Top 10 List: Writing Pet Peeves
I got some help from my family to put together this year-end list. Perhaps we’re a bit unusual, but we’ve always pointed out mistakes on signage or in written materials — even as kids. Sound boring? Not to us! Here’s a text my youngest sister sent me shortly after we discussed pet peeves: “Its nice two no your home.” She followed up by saying it was extraordinarily difficult to write that mistake-filled sentence. Did you catch all four errors?
If that made you chuckle — or even if it didn’t — enjoy our pet peeves list:
1. Misuse of its and it’s. This is so simple. It’s always is a contraction of it is. Always. Its is a possessive. It’s a shame the company has lost its mojo.
2. Misuse of who and that. When you refer to a person or people, use who, not that. The people who live in Florida are dealing with unusually cold weather.
3. Misuse of there, their and they’re. There is usually an adverb meaning “in or at that place,” their is a possessive pronoun and they’re is a contraction of they are. They’re going there to relieve their stress.
4. Overuse of quotations. Why does a restaurant serve “fresh coffee” or provide “great service”?
5. Overuse of capitalization. Your company doesn’t warrant a capital c, nor does federal warrant a capital f — even in the context of federal government.
6. Overuse of that. In many instances, that can be removed from a sentence without altering its meaning. In the italicized sentence in #1, for instance, some might write that after shame, but why?
7. Pronoun misuse. They, them and their should not be used with singular nouns. Wrong: We have a process for when a client forgets their login. Right: We have a process for when clients forget their logins. Note: Using he/she or his/her with singular nouns is clunky; it’s better to rewrite in the plural and use their.
8. Apostrophe misuse. Never use apostrophes to make words plural. Wrong: Many gift’s are headed your way. Right: delete the apostrophe in gifts. Do use them to denote possession: My nephew’s graduation is in June.
9. Failing to use spell check. This handy tool won’t point out misused words — such as many of the examples above — but it will catch misspellings. Turn it on, so you don’t look rediculous.
10. Your welcome. No, you’re welcome.
‘Tis the Season
I believe I wrote something like this last year, but it bears repeating. I can’t speak for everyone who isn’t Christian, but I’m not bothered when people say Merry Christmas to me. For those who wish to be more inclusive, though, Happy Holidays is a safer bet.
Emphasize Names Over Titles
What’s more important — a name or title? I’d say the former, so it surprises me when folks “bury” names behind lengthy titles. Instead of starting a sentence like this — Vice president of human resources, John Smith… — lead with the name: John Smith, vice president of human resources…