The Write Stuff
December 2023 Volume 19 Issue 12

2023 top 10 pet peeves

In the tradition of the top 10 movies or books of the year, I’m proud to unveil my own top 10 list featuring the writing and communications mistakes that caused me the most angst this year. Some of these annually make the list because they seem to be ever-present while others are making their first appearance.In no particular order, here we go:1. Misuse of include. If you’re listing all options, use are instead of include.

  • Wrong: The three colors include red, green and white.
  • Right: The three colors are red, green and white.

2. Misuse of single quote marks. In U.S. English, single quote marks should only be used within material already being quoted, like this:

  • “When confronted with an obvious lie, she said, ‘you got me.'”

3. Misuse of their. Their refers to people, not businesses.

  • Wrong: The company released their annual report.
  • Right: The company released its annual report.

4. Misuse of its or it’s. When its is used to denote possession, it doesn’t have an apostrophe—100% of the time, it’s is short for it is.

  • It’s a real shame the company’s latest product doesn’t reflect its storied history.

5. Incorrect capitalization. Non-proper nouns shouldn’t be capitalized.

  • Wrong: The Bank’s Founder is still around.
  • Right: The bank’s founder is still around.

6. Overuse of that. When you start paying attention to your use of that, you’ll find it can often be deleted without affecting the sentence.

  • Okay: The books that we collected are great.
  • Better: The books we collected are great.

7. Misuse of that. That should never be used to refer to people.

  • Wrong: People that are gluten-free have plenty of options.
  • Right: People who are gluten-free have plenty of options.

8. Client versus customer. Choose which you prefer and use it consistently; including both in the same communication can cause confusion. 9. Unnecessary use of upcoming. Only use upcoming when a specific date isn’t mentioned.

  • Okay: Please attend our upcoming seminar on December 20.
  • Better: Please attend our seminar on December 20.

10. Off-the-mark personalization. Do your homework to ensure you’re not wasting resources by sending sales pitches to those who aren’t your target audience. I’m a sole proprietor who has received countless queries regarding my fleet, my HR needs and my janitorial needs—none of which I have.

Time flies

The end of another year is upon us and with it the annual question of whether new year is capitalized. In general usage it isn’t, i.e., I’m looking forward to the new year. It’s only capitalized when referring to the holiday or in the phrase Happy New Year.

Less is more

The enemy of conciseness is redundancy. Here are two examples: giant behemoth and permeated throughout. Behemoth means something enormous and permeated means spread throughout, thus those phrases are redundant.

Published On: December 14th, 2023 / Categories: 2023 /

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