Everyone nowadays does one form of business or the other – entrepreneurs, investors, medical professionals, techies, etc. Everyone must know how to write effectively. Everyone who wants to be clearly understood must learn to use grammatically correct sentences.
The Aim of Business Writing
Business writing aims to communicate as effectively and concisely as possible. It should be straight to the point, as most people are busy and don’t want to waste their time reading unnecessarily long messages.
Today’s business world is competitive, and you don’t want to lose a business deal because of writing errors either. The truth is that when your writing contains errors, your readers will assume that you’re not serious, or think you are a novice. Imagine bidding for a contract, with a bid that’s riddled with errors. You will likely lose the contract without so much as a second glance.
Common Business Writing Errors
In this article, we will discuss the common syntax errors that business writers make. Some occur as a result of ignorance, while others arise as a result of an oversight. These can be corrected by reading a message at least twice before sending it.
Before we proceed, let me note that the English Language is not particularly easy, and everyone makes a mistake now and then. It just happens. However, by keeping these tips handy, you can focus and eliminate the most common errors in your writings. It is a gradual process.
Your vs. You’re
“Your” is a possessive pronoun used to convey that something or person belongs to someone. It is used when you are talking about possession. “You’re,” on the other hand, is the contracted form of “you are.” In spoken communication, “you’re” sounds similar to “your,” hence if care is not taken, one can easily confuse the two.
Incorrect: Where is you’re cat?
Correct: Where is your cat?
The tip here is that if you can replace it with “you are” and it will still make sense, then “you’re” is correct. For example, “You’re sweating” can be written out as “You are sweating.”
Me vs. I
I learned when I was young that you couldn’t say “you and me” or “James and me.” While most people may have been corrected, it’s not always wrong to use “you and me.”
It’s incorrect to say, “James and me will work on it tonight.” However, it is correct to say, “Kindly forward the email to James and me.” The correct sentence for the first example is “James and I will work on it tonight.”
The above examples are confusing, right? How do you know when to use “Me” or “I”? The tip for testing which is correct is to remove the other person and say the sentence in your mind. If the sentence still makes sense without the other person, then you are correct. For example, it does not make sense to say, “Me will work on it tonight.” This lets you know that “me” is wrong in the sentence.
There vs. Their
“There” can be quite confusing with “Their.” “There” is used to refer to a place while “Their” is a plural possessive pronoun. It’s used to say that something belongs to several people.
Incorrect: Their will be an executive meeting tomorrow morning by 08:00 am.
Correct: There will be an executive meeting tomorrow morning by 08:00 am.
Correct: They have used up their points allocation for the month.
Sometimes, we know the difference between the two, but we mistakenly write one thinking we have written the other. Knowing that this is a common error should make you double-check each time you use any of those words, so you don’t interchange them.
Its vs. It’s
This pair is notorious for confusing even the most seasoned writers. At a glance, they appear very similar. Yet they are very different. “Its” is a possessive pronoun used to refer to ownership. “It’s,” on the other hand, is a contracted form of “it is.”
Incorrect: Its raining.
Correct: It’s raining.
What I love most about the new printer is its flexibility.
Notice here that not all possessive pronouns have an apostrophe. Another tip to consider is that if it can be replaced with “it is,” then “it’s” is correct. This mistake is so subtle that most people don’t notice it themselves.
Using “They” for a Brand
Brands and other entities are collective and, therefore, should be referred to as singular. You might quickly conclude that the company consists of many people, so it should be “they.” But the reverse is the case. When referring to a brand, the correct pronoun is “it.”
Incorrect: Apple has upgraded their App Store.
Correct: Apple has upgraded its App Store.
Just note that brands and entities are collective nouns and should be treated as singular nouns.
These are stubborn verbs that do not follow the general pattern of past tense, lending with “ed” to denote past tense. For those who are not native speakers, irregular verbs might present a tough time. Examples include:
Present tense: I will sing a song for you tomorrow.
Incorrect Past Tense: I singed a song for you yesterday.
Correct: I sang a song for you yesterday.
These irregular verbs do not follow any format and must be learned individually. Yuck! I don’t like them either. Other examples include swing, hang, drive, fly, swim, arise, etc. There are up to 420 irregular verbs in the English Language.
i.e. vs e.g.
i.e. and e.g. are both abbreviations of Latin words, which explains why it’s so easy to confuse them. “i.e.” in Latin is “id est” which means “that is.” On the other hand, e.g. in Latin is “exempli gratia” which means “Example.”
From their Latin meanings, i.e. is used when you want to explain something further or define it more simply and understandably. E.g. is used to list examples of what you are saying.
Correct: I intend to shop at the new mall this evening, i.e. Super Mall.
Correct: I will like to shop for beverages at the new mall this evening, e.g. milk, sugar, tea, etc.
While this is not a comprehensive list of all the errors you can make in a business writing, avoiding these mistakes can really clean up your next memo. A mistake-free business document can help you keep your audience focused on the message you’re trying to share, which is what’s most important.