails:

  Grammar Fails

Totally upholding those standards, eh?

Grammar Fails

Not quite the level of learning one hopes for their children.

Even some of the biggest brands in business are guilty of foregoing a simple spell check from time to time and dropping major grammar fails, often with disastrous results:

grammar fails

There’s that egregious apostrophe.

grammar fails

“Amercia” the great.

Did you laugh? I sure did. Are you glad it was them and not you? Youbetcha. The sad part? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of grammar fails in business popping up every day. Is this a club you really want to join? Methinks not. All bad grammar and punctuation aside, careless copy can hurt your bottom line. Adweek quotes a poll conducted by Global Lingo which found “…74% of consumers pay attention to the correctness of the prose on company websites, and 59% of respondents said they would avoid doing business with a company that’s made obvious errors.” Supporting the importance of perfect prose is a study done by  Standing Dog Interactive. It found that 24% of people polled were “somewhat” bothered by errors, but that it depended on the type of error (typo, grammatical, consistency, etc.) to really get their blood boiling to the point of abandoning ship… or purchase. A measly 3% said they didn’t care. Fuggedabout them. So what do you do if you aren’t a grammatical whiz or punctuation perfectionist? Never fear. To get you started on the path to perfect prose, here are three common grammatical or punctuation mistakes to avoid so you don’t become the laughing stock of the business world and find yourself a grammar fail on Google Images.

1. Apostrophes don’t form plurals.

Not apostrophes’ or (heaven forbid) apostrophe’s, because you know why? You don’t use apostrophes to create plural forms of words. An apostrophe indicates possession (Layla’s orange ball) and indicates when a contraction has been formed (I can’t even), but never to form plurals. Get. It. Out. Of. There.
  • My cats are all in a tizzy. (Plural form of cat. More than one cat. Correct)
  • My cat’s are all in a tizzy. (Singular possessive. Incorrect. Your one little cat’s what is in a tizzy?)
  • My cats’ are all in a tizzy. (Plural possessive. Incorrect. Your many cats’ whats are in a tizzy?)

2. Use the right word: Your vs. You’re

Your – This is a possessive adjective. The possessive form for you. This almost always comes before a noun or pronoun. (ex: Your teeth. Your cat. Your odor.) You’re – This is a contraction of you are. Read out your sentence. You’re can always be replaced by you are. If it can’t, it’s wrong. Always. (ex: You’re going to be sorry. You’re now enlightened.)

3. Use could have instead of could of

“She could of bought the farm” is incorrect. Why? Because could of  is a grammatical gaffe from people confusing the contraction of could have (could’ve) to be could of. I get it; in speaking it sounds similar. Nope. “She could have bought the farm.” Or “She could’ve bought the farm.” End of story.

Remember, everything you put out into the world reflects back on your business. Aside from your killer products or services, that also includes misspellings, bad grammar, and poor punctuation. Don’t let customers or potential customers get tripped up on sloppy copy—spell check, proof, and edit. And when in doubt, hire a professional to make sure your message shines through free of glaring mistakes. I may just know a company with a pretty stellar copywriter.

Don’t buy it? Read more about the importance of clean copy in this article by Huff Post.

Or how Pepsi’s grammatical errors gave Coke an advantage:

Enjoy more grammatical disasters here:

And here:

Molly McGill

Senior Writer