Grammar Mistakes to Avoid
Updated: Mar 3, 2021
If you’re reading this, chances are you're not the type of person who draws their head into their neck like a cringing turtle when they see a grammar mistake on the internet. But, mistakes in writing on social media or a web page, while understandable for the ordinary user, can be harmful to a brand’s image online and may reduce web traffic. Here are several examples of mistakes in grammar or spelling to be mindful of when posting content on the internet:
“Your” vs “You’re”
“You’re” is a contraction for “you are,” and “your” is the possessive of “you.”
You never want to get caught using the wrong “your/you’re.” Not only will Twitter folks eat you alive, but it just looks unprofessional when *you’re* a business trying to make *your* point.
And definitely don’t mistake it with “yore.” Unless you’re from the 1500s, I doubt you’d even use this word.
“Their,” “They’re,” and “There”
“Their” is the possessive of “they.” “They’re” is a contraction for “they are.” “There” is a location, as in “I’m going *there* tomorrow.”
Again, it just looks unprofessional when you use the wrong one, and sometimes the meaning of your message can become confusing to the viewer.
“It’s” vs “Its”
“Its” is the possessive of “it,” and “it’s” is a contraction for “it is.”
If you’re a parent consoling your child who’s crying about a one-eyed doll, you might tell them, “*It’s* not broken. The doll is just missing *its* eye.”
Verbs Following “Would have,” “Could have,” and “Should have”
When using any of these phrases (or any phrase with “have” before a verb, e.g. “I have not…”), make sure that you are using the correct form of the verb that follows.
For example, the verbs “run,” “come,” “do,” and “go” tend to be incorrectly conjugated in these cases. The correct ways to conjugate the verbs are
Have “run” (not “ran”)
Have “come” (not “came”)
Have “done” (not “did”)
Have “gone” (not “went”)
Therefore, you would say something like “I would have *come* to your party if I hadn’t *gone* to work so late.” This form of verbs is called a “past participle,” and you can learn more about them here.
“Then” vs “Than”
“Than” is used when you make a comparison. “Then” is used when you talk about time or the order of events.
For example: “Pepsi is much sweeter *than* Coca-Cola” and “She said she went to the store *then* came back home.”
Capitalizing Names of Seasons
The four seasons (summer, fall, winter, and spring) are not capitalized, as they are not proper nouns. They aren’t like days of the week, months, people names, or country names.
A good way to remember this is that you can use a season name the way you use the word “year”: “I went there one summer and had a lot of fun.”
(The word “autumn” isn’t capitalized either!)
No one can really blame you for making this error on a personal social media account, but a business should still avoid it. A comma splice is when you join two independent thoughts (or “clauses”) with a comma. (Ever heard of a “run-on” sentence?”)
For example: “I’ve eaten there before, the food is really good.”
In the above sentence, you would need either a period, a semicolon, or a comma with a coordinating conjunction (words like “and,” “but,” “so,” etc.) to separate the two clauses. The reason is that both parts of the sentence contain a complete thought, which means that alone they serve as a full sentence.
A correct version would be: “I’ve eaten there before. The food is really good.”
Here’s an example of a comma splice on a restaurant’s website (the name of the restaurant is censored). There should be a comma before “and” because “we never skimp on portions” is a complete thought.
“It” vs “They” When Talking About a Business
It’s very tempting to say “they” when referring to a business, but it’s always “it” when you’re talking about one business. You might feel comfortable saying “I’m the social media manager of Wendy’s. I create *their* content.” The correct way to say the second part is “I create *its* content.”
A good way to remember this rule is that you wouldn’t say, “Wendy’s *make* good burgers.” You would say, “Wendy’s *makes* good burgers” because Wendy’s is an “it,” and *it* makes good burgers.
Other Errors to Keep in Mind
While this has more to do with making your message clearer than actual grammar, make sure you’re being consistent. If you capitalize the word “company” on your website in reference to your own business, make sure you capitalize it everywhere on your website. If you have headlines or titles in a certain font size, keep all them in that size.
Everyone makes typos, but sometimes they can completely change the meaning of your message. Make sure to proofread your content before publishing it. And don’t click “publish” with a word that you don’t know how to spell before looking it up.
Here’s an example of a restaurant’s poorly written website. “We” is not capitalized, a comma is missing between “menu” and “but,” and a period is missing after “unavailable.” The major typo, though, is “became” instead of “become.”
Here’s an example of a cafe whose story has a few errors. “Place” shouldn’t really be capitalized, as it’s not a proper noun. Also, it seems pretty obvious that you can “go” to this place, so I doubt the sentence should say “where you can go, relax and enjoy...” as if those three actions are of equal rank. It should say “where you can go to relax and enjoy…”
In general, grammar and spelling are important for a business to create its message. While the average person may not need to get every comma exactly right, a brand should if it wants to be taken seriously. So call out businesses, but go easy on your friends.