13 February 2024

Don’t Make These Common Grammar Mistakes in Business

By Ronald Smith

Hi there! I’m here to help you avoid some grammar mistakes that people often make in business. Let’s dive right in!


1. Its vs. It’s

One mistake I see a lot is confusing its and it’s. Here’s the trick: its shows possession, like when you say the dog wagged its tail. On the other hand, it’s is short for it is or it has. For example, it’s a pleasure to meet you.

2. Your vs. You’re

Another common mistake is mixing up your and you’re. Remember, your shows possession, like your car or your book. You’re, on the other hand, is short for you are. So, if you’re saying you are happy, you would write you’re happy.

3. They’re vs. Their vs. There

Let’s clear up the confusion between they’re, their, and there. They’re is short for they are, like they’re going to the park. Their shows possession, like their house or their car. Finally, there refers to a place, like over there or there it is!

4. Affect vs. Effect

Using affect and effect correctly can be tricky. Here’s a tip: affect is usually a verb and means to influence something, like the music affected my mood. On the other hand, effect is usually a noun and means the result of something, like the effect of the rain was a flooded street.

5. Lose vs. Loose

Now, let’s talk about lose and loose. Lose is a verb and means to misplace or not win, like I don’t want to lose my keys or we might lose the game. On the other hand, loose is an adjective and means not tight or secure, like my shoes are loose or make sure the screws are not loose.

These are just a few examples of common grammar mistakes people make in business. By being aware of these, and practicing good grammar, you can make a strong impression in your professional communication. Remember, using correct grammar shows that you pay attention to detail and have good language skills. Keep up the good work!

Don't Make These Common Grammar Mistakes in Business

I know you might be spending some of your free time studying English grammar rules, but that alone doesn’t guarantee that your communication skills will improve.

So, let’s dive into one aspect of proper grammar: understanding the difference between the words may and can.

When we use may, we’re talking about permission. You have every right to study English grammar skills in your free time. You may do so.

But here’s the question: can you actually improve? Can is about ability. I hope you have the ability to enhance your grammar skills by studying.

Written and spoken language are how we connect with one another. Now, let’s jump into the 40 most common mistakes that you should avoid.

The 40 Most Common Grammar Mistakes You Should Steer Clear of in Business

When you’re communicating outside of work, it’s possible for a grammar mistake to go unnoticed by your readers.

When it comes to dealing with business partners, they can be pretty unforgiving. Let me share with you the most important rule of business communication:

Before sending any message, always take a moment to read through what you’ve written. And if possible, ask someone else to give it a quick look as well.

Now, let me give you another rule to add to your list:

Recognize that even though you may excel in one area, your writing skills might not be up to par. Don’t leave a negative impression. Make it a habit to double-check your business communication.

Being proficient in writing business English involves having a strong grasp of grammar. One effective way to improve is to learn from common grammar mistakes. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Mistake #1: Comma Splices

If you mix up commas and semi-colons, you’re making a mistake called a comma splice. People often use commas when they don’t need to, leading to too many in a sentence. If you have too many, it’s a sign that you should separate the clauses into separate sentences.

When you want to connect two related sentences, use a semi-colon.

Wrong Example: Don is a good team leader, workers trust his judgement.

Correct Example: Don is a good team leader; workers trust his judgement.

Correct Example: Don is a good team leader and workers trust his judgement.

If you’re unsure about what punctuation to use, it’s okay to use short sentences.

Correct Example: Don is a good team leader. Workers trust his judgement.

2. Sentence Fragments

A sentence fragment is when a sentence is incomplete. This means it doesn’t have the necessary components like a noun and verb. Clauses are also incomplete sentences. People tend to use incomplete sentences when they speak, but it’s not appropriate for written communication.

This can be an easy mistake to make because of how we text. When we text, we often don’t use proper capitalization, punctuation, or sentence structure.

Here is an incorrect example found in a cover letter:

I am interested in your office administrator position. Well qualified with two-year degree. Have worked in the field.

