Category Archives: Proofreading

Common spelling mistakes that make your business look bad

typos that make your business look bad

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@jameso73.sg-host.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!

How to write a cover letter

How to write a cover letter

You’ve found a job that looks perfect for you. You’ve polished your CV. Now, all that stands between you and your dream job is a blank page that needs to miraculously turn into a mean cover letter. So, how on earth do you write a cover letter? Don’t worry, your friendly neighbourhood copywriter has got your back. Read on to find out exactly how to write a cover letter that will impress potential employers.

How to format a cover letter

Firstly, let’s lean on our good friends Microsoft Word and Google Docs. They’ve done the hard work for you, so before you start panicking about how to format a cover letter, check out their letter writing templates. You can do this by simply logging into your Google account, going into your Google Docs then browsing the template gallery. Or, open up Word and peruse the different letter writing templates available there.

The general letter writing format I would advise to stick to is to write the recipient’s address top left, followed by your own address beneath this on the right.

Missing out a line to add a space, include the date underneath your address on the right. 

Beneath this, you will then tab back to the left and add your salutation, which takes us seamlessly into…

Who to address a cover letter to

There are two ways to address a cover letter. If you know the name of the person you are writing to, then write their name as so: “Dear Mr Bloggs,” ( followed by a comma).

However, if you’re not sure who to address the letter to, simply write: “Dear sir/madam,” then a comma.

Now is not the time to be casual, so forget about starting your cover letter hi, hey, hello or similar. Keep it professional and make a good first impression.

What to put in a cover letter

Firstly, begin your cover letter with a general statement about why you are applying for the role, referencing the role and company by name. Then, add a brief sentence about why you feel you would be a great candidate for the job. 

For example: “I am writing to apply for the position of marketing executive at Generic Marketing Agency. I feel I would be extremely well suited to this role thanks to my marketing degree, workplace training and previous job experience in similar roles, and my enthusiasm and proactive attitude would be a real asset to the company.”

From here, the best way to write the content in your cover letter is by working to the job description. Check out exactly what the employer is looking for, then relate it back to your skills, qualifications and qualities. 

Now, this doesn’t mean simply listing the job description in its entirety and adding that you can do each thing. “Experience in Photoshop – tick, competency in Illustrator – completed it mate.” Instead, use the job description as your foundation to weave your suitability into fluid, snappy sentences. For example: “I am extremely experienced in design, and I’m highly proficient at working in both Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.”

However, a word of warning. A cover letter should usually be short and sweet, unless an employer has asked for a detailed account of your skills and experience. So, if there’s a huge list of requirements on the job description, condense your bragging down into a couple of short paragraphs. 

Throughout the letter, make sure you refer to the company by name. And don’t be afraid to include a nod to any research you’ve done on the business. An example of this would be: “I was impressed by the work you did for Animal Charity – as a passionate animal lover, I would relish the opportunity to bring my skillset to your next project of this kind.” This shows you’ve done your homework and you’re keen to slide straight into any existing or future projects.

How to sign off a cover letter – is it yours sincerely or yours faithfully?

When is it yours sincerely, and when is it yours faithfully? The eternal sign off debate. This is one I have to either Google (or pre-Google, I had to ask my mum) every single time I write a letter. Which, to be frank, is rare nowadays, but still.

The answer is simple (if you can remember it). If you know the person, or at least their name, then sign off your letter with “yours sincerely’. 

If you don’t know the person you’re writing a letter to, then the correct sign off to end the letter is “yours faithfully”. Use “yours faithfully” when you’ve started the letter “dear sir/madam”.

I suppose you could think of it as being sincere towards an actual person you know. Or, having faith your letter will reach the right person if not.

(And if I can remember that without Googling it next time, have faith that I’ll be giving myself a sincere pat on the back).

Cover letter writing tips

To finish, I wanted to include some general cover letter writing tips. Think of this section as a final boost to get your cover letter over the line from the maybe to the yes pile. 

Ideally, your cover letter should be around a single page of A4 in length. After all, it’s an introduction to your CV or application, and not the application itself. Therefore, try to be short and sweet, summarising your key points, skills and experience.

Again, refer back to the name of the company you’re applying to work for, as it shows you’ve taken the time to understand the business and this isn’t just a copy and paste job.

