Nobody is going to get excited about grammar, I know! However, it can be detrimental to your business if you get it wrong.

The following examples will not only help you with the copy you are using to sell the products on your website but also in all areas where you need to look professional. This is by no means an exhaustive list but it will be a good reference guide for your general writing.

Let’s start with the most common mistakes I see regularly.

Your vs. You’re

This is a very common mistake.

“Your” is a possessive pronoun. “your book” or “your home.” “You’re” is a contraction for “you are” “You’re stopping me from studying.”

It’s vs. Its

“It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” “Its” is a possessive pronoun.  “The Emu is known for its inability to fly.” An easy way to remember is to say the sentence out loud using “it is” instead. If it doesn’t sound right then, “its” is likely right.

There vs. Their vs. They’re

“There” can be used as a reference to a place. “Let’s go over there.” or as a pronoun “There is no chance.” “Their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their books” or “their ideas.” An easy way to remember is to ask yourself “Does it belong to someone?”

“They’re” is a contraction for “they are” “They’re all dressed and ready to go to school.”

Affect vs. Effect

This is a tricky one and I still have to think about it before I write.

“Affect” is a verb, as in “The thunder clap might affect your hearing.” “Effect” is a noun, and can usually be used as a result of an action. “I don’t think it will have an effect on my hearing.”

The Terrible Twos

“Two” is a number
“Too” means also
“To” is the preposition that indicates transfer or direction as in “give it to Glenn”, or “I’m going to the shop.”

Capital letters

  • The first letter in a sentence is always a capital letter.
  • Proper nouns start with a capital letter. Proper nouns are the names of people (Glenn), places (Victoria) and things (Brisbane River).
  • The names of the days of the week and months of the year begin with a capital letter. (Saturday, July)
  • Abbreviated names are also in capital letters. (ATO – Australian Tax Office)
  • The names of languages are always written with a capital letter. (French, German, Australian)
  • Names that represent ethnic groups and nationalities should also be capitalised. (Greek, Serbs, Basques)

Punctuation

  • All sentences must end with either a full stop (.), exclamation mark (!) or question mark (?).
  • Always only use one punctuation mark. Using more than one is a common error.

Apostrophe

  • An apostrophe stands for either a missing letter or ownership.
  • When a person owns something, the apostrophe comes before the ‘s. When more than one person owns something, the apostrophe comes after the s’.

The boy’s dog chased the car. (One boy has a dog)

The boys’ dog chased the car. (More than one boy owns the dog)

  • If a word ends with an ‘s’ then you do not add another ‘s’. Just add the apostrophe after the existing ‘s’.
  • An apostrophe can replace a missing letter.

I am the owner of this business = I’m the owner of this business

We will be arriving soon = We’ll be arriving soon

  • Apostrophes are not needed after numerals, letters and common acronyms (70s, 80s, DVDs, xl, 2s)

Numbers

  • It is usual grammar to spell out a single-digit whole number and use numerals for numbers greater than nine.

I need six red pairs of shoes.

I need 11 red pairs of shoes.

  • However it is acceptable to be consistent within a summary. If you choose numerals because one of the numbers is greater than nine, then you should use numerals for all numbers in that summary. If you choose to spell out numbers because one of the numbers is a single digit, then spell out all the numbers in that summary.

I bought 10 apples although I already had 6 at home.

I bought ten apples although I already had six at home.

Only four of the students were able to attend all 8 of the games, however another two students attended 4 of the games.

(Students are represented with words; games are represented with figures.)

Plurals and Singular

  • The rule here is if you are using a singular noun in a sentence then you use the singular verb.
  • If you are using a plural noun then you use the plural verb.

The birds are flying over our heads.
The bird is flying over our heads.
Our dog barks at the postman.
Our dogs bark at the postman.
I am smiling.
We are smiling.

  • Remember a noun is the name of something (bird, dog, I) and the verb is the action or doing word (flying, barking smiling). There should be at least one verb and one noun in all sentences.

Extra Tips

E-MAIL vs. EMAIL

It is accepted now to only use the spelling Email.

ALL RIGHT vs. ALRIGHT

“Alright” is not a word that you would use in copy, only use “all right”.

A LOT vs. ALOT vs. ALLOT

A lot of people make the mistake of writing alot when they mean a lot. Try not to do this because “alot” is not a word. There is, however, such a word as “allot,” as in this sentence: I will allot you each seat before the show begins.

ALL TOGETHER vs. ALTOGETHER

All together is an entire group (as a adjective) and altogether (as a adverb) refers to something in its entirety.

I just wanted to get the children all together so we could feed them lunch, but they were altogether too busy playing.

AMOUNT vs. NUMBER

Amount is used for money amounts and for things that cannot be physically counted.
Number refers to things that can be counted.

You shouldn’t talk about people as an amount, always refer to people as a number.

Similarly, things that are numbered must be described as being more or fewer, not more or less.

There are fewer people living in Brisbane than in Melbourne.    There are less people living in Brisbane than in Melbourne.                                                 

EVERY DAY vs. EVERYDAY

Everyday is an adjective, meaning “ordinary” or “commonplace,” as in “everyday people” or “everyday occurrence.”

Every day is used here as an adverb identifying how often something takes happens. When you say every day you mean each day without exception. “You have been late for school every day this week.”

Commas

When writing a list it is appropriate to use commas between words. “You mustn’t forget to take your books, pencils, rubber and ruler today.”

Use a comma and a conjunction (and, but, for, yet, or, so) to connect two independent clauses as in “She threw the dart well, but she just missed the target.”

Quotation Marks Adjacent to Full Stops

When should a closing quotation mark precede or follow a full stop?

This depends on the context of the sentence.

My mother said, “ My children are all at school.”

The full stop comes before the closing quotation mark because the quoted words form a complete sentence by themselves.

The plural of “bird” is “birds”.

This time the full stop comes after the closing quotation mark to show the end of the sentence.