Here is a correct example:

I am interested in your office administrator position. I have a two-year degree in business administration from XYZ Community College, and I have worked as an office manager for ABC Company for two years.

One more thing to watch out for: Not using a coordinating conjunction.

A coordinating conjunction is a special word that helps connect two parts of a sentence. The two most common coordinating conjunctions are and and but. However, it’s important to know that these two words are not the same and cannot always be used interchangeably.

Incorrect Example: Don stayed late to complete the project but Stephanie joined him.

Correct Example: Don stayed late to complete the project and Stephanie joined him.

The incorrect use in the first sentence implies that Stephanie joining Don was somehow a problem or obstacle to his effort. However, in the corrected example, Stephanie and Don worked together as a team to complete the project.

4. Passive Voice

Using passive voice in sentences isn’t necessarily wrong, but it can sometimes make a sentence feel less energetic or exciting.

Incorrect Example: The project was completed well by Don’s team.

5. The Case of Squinting Modifiers

Have you ever squinted at something because you were unsure of what you were seeing? Well, imagine that happening in a sentence. That’s exactly what a squinting modifier does.

It’s when a word is in the wrong place and confuses the meaning of the sentence.

Example Gone Wrong: Quickly, weight training builds muscles.

(Are you supposed to do the weight training quickly? Or does the weight training quickly build muscles?)

Better Example: Weight training builds muscles quickly.

6. The Tricky Apostrophes

An apostrophe can cause a lot of confusion, especially when it’s used to show possession for one or more things. It can also be accidentally left out when two words are combined.

An apostrophe might be small, but it’s a big source of mistakes.

Not a Good Example: I’m unable to attend the meeting on Tuesday morning. The board of directors is having a meeting then and I have to go.

Better Example: I can’t make the meeting on Tuesday morning. The company’s board of directors is meeting then and I must attend.

7. They’re, Their, or There

They’re is a short version of They are. Their is used to show possession. There is used to refer to a place.

Not a Good Example: There putting they’re laptops over they’re on the conference table.

Better Example: They’re putting their laptops over there on the conference table.

8. Using They for a Brand Entity

Even though there are many people and places involved in a company or a brand, it should be treated as a single entity. This means using it as the pronoun and pairing it with a singular verb when writing.

Incorrect Example: Amazon is hiring. They are a good company.

Correct Example: Amazon is hiring. It is a good company.

9. To Vs. Too

The word too means more or also, and it is an adverb. On the other hand, to is a preposition that requires an object.

Incorrect Example: Are you going too be able to finish this project? Can you design the flyers to?

Correct Example: Are you going to be able to finish this project? Can you design the flyers too?

10. Dangling Modifiers

A dangling modifier occurs when a descriptive phrase is not properly connected to what it is describing.

My Perspective: Incorrect Comma Usage

11. Oops, I forgot a comma!

Commas are important little marks. Sometimes we use them when we shouldn’t, and other times we forget to use them when we should.

Remember when Rachel Ray had a not-so-great magazine cover that said, finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog? Well, it should have said, find inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog. See how that comma makes a difference?

My Perspective: Overuse of Adverbs

12. Too many words ending in ly.

Let’s talk about adverbs. They’re words that describe how something is done and usually end in ly. Sometimes, though, people use adverbs too much because they think it adds more emphasis.

My Mistake: I want to take a moment to genuinely thank my team for their valuable contributions.

13. Capitalizing Titles Correctly

When writing a title, it’s important to avoid capitalizing prepositions or conjunctions, unless they are the first word of the title.

Incorrect Example: The Story about The Brave Warriors.

Correct Example: The Story about the Brave Warriors.

14. Proper Use of Colons and Semicolons

A semicolon can be used to connect two related sentences, while a colon can be used at the end of a sentence when you have a list to present.

Incorrect Example: As a team leader, Don has earned the trust of his colleagues workers. His judgment is highly valued.

Example: I have the qualities of a team leader, such as good judgement, a stellar work ethic, and a high degree of enthusiasm.

15. Your vs. You’re

Your shows possession. You’re is a contraction of You are.

