Common Grammar Mistakes That Make You Look Unprofessional

Now that’s I’ve shipped the The Empowered Paralegal Cause of Action Handbook manuscript off to Carolina Academic Press I hope to be able to attend more to this blog, although I have a lot of catching up to do on grading. Since I’ve been writing a lot, I’m especially focused on what other people have to say about writing right. (In looking at my own posts over the years I found that there are probably enough posts on the topic to create a category for discussion writing well in addition to the “Consequences of Sloppiness” category for examples of what can happen when one does not write well.)  One of the first discussion to catch my attention in this regard is a Paralegal Gateway LinkedIn discussion post by Barbara Liss of a link to “Common Grammar Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb” by Ilya Posin.

The article covers several common mistakes: 1. You’re vs. Your, 2. They’re vs. Their vs. There, 3. Lose vs. Loose, 4. It’s vs. Its, 5. Effect vs. Affect, 6. Alot, and 7. Then vs. Than, giving examples of each. Ilya gives this advice:  Edit your work, or ask someone else to glance at it for you. These errors may seem insignificant, but your intelligence will be questioned when these mistakes are discovered…and they will be.  One that I’ve notice cropping up more and more lately is “sell v sale,” i.e., people using the noun “sale” when  meaning the verb “sell” and the verb when meaning the noun.

One commentator responding to the article states, “Such a strong judgement. Erroneous typos happen. Makes us human.. Just saying…” It is true that typos occur especially in informal writing like this blog, but the misuse of words in their entirety is commonly not a typo but a misunderstanding of the meaning and correct use of the words themselves. Also, the article asks people to “edit their work.” While typos occur professionals do all they can to minimize them and must certainly make every effort to see that their work product – correspondence (including email), pleadings, memoranda, and the like use correct grammar. I frequently suggest that students and practitioners alike consult Grammar Girl’s website and subscribe to the podcast. The podcast lessons are short, clear, informative, and well-researched. Most of us can (and should) always learn a bit more and all of us can use refreshers!

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5 Comments

  • Vicki Voisin says:

    Congratulations on completing your manuscript!

    Thanks for once again stressing the importance of good grammar. While we can be forgiving of typos, they certainly do not ever help the writer or make the writer look better.

    It’s interesting that one of the people who commented on the article spelled “judgment” with an “e” — something that drives me crazy. However, I do admit to having to think about “its” and “it’s”. While I know how to use the words correctly, they often cause a momentary stumble when I’m writing.

    Please stress the importance of good grammar — and that “spell check” is not fallible –as you continue to educate future paralegals. Vicki

  • Cathy Zornes says:

    Excellent points about good grammar. As a legal technology consultant and trainer, my favorite new feature of Office 2010 is a new proofing option called “use contextual spelling.” Not only will it pick up misspellings, but (if these options are active) Microsoft Word (and Outlook) point out those misused nouns and verbs, misplaced apostrophes, and other grammar errors by underlining them with a blue squiggly. Very helpful!

  • Libby says:

    The podcast lessons are short, clear, inforative, and well-researched.

    Apparently, not enough, lol! Informative….with the MMMMMM

  • R. E. Mongue says:

    Thanks for the “catch,” Libby. This is why every piece of writing that comes out of a law office should be reviewed by at least two sets of eyes! I’ve made the change.

  • Libby says:

    No problem! I thought it was funny 🙂

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