Spelling and grammar are important factors that can help show that you’re intelligent. Or if you’re not careful, they can backfire and make you look unprofessional. No one is saying that you have to be perfect. Certainly, in copywriting and in blogging, perfection is neither needed nor wanted. But, there are some spelling and grammar errors that stand out as ones that you should avoid at all costs.

Your and You’re

This one seems simple on its face but it has become a habit for people to be lazy and not think about what they’re saying. “You’re” is a contraction for “you are” and “your” shows possession. The best way to avoid this is to say the sentence out loud without the contraction. If the word “are” doesn’t belong, then you know what is right.

Example: Your writing is great but you’re too long-winded.

If you say this out loud it sounds right: Your writing is great but you are too long-winded.

To, Too, and Two

The best way to avoid making a mistake with this one is to think about what the words mean. “To” is used connect things, “too” means “also” and “two” is a number. Now when you think about how to form a sentence using these words, you can easily figure out which one should be used.

Example: I am going to the store to buy two cokes and I hope you’ll come too.

Try writing this sentence replacing “two” with the number 2 and “too” with “also” and it works.

I am going to the store to buy 2 cokes and I hope you’ll come also.

There, They’re and Their

The best way to learn this is to learn the definitions of each word as it’s spelled rather than how it sounds. “There” means a destination, “they’re” is a contraction of “they are”, and “their” shows ownership. It might take you a bit of time to get “there” and “their” right, but if you learn to see the “I” and think of ownership you’ll be able to differentiate the words.

Example: They’re over there with their ice-cream making a mess.

Replace the words to makes sure it’s correct.

They are over there with their ice cream.

They are in the ice cream store with John’s ice cream.

Accept and Except

This one can be very confusing because the words sound almost alike. However, they have very clear differences in meaning. “Accept” means to consent to receive something offered, and “except” means to exclude something. The way to remember is that “except” and “exclude” both start with an e.

Example: If you can accept the idea that most of the time I is before E except after C, you will be able to spell better.

Replace the words to understand if you’re correct or not.

If you can consent to the idea that most of the time I is before E other than after C, you will be able to spell better.

Affect and Effect

This one you will see a lot and it’s a little bit harder of a concept. The best way is to understand what each word means outside of how it sounds. “Affect” has to do with making a change or difference, or making someone feel something. “Effect” is like a ramification for an action. So “affect” means “to influence” and “effect” means “results”. Even when you read that, it sounds the same, doesn’t it? The best way to figure this out in this case is to use “affect” as a verb, and use “effect” as a noun.

Example: The anti-acid did not have the effect he hoped it would have and he wished mightily that tomatoes didn’t affect his stomach in that manner.

Let’s replace the words with “results” and “influence” to see what happens.

The anti-acid did not have the results he hoped it would have and he wished mightily that tomatoes didn’t influence his stomach in that manner.

Complement and Compliment

These two are written incorrectly all the time, even if you do have spell checker on your computer. There is literally one letter difference that makes the word mean something totally new. “Complement” with an “e” means that it goes with everything and “compliment” with an “i” means that I like to make flattering remarks to people. Just remember “e” for “everything” and “i” for “I flatter you”.

Example: It’s such a compliment to your profession that you’ve created all these complementary products and services.

Try substituting the words with their meanings.

It’s flattering to your profession that you’ve created all these products and services that go together.

Then and Than

If you edit a lot of content, or read social media a lot, you’ll find this error on many occasions. One letter again and yet so very different. Instead of just listening to the words or just looking at them, you’ll need to associate their meanings to them. “Then” can also mean “next”, while “than” means to compare something to something else.

Example: First go to the game, then go eat dinner at home because the food is better than a fast food place if you plan in advance.

Replace the words with their meanings.

First go to the game, next go eat dinner at home because the food is better compared to eating at a fast food place.

It’s and Its

This one is a lot easier than it looks. The confusion surrounds the use of the apostrophe which is often associated with possessive words. But, in this case it’s really a contraction. Since the word is a contraction of “it is” or “it has”, you would not use it to show possession. The word “its” is the possessive form of “it”, not the plural form.

Example: It’s quite clear that I need to practice my grammar, or its weakness is going to ruin my work.

Instead of rewriting you can simply find out if the word “is or has” fits with the apostrophe or if the word “its” is showing possession. Read it out loud:

It is (instead of “it’s”) quite clear that I need to practice my grammar, or its weakness (shows possession) is going to ruin my work.

These common spelling and grammar errors can make you look unprofessional and uneducated. They’re very simple, yet they can be super-confusing if you’re not thinking as you write. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and that’s okay; it’s how you fix them when you find out about them that matters.

Common Spelling and Grammar Errors That Make You Look Unprofessional
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