Maintain a professional tone throughout writing your cover letter, yet don’t be afraid of showing who you are. Now, this doesn’t mean inserting jokes in there. However, you should be frank about the kind of person you are and how you feel this would tie in with the role or company. Most employers are simply trying to find out if you can string a sentence together and conduct yourself professionally when they ask for a cover letter. So, as long as you’ve smashed this 

And my final cover letter writing tip is ALWAYS get it checked by someone else! Friend, family member, work mate or professional, as long as they have a decent grasp of the English language then fire your cover letter over and ask for their honest opinion. Whether it’s your first ever cover letter or you’ve applied for hundreds of jobs, a fresh pair of eyes is always a good idea.

Hopefully, this blog has helped you to write a cover letter that will impress your employer of choice. If it leads to you getting an interview, please let me know so I can smile to myself like a proud mum.

Good luck!

8 of the most common spelling and grammar fails (and how to avoid them)

Stop making spelling and grammar mistakes
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Look, we all make mistakes! No judgment (or should that be judgement? The jury’s out on that one).

But making spelling and grammar mistakes in your business content can be a problem. Why? They make you look pretty unprofessional and could cause customers to lose faith in the quality of your products or services.

Now, I realise that may sound dramatic. And while I’m not known as a drama queen, I take grammar very seriously. 

So, could it be time to clean up your copywriting act? I’ve pulled together eight of the most common spelling and grammar mistakes I see regularly in businesses’ online and offline content. Plus, I’ll let you know how to avoid them in future. 

And while I would never name and shame, these errors are so frequently committed my red pen would run out in a matter of minutes if I could realise my ultimate goal in life of correcting every typo on the internet. 

Rather than making enemies by notifying people of these grammatical gaffes, I thought it may be helpful to highlight them here. If you find it difficult to differentiate between commonly confused words, read on.

After all, while my days of correcting friends’ Facebook typos are long gone (apologies if you fell victim to that cruel campaign), business content is something you really do want to be correct. Unlike your holiday picture captions (thanks for uploading all 459 of those), your website wording, press release prose or business blog will be weighed up by existing or potential customers. The very people who are comparing you to your competitors and looking for any reason to discount you and go with the alternative.

So while I reiterate drama really isn’t my thing, you can see why words are the exception to that rule.

Read on to find out which are my eight most commonly seen spelling and grammar mistakes. Then discover how easily you can avoid them (and help me sleep at night). 

Should it be than or then?

The word than is a preposition used to compare something to another thing, e.g. “Oasis are better than Blur” (just to show my age). It’s also used in comparisons as a conjunction, e.g. “she is younger than I am” (also likely to be true).

Meanwhile, the word then always relates to time. Confusingly, it can be used as either an adverb, a noun or an adjective. When using then as an adverb, you could say “I ran much faster, then” to refer to a previous point in time. Or, using then as a noun would appear like “let’s go to the park then”, to imply an understood point in time. 

Using then as an adjective sees it appear before a noun. For example, “my then boyfriend” would refer to a boyfriend someone had at another point in time, which relates to a story being told about that period. 

The main thing to remember is that than is a comparison, while then describes time.

What’s the grammar gripe with affect and effect?

The difference between affect and effect is misunderstood by many and you can see why. The wonderful English language is full of idiosyncrasies, and it sometimes feels like it was designed to confuse us.

However, help is at hand as I will now explain the difference between affect and effect

In the simplest terms, affect is a verb, while effect is a noun. 

Therefore, examples of how to use affect and effect effectively (sorry), would be as follows. “This blog is starting to affect my sanity”, and “this blog is having an effect on my sanity.” In this instance, affect is the doing word and effect is the noun, or the name for what is happening.

One way to remember the difference is by associating the a in affect with a for action, so you can link it to the fact it’s always going to be a verb (that’s a doing word, for anyone who passed notes through GCSE English).

Still confused? Top tip alert – just use the word impact instead, as it works for either situation and saves you a headache.

Am I spelling it practise or practice?

Once again, we find ourselves with a verb and noun doing battle to confuse us as much as possible. Again, these two share all but one of the same letters and sound EXACTLY THE SAME.

So WTF is the difference between practise and practice?

The word practise is a verb, so you’ll only ever use it if you’re practising doing something. For example, “I need to practise my spelling and grammar”. 

On the other hand, the word practice is a noun which refers to the name of something, like a doctor’s practice or tennis practice. Just don’t tie yourself up in knots trying to explain you’re going to practise your downward dog at yoga practice, because I’ve now typed both so many times they no longer look like real words.

