Monday Mornings with Madison

Be a Better Writer in 2016 – Part 1

Despite the recurring diatribes about the decline of the written word, in truth, people write more now than ever.  While few pen long letters on scented stationary anymore, people were pouring emails into the digital abyss at an estimated eye-popping rate of about 200 Billion per day in 2015.  We also send text messages, tweets, and instant messages and write blog posts and comments, and otherwise fire off words at one another in a near-constant flow of communication. Written communication is a required skill for most any job or profession today.  Whether it is composing a memo, preparing a letter, drafting a report, taking notes in a meeting, crafting a business plan, or just pounding out a quick text message, written communication is part and parcel of practically every occupation on a regular basis.  People write PowerPoint presentations, business requirement documents, speeches, mission statements, position papers, standard operating procedures, manuals, brochures, package copy, press releases, and dozens of other specialized types of documents.  Even salespeople and accountants – occupations often thought to be sans writing — must write reports and sales agreements.

Not everyone, however, is a good writer.  The English language has many rules and just as many exceptions to those rules.  It is a beautiful but challenging language to master.  Nevertheless, business people in English-speaking countries are expected to write clearly, cohesively and concisely.  Despite the growing use of slang, abbreviations and urban words, most professionals are still expected to be able to write in complete sentences. Spelling, grammar and punctuation do matter.   Using the right words with their correct meanings is also important.  Although there is an abundant supply of resources available online – such as dictionaries, thesauri, writing guides, blogs for writers, and the like – writing mistakes persist.  Although anyone can make an occasional mistake, common or abundant errors can taint how a person is perceived.  Poor grammar or spelling can even call into question a person’s professional expertise.  To maintain a reputation as a professional, it’s important to write well.  Here are some tips to improve one’s ability to write well in English.

Avoid Common Mistakes

There is no quick or easy way to become a better writer.  In writing, as in most things, practice makes perfect.  Reading quality writing also helps.  But there are some simple ways to make big improvements.   One quick fix is to recognize the most common errors and avoid them.  After consulting a number of reputable resources, here are some of the most common mistakes people make in writing English.  Writers beware!

Common Mistake 1:  Made-Up Words and Malapropisms

It may seem obvious to advise not to use made-up words.  Yet, there are a number of words that commonly circulate that are not real words.  Some are words that people heard used (but not enunciated clearly) and then was written phonetically.   Some are malapropisms.   This is the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one.

  • Exspecially – Correct word:  especially
  • Mitch-matched – Correct:  mismatched
  • Supposebly – Correct:  Supposedly
  • Undoubtably – Correct:  Undoubtedly
  • Irregardless – Correct:  Regardless
  • Flustrated – Correct:  Frustrated
  • Conversate – Correct:  Converse
  • Sherbert – Correct:  Sherbet
  • Foilage – Correct:  Foliage
  • Expresso – Correct:  Espresso
  • Vice-A-Versa – Correct:  Vice Versa
  • Exploitive – Correct:  Exploitative
  • Orientated – Correct:  Oriented
  • Preventative – Correct:  Preventive
  • Anyways – Correct:  Anyway
  • Affidavid – Correct:  Affidavit
  • Bobbed wire – Correct:  Barbed wire
  • Caucaphony – Correct:  Cacophony
  • Drownd – Correct:  Drown
  • Excetera – Correct:  Et cetera
  • Febuary – Correct:  February
  • Hiarchy – Correct:  Hierarchy
  • Jewlery – Correct:  Jewelry
  • Masonary – Correct:  Masonry
  • Mischievious – Correct:  Mischievous
  • Nucular – Correct:  Nuclear
  • Offen – Correct:  Often
  • Prespire – Correct:  Perspire
  • Perculate – Correct:  Percolate
  • Perogative – Correct:  Prerogative
  • Pronounciation – Correct:  Pronunciation
  • Upmost – Correct:  Utmost
  • Revelant – Correct:  Relevant
  • Momento – Correct:  Memento
  • Pacifically – Correct:  Specifically
  • Towards – Correct:  Toward
  • Perscription – Correct:  Prescription

Common Mistake 2:  Incorrect Phrases and Expressions

It is important to use common expressions correctly.  Otherwise, it really sounds foolish.  When writing an expression and it doesn’t quite make sense, Google it to understand the meaning and ensure that it is being expressed correctly.

  • Would of, should of, should of.  – Correct phrase:  Would have, should have, could have.
  • Better save than sorry. – Correct phrase:  Better safe than sorry.
  • It was a mute point. – Correct phrase:  It was a moot point.
  • I could care less. – Correct phrase:  I could not care less.
  • For all intensive purposes… – Correct phrase:  For all intents and purposes…
  • It’s a doggy dog world.  Correct phrase:  It’s a dog-eat-dog world.
  • Don’t be a kill joint.  Correct phrase:  Don’t be a kill joy.
  • The statue of limitations expired.  Correct phrase:  The statute of limitations expired.
  • Wet your appetite.  Correct phrase:  Whet your appetite.
  • This doesn’t jive with the other.  Correct phrase:  This doesn’t jibe with the other.
  • This peaked my interest.  Correct phrase:  This piqued my interest.
  • He was a wolf in cheap clothing.  Correct phrase:  He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
  • They waited with baited breath.  Correct phrase:  They waited with bated breath.
  • She has hunger pains.  Correct phrase:  She has hunger pangs.
  • I am at your beckon call.  Correct phrase:  I am at your beck and call.

While this isn’t every made up word or misused expression, it’s a good start.  Avoid them at all costs.  After all, sending out an email, letter or report with a made-up word or phrase is sure to be embarrassing.   To have it pointed out is even worse.  While every person has moments in life they wish they could take back, written errors are particularly embarrassing because they – by their very nature – are written and last forever.

Next week, we will tackle some of the most hated and yet most common of all writing mistakes… the dreaded homophones, homographs, and homonyms, as well as other writing errors.  Stay tuned… if you want to be a better writer.

Quote of the Week

“Someone who wants to write well should make an effort to write a little something every day. Writing, in this sense, is the same as athletes who practice a sport every day to keep their skills honed.” Anita Desai

© 2016, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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