Incorrect Example: I appreciate you’re help on the project. Your my go-to person for the next one!

Correct Example: I appreciate your help on the project. You’re my go-to person for the next one!

16. Too Many Adverbs

A verb is a word that shows an action. Adverbs describe how the action is done.

Incorrect: The workers quickly, efficiently, and rapidly scooped the ice cream onto cones as the line of customers formed.

Correct: The workers efficiently scooped the ice cream onto cones as the line of customers formed.

17. Using Too Many Prepositional Phrases

I can help you avoid a common mistake with prepositions by suggesting a simple solution: shorten your sentences. When a sentence is too long, it can be difficult to read without pausing for breath.

Here’s an example of an incorrect sentence:

Don launches a project with careful employee selection, without using any favoritism, on a tight time schedule and with a strategic plan already in place.

And here’s a correct way to rephrase it:

Don launches a project with careful employee selection, showing no favoritism. He’ll have a strategic plan with a tight time schedule.

Now let’s talk about pronoun disagreement.

Pronoun disagreement is when there’s a mismatch between singular and plural use. Some pronouns, like he or she, are singular, while others, like they, are plural. The verbs used with these pronouns must also match in singularity or plurality.

My Bad: He uses the forklift during the Friday shift. They use it on Saturday.

19. Diligent Detective Work

Here’s the deal – when you’re buying something, you gotta do some detective work, or as they say, due diligence. Do is the action here, while due is just an adjective describing the type of diligence that’s expected of you.

Ooh! Busted: When purchasing a business, make sure you conduct proper due diligence by getting your hands on those juicy financial records.

20. It’s Kinda Confusing

So here’s the thing – it’s is basically short for it is. On the other hand, its is used when something possesses something else. Like, it’s got something.

Incorrect: When it’s time for me to pick up my pet from the Doggie Day Care, I am greeted by a dog wagging its tail.

Correct: When it’s time for you to pick up your pet from the Doggie Day Care, you are greeted by a dog wagging its tail.

21. Then and Than

Then is used to talk about time. Than is used when comparing things.

Incorrect: Jack is better at sports then Jill.

Correct: Jack is better at sports than Jill.

Incorrect: Jack then went to the store to buy some snacks.

Correct: Jack went to the store then to buy some snacks.

22. Fewer and Less

Use fewer when you have a specific number of things. Use less when the number is not exact.

Got it: Workers in the company missed fewer days last year. Not as many workers missed days last year.

23. Lie and Lay

Lie is like when something is flat or not moving. Lay is when someone puts something in a certain place.

Wrong: The valley lays between the two mountain chains. Don lied his briefcase down on a rock and enjoyed the view.

Right: The valley lies between the two mountain chains. Don lay his briefcase down on a rock to enjoy the view.

24. Who and Whom

Who’s on first? That’s the correct way to talk.

Who is a person who is doing something to an object. Whom is the object that something is happening to.

Wrong: Whom is doing what to who?

Right: Who is doing what to whom?

25. Ending a Sentence with a Preposition

Let’s talk about one of the most common grammar mistakes. Sometimes, when we try to correct it, things can get even more awkward.

Incorrect: Stephanie is the woman I ride to work with.

Correct: Stephanie is the woman with whom I ride to work.

Does the correct version sound a bit stuffy to you? Let’s change the sentence. Stephanie and I ride together to work.

The Difference Between ‘Nor’ and ‘Or’

We use ‘nor’ with ‘neither,’ and we use ‘or’ to connect ideas in a comparison. To help you remember, think of the Post Office motto: Neither rain, nor snow……

Incorrect: Neither rain, or snow……

Correct: The workers will deliver the mail if it is raining or snowing.

Using ‘Seen’ and Subject/Agreement of Verbs

Here’s another common grammar mistake. We say I saw, you saw, and she/he saw. ‘Seen’ is not a verb that stands alone.

Right: I saw it happening, but there was nothing I could do to stop it.

28. Farther and Further

Farther is used to talk about a distance that can be measured. Further means in addition or more.

Wrong: Don can jump further than Stephanie.