Do I lose customers through loose grammar?

Is this blog making you lose the will to live? Or making you think you’ve been playing it fast and loose with your grammar?

The difference between lose and loose is one many people fail to grasp, so let’s lay it out to avoid any further confusion.

We’ll start with lose, which is a verb meaning “to misplace”. When pronounced, it sounds like it should have a double o to create the “oo” sound. But trust me, it doesn’t – so you don’t loose weight, you lose weight (and you don’t need to anyway, you look great).

The word loose, meanwhile, is an adjective which means baggy. So your trousers might be loose, just make sure you don’t lose them (awkward).

Should I definitely spell it defiantly?

I blame autocorrect for the rise in people texting defiantly instead of definitely. Clearly, we’re a highly definitive bunch of people, as I see this grammatical mistake so often, yet it means something completely different.

As we know, definitely means “without any doubt”. For example, “I definitely need to spell everything in this blog correctly” (can you imagine how embarrassed I’ll be if I don’t?).

Conversely, defiantly means “in a manner that shows open resistance or bold disobedience”. Are you really that naughty? If you are, then good for you and as long as your defiance is justified and lawful, I support that. You can use it correctly like so: “she defiantly refused to accept she was wrong about her spelling”.

However, if you’re not trying to be controversial and you just want to communicate your certainty, there’s no need to do it defiantly. 

Can I learn to make less or fewer grammar errors?

OK, so the difference between less and fewer is one of my personal bugbears. However, so many huge brands mix it up I definitely don’t hold it against anyone else. 

Both less and fewer are the opposite of more, with a subtle difference. While less means “not as much”, fewer means not as many. Use fewer if it’s countable, and less if it’s not.

The biggest culprit in confusing less and fewer is the supermarket industry, asking us to check out “10 items or less” . This is grammatically incorrect. Why? Because if the items can be counted, we should use fewer. For example, “I ate fewer crisps than you” (which is usually the case) or “she has fewer shopping bags than me” – not then 😉 

We use the word less to describe something which can’t be counted, like “there’s less choice in this shop” or “I have less space in my new office.”

(M&S – call me).

What’s the difference between your and you’re?

Ah, the original and best grammar mistake committed in the English language. Put simply by Ross Geller:

“Y-O-U-apostrophe-R-E means you are. Y-O-U-R means your!”

The easiest way to decipher the difference between your and you’re is to ask yourself if you could say “you are” instead of “your” in the sentence in question. 

If you can, it’s “you’re”, e.g. “you’re so good at spelling and grammar”. 

Can’t change it to you are? Then it is going to be “your”. For example, “your hair looks amazing” (it does btw).

Have I been spelling quiet quite badly?

Honestly, I’m quite sure this is one of the most common grammatical errors I’ve seen online and I refuse to keep quiet about it.

And while I’m pretty sure this one is mostly a typo, I’ll explain just in case.

The word quite is an adjective used to describe nouns, meaning either completely, or just a bit (thanks again English language for being so crystal clear). For example, “this blog is quite useful” or “I’ve had quite enough of grammar for one day”.

Unlike the word quite, the word quiet means devoid of sound or noise, as in “it’s oh so quiet, ssssh, ssssh” or “please be quiet and stop banging on about grammar” (which I get a lot).

So I’ll shut up about this one as long as you don’t mix them up again, OK?

How to make fewer (not less) spelling and grammar mistakes

There we have it, my lowdown on the most frequently committed sins against spelling and grammar. Hopefully, this has helped you identify common mistakes you might have been inadvertently making in your online and offline marketing content. Or, maybe it’s reassured you that you’re a grammar guru who doesn’t need any help in this department.

But if all of the above feels about as clear as mud, the easiest option may be to call on a professional copywriter or proofreader to ensure you’re not risking any of these common spelling and grammar mistakes in your business content.

If that’s the case, hit me up by emailing wordsbyali@gmail.com or calling 07395 128493 and let’s see if my red pen and I can be of service to your business. 

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Five reasons to hire a proofreader (even though you’ve got Grammarly)

Professional proofreading for business documents
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Ah, the age-old question. Why do I need a professional proofreader when I’ve got Grammarly? 

First things first. I love Grammarly so I’m not going to tell you to break up with it. There’s plenty of room in the world for both Grammarly and professional proofreaders to co-exist in perfect harmony.

