Although basic rules exist for clean writing, not every situation calls for perfect grammar. Language used for advertising and entertainment, for example, leaves tons of room for creative license. When trying to get a reader’s attention, sentence fragments are great for adding emphasis and purposeful rule-breaking can make language interesting and edgy.
When it comes to business writing, however, following conventional rules for grammar and usage is crucial for being taken seriously in a professional environment.
Common Errors Even Strong Writers Make
First, when typing quickly or using the same word repeatedly, it’s easy to type the wrong word by mistake. Since spellcheck only catches misspelled words you’re not alerted to the error if an inappropriate term gets used but is otherwise spelled correctly.
the word manager is easily mistaken for manger; only one letter differentiates the two.
Errors like this are difficult to catch because your brain knows what you mean to say and can auto-correct little mistakes during a quick reread. So, the best trick is to read over your work slowly and out loud—not quietly in your head. When you do this, you’re more likely to read the words as written and not as you want them to be, thereby catching these frequent errors.
Another common mistake involves mismatched pronouns and objects. This rule is especially tricky because it’s acceptable to break when speaking. To start, it helps to remember those pesky grammar exercises from grade school.
Here’s an example sentence:
The restaurant boasts prime steak, locally-sourced seafood, and high-end cocktails on its extensive menu.
The subject in this sentence, restaurant, gets renamed later with the pronoun its. Additionally, understanding form whenever you come across “it’s” vs “its”. When speaking, many use “their” or they as the default pronoun, but in writing singular subjects require singular pronouns and vice versa.
Here’s another example:
When on a first date, a person usually knows if he or she likes the other within the first 3o seconds of contact.
This represents another instance in which using “their” would feel more appropriate in a conversational setting. However, in the example above, person is singular and must get a matching pronoun when written.
Advanced Tips for Business Writing
If it feels awkward to write he or she, there’s a simple way around it. Keep all subjects plural. Instead of words like person, someone, somebody, citizen, or individual, use terms like people, citizens, or individuals. This way, they can be used without error.
Finally, many people use inconsistent language in lists or bullet points. This error is common on resumes since they often utilize bulleted lists. This concept is referred to as parallelism. Although you may be unfamiliar with the term, you’ve likely seen a mistake caused by lack of parallelism and recognized it as wrong but couldn’t explain why. Again, think back to those “What doesn’t belong?” exercises from school. Parallelism is all about consistency.
Even if your job doesn’t require creating lengthy emails or Power Point presentations, something as simple as a resume or cover letter speaks to your overall commitment to accuracy and professionalism. Plus when hiring managers sift through stacks of resumes, they’re likely to toss those which contain typos or grammatical errors. It’s an easy way to thin out applicants.
This article provides a framework to guide you through critiques of understanding professional content. It shows how to concentrate on the most important elements of a piece of writing and not get lost in unimportant details while still maintaining business integrity.