Making a typo in a work email is usually an accident. Although it can be embarrassing, many people overlook the faux pas, since more often than not, the typo does not change the message of the email. However, many people make grammar errors every day. Unlike typos and auto correct mishaps, these grammar errors are a little harder to discern from accidents. They can cause confusion in work emails and, worse, reflect poorly on the sender.
These are some of the most common grammar errors that happen in work emails, and how they can be avoided:
1. Your & You’re
This is a common mistake that many people make. Nine times out of 10, it is an honest mistake or the autocorrect goes unnoticed. However, it’s important to be clear when using contractions.
- “Your” is possessive: If something belongs to you, then it is yours.
- “You’re” is a shortened version of you are.
You may be reading this and thinking: ‘Everyone knows that’, but the mistake is still made constantly. Be sure to take a second, and think about what you’re trying to say.
2. There, Their & They’re
Again, this is another common mistake. In this case, these words sound the same but have extremely different meanings. These are homonyms - words that sound the same but are spelled differently.
- “There” may be used as a place, as in ‘Look over there.’
- “Their” is possessive: ‘It is their sale.’
- “They’re” is a shortened version of they are.
These mistakes scream common sense, but since they happen so frequently in emails, it is worth reviewing. Always take the time to read your emails before sending them out.
3. It’s & Its
Now things start to get tricky. Normally when you see a word that ends in 's, it can either show possession or a contraction. You may know which version you would like to use, but knowing which is which is where the confusion comes in.
- “Its” is possessive: ‘We lost its charger.’
- “It’s” is a contraction of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’.
This is one of the trickier grammar rules, but because of that, it also seems to be the most overlooked. People are more willing to forgive a mistake of “it’s” & “its” mainly because many don’t know the difference themselves.
4. Me, Myself & I
This is somewhat of an unknown rule to those who are not very grammatically inclined. Many people think using myself is correct. Anything that ends in “–self” is part of the reflexive pronoun.
- “If you have any questions contact John or myself.” It may look right, but this is wrong. If you remove John, the sentence does not make sense to have someone ‘contact myself’.
Proper use here would be to say ‘Please contact me with any questions.’ Reflexive pronouns are only used when the object, most commonly a person, has already been talked about.
- “John will do the task himself.”
This is probably the most common of the mistakes made in a work emails. For example, it is common to state when you want something delivered or addressed to you.
5. Affect & Effect
This error is one that seems to be more of a riddle: when to use ‘affect’ and when to use ‘effect’. Sometimes this takes a minute to think about, but the difference between these two words can greatly impact the meaning of your sentence.
- “Affect” is a verb: ‘This setback will affect the whole quarter.’
- “Effect” is a noun: ‘Let’s see what kind of effect the change will have.’
There are a couple of tricks you can use to help you differentiate between the two. One is to put ‘the’ in front of the word. It makes sense to have ‘the’ in front of ‘effect’, but not ‘affect’. Another clever trick to keep in mind is to remember that verbs are actions and a noun is a person place or thing, such as an event. So, ‘Affect’ is an action and ‘Effect’ is an event.
Proper grammar can make a big difference in the professional world. Knowing how to properly communicate and write emails to others will reflect well on you and your company. These errors may seem like common sense but they still happen frequently. The best way to make sure you don’t make a mistake in an email is to follow these tips:
- Spellcheck is a feature in almost every email or messaging device available; use it. Also keep in mind that some words aren’t recognized by some spellcheck applications. What may be wrong in an email could still be an acceptable spelling of the word. If you’re not sure, try typing the word into a search engine.
- Not sure if you made a mistake? Read your email backwards. Our minds are programmed to “fill in the blanks” when we think something is right. For example, when you misread a word at quick glance. By reading the email backwards, your brain is not already thinking of how the sentence should be.
It helps to educate yourself on how to properly communicate and write emails that keep you on a professional level. Check out our Center for Leadership & Development courses to help you create better writing habits in the workplace.There are a million tips to help you become a better writer, but these quick ones will save you from future embarrassment when a grammar accident happens.