It bothers me when people confuse their, there and they’re.
After last week’s discussion with Collin, I began thinking more about proofreading. It really is a basic tool that all public relations professionals have to utilize. Because good grammar is a necessity for our field, it bothers me that much more when I spot typos or hear someone use an adverb incorrectly. I wish everyone had to take the “Newspaper Fundamentals” course that I took at Auburn University that gave students spelling, word usage and AP style tests, or the grammar test I took before interviewing for my current position at Schroder Public Relations.
So, in an effort to prevent embarrassment for my fellow PR pros, this post is going to remind us of some common proofreading mistakes. We all know that even spell check doesn’t catch every slipup.
One of the most annoying errors I see is a sentence like this: “I’ll meet you their.” Wow. If I receive an email, or even a text, that misuses their, they’re and there, I cringe. Homonyms are tricky. Spell checker didn’t even put a squiggly green line under the mistake above, so it surely won’t notice if you use “no” instead of “know” or “two” instead of “too” or “to.”
Which brings me to word usage. Let’s start with more than vs. over. More than is preferred with numbers, while over generally refers to spatial elements. Someone once told me to think of the nursery rhyme, “The cow jumped over the moon.” That’s worked so far. Also, please remember that the phrase is more than … not then. Farther refers to physical distance, while further refers to an extension of time or degree. And AP says to use that and which in referring to inanimate objects or animals without names.
Toward never ends in an s. Also, according to Daily Writing Tips and me, “anyways” is a “colloquial corruption of ‘anyway.’ I know these are trivial things that are going to overcook some grits, but it’s (not its) important to go back to the basics sometimes. While we’re (not were) at the basics, the proper form of OK is just that, OK. “Okay,” “Ok” and “ok” should not be used according to AP style. (I know a certain editor at New South Publishing will be very happy I included that.)
I know that I have trouble with affect and effect, but a professor once told me just go with the one that sounds right. That obviously doesn’t always work, but just remember that most of the time, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. Or think of the aardvark. The arrow affected the aardvark. The effect was eye-popping.
I could go on for – four – days about other common mistakes, but we all see them everyday … and then point them out to anyone around. Hopefully this PR 101 entry will make you double check all releases and emails before pressing send.
Here are some helpful sites … and some examples of mistakes you don’t want to make:
- PR Daily – 10 things your spell checker won’t catch
- PR Daily – 39 plural forms that might confuse writers
- inkhouse – Twelve Common Mistakes of AP Style
- Vappingo – 10 of The Biggest Proofreading Screwups of All Time
- Grammar Girl – Readers Share Their Funny Errors