Let's face it. In 2015 typos hid undetected in our writing. So did errors in grammar and punctuation that we would have recognized if we weren't racing to upload, print, or click Send. Mistakes happen.
But some mistakes happen over and over–not just from moving too fast but from lack of understanding. The 10 items below illustrate the top 10 errors I found in people's writing in 2015. Can you find them? One error per item.
- Most of my correspondence is email, however, I also write reports and presentations.
- Thanks for your time, I appreciate it.
- Please feel free to contact Jesse Rosen or myself if you have questions.
- He is responding to a RFP from the public utility.
- Carmen thanks for your help with the newsletter.
- A last minute change in one executive's bio delayed the proposal.
- When the download is complete the device automatically reboots.
- We are honored to have partnered with you on this important project and we look forward to our work together next year.
- Best Regards,
- Please attend the potluck for new members on January 11th.
Did you find one common error per item?
Punctuation is the problem in Items 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, and 8.
A grammar problem appears in Number 3.
Usage is a problem in Number 4.
Capitalization ruins Number 9.
The rendering of a number mars Item 10.
Answer Key With Explanations
- Use a semicolon before however when it connects two sentences. In this example, the first sentence is "Most of my correspondence is email." The second is "I also write reports and presentations." If you choose to, you can start a new sentence with however. But if you link two sentences with however, you must use a semicolon before it and a comma after it, like this:
It is cold outside; however, it is not snowing yet.
- Do not connect two sentences with just a comma. If you do, your sentence will be a run-on. In this example, the first sentence is "Thanks for your time." The second is "I appreciate it." The best way to correct the run-on is to make two sentences. Here's another example:
Call me with any questions. I'm here to help.
- Use the pronoun me–not myself–as an object in a sentence: "Please feel free to contact me." If you get confused about whether you need I, me, or myself, remove other people from the sentence (as I removed Jesse Rosen). Doing so should help you choose the correct pronoun. Use myself only to emphasize an I used earlier in the sentence, like these:
I called everyone myself.
I myself am responsible for the accounts.
- Use the article an–not a–before a word or an abbreviation that starts with a vowel sound: an RFP. Here are more correct examples in which the abbreviation starts with a vowel sound:
an FDA recall an HIV epidemic an LED screen
an MBA an NSA directive an SUV
Note that sometimes an abbreviation is an acronym, which is pronounced as a word:
a NASA news story a FICO score adjustment
- Use a comma to set off the reader's name in a sentence. Item 5 needs a comma after Carmen. If you address the reader in the middle of a sentence, you need two commas, like this:
Congratulations, Robby, on your new job!
- When you use a combined adjective (such as last-minute) before a noun (such as change), connect the parts of the adjective with hyphens. You can recognize combined adjectives because the parts of the adjective cannot stand alone. Examples:
first-quarter sales (not first sales)
two-door vehicles (not two vehicles)
end-of-year activities (not year activities)
- Use a comma after an introductory clause. Introductory clauses begin with words such as when, if, although, while, and as. Examples:
When the process completes, the device reboots.
If he calls, please let me know.
While you were out, this package arrived.
As I was saying, this book is wonderful.
- Insert a comma between two sentences that you connect with the conjunction and, or, but, nor, for, yet, or so. The comma belongs before the conjunction. In Item 8, the comma belongs before and.
- Capitalize only the first word of the complimentary close: Best regards.
- Do not use ordinal number endings such as th and st when you express a date in month-day order. Render the date the way it appears on a calendar. These are correct:
You can use ordinal numbers when you write the day before the month, as in "See you on the 11th of January."
Do you want to stop making common errors in punctuation? Take my self-study course Punctuation for Professionals.
Which errors did you see too often in 2015? Feel free to share them.
Happy new year!