Spelling and grammar isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. No need to sweat it. After all, Grammarly picks up most common spelling mistakes. But, there are some made so frequently I wanted to draw attention to them in the hope of helping you remember how to get it right next time.

Common spelling mistakes – and how to avoid them

Read on to find out which are the most common spelling mistakes in business content, and how to avoid using them and risk your business looking unprofessional.

Definite 

This is one I definitely had to kick off with. In fact, it’s one of the most common spelling mistakes I see in business copy. 

Definite and defiant are similar looking words. But, if you actually say them out loud, the similarities lessen.

If you want to make sure you’re definitely spelling definite right, it’s time to say it loud and proud to avoid making a defiantly incorrect statement. Remember, definite ends -ite, not -ant. So, you can be sure to remember the difference next time. 

Their/there/they’re

Understanding and remembering the difference between their, there and they’re is tough for many people. Naturally, it’s therefore a grammatical error that crops up frequently in business content. 

Briefly, here’s the difference:

  • Their – possessive determiner, refers to something belonging to a third party, e.g. their website
  • There – adverb, refers to a place or position e.g. leave your business card there. Or, can be used as an exclamation, e.g. hi there!
  • They’re – contraction, shortened version of “they are”, e.g. they’re working on new business content

If you can lengthen they’re into they are each time and it still makes sense, you’re using it correctly.

As for the difference between their and there, it should be picked up by most spelling and grammar checks if you’re really struggling. However, practice makes perfect.

Make sure if you do manage to get them right, you don’t fall at the final hurdle and spell it thier. 

Separate

When proofreading websites, brochures and emails for business clients, I often spot a typo with the word separate

People regularly misspell separate and switch the first a for an e, making it seperate. 

Years ago, I was taught that separate and desperate were two common spelling mistakes. I learned one had an a and one had an e in the questionable spot. I had to remember which was which by saying both phonetically to myself: sep-a-rate, desp-e-rate – and it does work.

If you club them together in your head and remember it’s one or the other, this should help you spell both right (or wrong – 50/50 chance!).

Your/you’re

If I had £1 for every time I’ve seen your and you’re mixed up in business content, I’d have… Well, I’d probably have no need to write websites to pay the bills.

Your and you’re are notoriously difficult to differentiate. However, it’s not so tricky if you break it down.

As a contraction, you’re is a short version of you are. So, if you’re about to use the word you’re, ask yourself if the sentence would make sense if you changed it to “you are”. If so, you’ve got the right one.

Similarly, if you’re about to use the word your in your business content, double check if you are makes sense. If it does, you’ve got the wrong one – so switch it for you’re. For example, one I see too often is “hope your well”. A quick sense check would tell you it could also be written “hope you are well”, which tells you you picked the wrong horse. 

It may slow you down somewhat. But, it’s a price worth paying to avoid looking unprofessional.

Privilege

Privilege is a word I see frequently in websites, brochures, social posts and blogs. Maybe you feel it’s a privilege to do something, or you feel privileged by something that’s happened to your business.

However, the word privilege is spelt wrong so often, in so many different ways. In fact, I’ve counted about 10 variations.

The way I remember how to spell privilege is actually to keep it as simple as possible, as it has fewer letters than you’d expect.

If you think of the lege part as the beginning of legend, you can eliminate that erroneous d from creeping in. 

Then, remember the only vowels in privilege are i and e, occurring twice each consecutively, which should help you avoid throwing in a stray a.

It’s a roundabout way to avoid a common spelling mistake, but may help you get your head round it for next time.

Accommodate

Mm, can you see how you might be spelling the word accommodate incorrectly?

Accommodate and accommodation fox many people when writing business content. Many of us are so eager to accommodate our customers we fail to remember the rule: double c and double m makes for the perfect accommodation.

This is a simple way to remember it, and should hopefully help you prevent any typos next time you… erm… type it.

Bear/bare

Bear with me while I explain the difference between the words bear and bare. 

Hopefully, most of us know bear is the way to spell the big grizzly animal you find in the woods. So, no confusion there.

The confusion lies between the homonyms bear and bare, which have completely different uses and meanings.

Bear is a verb, which means to endure or carry. For example: “I can’t bear to read any more of this blog”.

Bare can be used as an adjective, relating to being naked or lacking, or as a verb, meaning to open up. Examples of this are: “the floors were bare”, or “he bared his soul”.

Here are a few examples of when to use bear or bare correctly in business content:

  • Please bear with us during this disruption to our service
  • Bear in mind, our products can be used in various situations
  • If you can’t bear to write your own content, a freelance copywriter can help
  • Spending time on your spelling ultimately bears fruit when customers read your content
  • If your coffee cupboard is bare, it’s time to stock up on our newest blend
  • Doing the bare minimum when it comes to checking your work can lead to spelling mistakes

As you can see, for most business copywriting purposes, bear is more commonly used than bare. Therefore, unless you’re getting nakey or heartfelt, I’d guess on bear if you’re unsure.

Grateful

Many people get confused when spelling grateful. Why? They assume it’s something to do with the word great, so it should be spelt the same.

Well, we all know what happens when we assume, right? So, to avoid making the proverbial of (yo)u and me, let’s remember how to spell grateful correctly.

Grateful derives from the Latin word gratus, meaning pleasing or thankful.

Oh, and greatful? In the words of Monica Geller…

via GIPHY

So, ignore your urge to link grateful with greatness. Remember, they’re not quite the same thing, even though they might sound the same.

Think of the word grateful as part of gratitude, rather than greatness. This should help you to always spell it correctly.

Business

Spelling the word business wrong in copywriting happens more often than you might think, as it can be confusing to some to remember where the double s goes. 

One easy way to remember how to spell business is to think of it as the act of being busy, as few of us spell busy wrong. 

Therefore, if there’s no double s in busy, there isn’t one in the busy part of business either.

Company’s or companies?

Finally, one typo I see incredibly often when proofreading business websites is the mix-up between the words company’s and companies.

Many people want to talk about their company’s achievements. However, they panic about where the apostrophe goes and feel like they’re playing it safe by plumping for companies instead. 

Remember, if you are referring to something belonging to a single company, you will use the word “company’s”. For example: “our company’s excellent spelling gives customers confidence in our services”.

If you have more than one company to write about, the correct possessive will be companies’, e.g. “our two companies’ employees are proud to be excellent spellers”.

Companies is the correct version when you’re referring to multiple companies, without a possessive element. For example: “find out more about our companies here”.

Got it? Good 😉

Ultimately, spelling isn’t everyone’s strength and we can’t expect it to be. All of the people guilty of common spelling mistakes shine in other areas, areas probably far more impressive than simply being able to write good (OMG that was intentional).

Therefore, if spelling isn’t your speciality, don’t sweat it. A good old spell check goes a long way, as does reading your content back to yourself out loud. 

Really not sure how to spell? Ask a friend, colleague or freelance copywriter to sense check your website content, social media posts, emails or blogs before hitting publish. After all, spending a little extra time getting it right will go a long way towards reassuring your customers of your professionalism in a competitive marketplace. 

If you need any help with freelance copywriting or proofreading, give me a shout on hello@wordsbyali.com or 07305 081277.

And if you manage to remember how to spell any of these common spelling mistakes after reading this, please let me know!

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