Right: Don can jump farther than Stephanie.

29. Effect vs. Affect

Something has an effect on something else if it causes a result. The result is called the affect.

Wrong: The lack of toner affected the copy machine. The print quality was effected.

Right: The lack of toner affected the copy machine. The print quality was affected.

30. Which, Who or That

Which is used to talk about things or ideas. That can also be used for things or ideas. Who is used when talking about a person.

My bad! The chairperson with a broken leg isn’t able to come back to work just yet. That chair with the broken leg needs to be replaced pronto!

31. Past or Passed

When we talk about past, we’re referring to things that already happened. On the other hand, passed means when something overtakes or goes by.

Oops! The bonus won’t be given to employees that have already passed. But hey, the new employees passed the entrance exam with flying colors!

32. Accept or Except

If you accept something, you take it or receive it. But when we say except, it means we’re excluding something.

Oh no! Stephanie took everything except the stapler when she got fired. She made it clear she was excluding her last paycheck!

Alright, here’s the deal: Stephanie took everything except the stapler when she got fired. But don’t worry, she did accept her last paycheck.

33. Feeling Good or Feeling Well?

So, how are you feeling? Good? Nope, sorry, that’s not quite right. You actually feel well. You see, good is used as an adjective before a noun, while well is an adverb that usually comes after a verb.

Let’s fix a mistake: Stephanie didn’t feel good, and she didn’t work good.

Now, it’s correct: Stephanie didn’t feel well, and she didn’t do a good job.

34. Whose Jacket or Who’s Jacket?

When you say them out loud, whose and who’s sound exactly the same. And that’s why people often mix them up and use them incorrectly.

Here’s the problem: Who’s jacket was left in the closet? Whose going to claim it?

Now, let’s fix it: Whose jacket was left in the closet? Who’s going to claim it?

35. Gone or Went?

When I went somewhere in the past, I can say I went. But when I want to say I am no longer there, I cannot use gone by itself.

Incorrect: I went to the meeting. I should have went home.

Correct: I should have gone home.

36. Me or I?

The words me and I are often used together in a phrase. But, how do you know which one to use? Here’s a trick: try using the word alone and see if it makes sense.

Incorrect: Stephanie and me went to the concert. (Me went to the concert.)

Correct: Stephanie and I went to the concert. (I went to the concert.)

37. Between or Among

If you’re comparing two things, use between. If you’re comparing more than two things, use among.

Incorrect: The manager couldn’t choose between Don, Stephanie, and Frank.

38. Do you even care?

Wrong: I could care less who gets promoted. (This means you COULD care less than you do now.)

Right: I couldn’t care less who gets promoted. (This means you care a certain amount, the least amount you could care.)

39. Could of, Could Have?

People mess up this one all the time. It’s a common mistake.

And the misuse of words in a similar phrase is also common, like Would Of and Should Of.

Wrong: I should of gone to the bank. I could of. It would of saved me time later.

Right: I should have gone to the bank. I could have. It would have saved me time later.

40. May and Can

We wrap up our study of words right where we started.

How can we avoid making common grammar mistakes?

Even though I’m the author, I always make sure to read what I’ve written again.

If you can, ask other writers or readers to take a look and give their feedback.

Using the internet to check myself is really helpful. I search things like when to use Who and Whom to make sure I’m using the right words.

Most writers find it helpful to read their writing out loud, either to themselves or someone else. If the sentences sound awkward, I try to make them shorter.

How can I check for grammar mistakes?

There are some helpful software programs that you can use to check for grammatical errors. Here’s a list of them:

How can I get better at using language in business and be a good example?

When it comes to sharing my thoughts on public platforms like company email, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, I always strive to set a good example. These platforms are not the right place to showcase poor writing.

Instead of relying solely on software, I make it a point to write on my own. I use software corrections as a tool to improve my business writing skills and choose the right words and phrases.

I believe in being a reader myself. I take the time to read articles written by successful people and study how they skillfully use written language. Additionally, I find business writing tips books to be a valuable resource when it comes to addressing a specific audience.