I actually think Grammarly is a fantastic tool in a world where it sometimes seems no one knows how to use an apostrophe correctly (again, not hating – most of the people who can’t use apostrophes definitely have skills I would never hope to master). So, if spelling and grammar is not your forte, then go nuts with the red squiggle and it will undeniably help clean up your grammatical act.

But where can a professional proofreader add value, where Grammarly simply can’t? 

Here are five reasons to call upon the superpowers of a professional proofreader for all your grammatical needs.

Personality

Now, I’m not claiming to have the world’s best personality. 

However, I will blow my own trumpet to the extent that I have more of a personality than a grammar bot. And having a personality is a key weapon in one’s proofreading arsenal, as it enables us to add character, style, a casual metaphor or two, hell, even some humour to your written content. 

Sure, you can use Google Translate to convert words into a target language, but has it rendered professional translators unemployable? The answer is, of course, no.

Just like translators can add nuance, sense and personality to a translation in ways Google Translate can’t, a proofreader with finely-tuned editing skills can enhance your raw content by transforming it into professional prose. 

A professional proofreading service will scrutinise your document, identifying weak spots and augmenting words and sentences for superior versions to ensure everything flows.

Consistency

One of my more tedious proofreading jobs some years ago involved checking a huge bathroom catalogue for a manufacturer. After flicking through the first few pages (out of approximately 45 trillion) I realised the word/s “en suite” was spelt in three different ways in as many spreads – a major bugbear of mine. Now, all three were grammatically correct: en suite, en-suite and ensuite, so it’s not something that would be picked up by your average spell check or grammar bot.

Yet such inconsistencies make you look unprofessional. A brochure should act as a silent salesperson for your products, and you wouldn’t want a member of your sales team to appear unprofessional to a potential customer. Making a lasting impression starts with the basics, and professionally written (and checked) marketing materials should come as standard if you want to convert that lead into a sale.

Repetition

We’re all guilty of repeating ourselves, whether it’s in our writing or speech (I cannot count the number of times I say “have I told you this already?’ on a daily basis as I get older). A professional proofreader won’t just check your content for spelling and grammar. We’ll scan that document countless times to make sure you’ve used a great mix of wording, and haven’t repeated the same word or variations on the same word multiple times. 

Sanity checking

Most good copywriters will produce a piece of content then check, check and check again to ensure it communicates the right tone, is error-free and achieves the intentions set out in the original brief.

When you’re creating your own content, you may not have sufficient time to carry out the same exhaustive checks if you’re straight on to the next job on your to do list. Plus, checking your own work is always tough, as you often simply can’t see the errors other people can instantly pick up on.

A good ol’ sanity check can come in extremely handy when you’ve tapped all of those words out of your brain but you don’t have the time, patience or skills to ensure it actually makes sense. So, whether you’re handing over a brain dump to be edited into a coherent piece of writing, or you need a final sense check on a document, a professional proofreader can save the day.

Organisation

Proofreading a document is never just about correcting errors. Using a professional proofreader will improve your document in a number of ways, including its organisation.

A good proofreader will quickly establish the key messages you are aiming to communicate in your document. Then, they will assess the order and flow of the content to make sure they serve your purpose. If they don’t, a proofreader will make crucial changes to the organisation of your sentences, paragraphs and word placement to ensure a more coherent and concise message is achieved.

Often, this won’t involve making any major changes to the content itself. You may not even notice it when you read it back. But ultimately, subtle updates to the order of a document can turn it from flagging to flawless. 

How much does it cost to hire a professional proofreader?

Hiring a professional proofreader could be the best money you’ve ever spent when your customers are reassured by the professional tone and motivated by the clear call to action presented in your written content.

I like to keep pricing simple and clear, so all proofreading services are charged at £40 an hour. In charging by the hour, rather than the word count, I can add as much value as possible to the document by utilising the time as efficiently as possible.

The cost of the proofreading job will be presented upfront, as I will ask you to supply the document ahead of time so I can provide a proofreading quote accordingly. This means you can plan for the cost and factor it into your marketing budget.

Proofreading is included free of charge in all copywriting jobs, and is only charged separately when you supply your own work to be checked.

Hire a professional proofreader to check and improve your work

Convinced that a professional proofreader can add value to your work where Grammarly can’t? My red pen is poised. Drop me a line on wordsbyali@gmail.com and let’s discuss how I can make your prose pop. 

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