Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Don't Make These 3 Big Marketing Mistakes Part 3 - "Don't Expect Me to Know How to Punctuate"

I'm wrapping up the 3rd installment of my Don't Make These Marketing Mistakes series, with exciting article #3, "Don't Expect Me to Know How to Punctuate." You may think I'm being a little hard on folks, but I have to say that in the last few months, I have seen more punctuation errors by leading marketers, as well as businesses just getting launched, then I ever have in my professional life, and guess what? It looks bad.

Why? Because when you don't know how to punctuate, it makes you look - well, not as bright as we know you are. And that doesn't help your business or your online branding. Even worse, I am seeing people basically apologize for it up front, as if to say, I know I can't write or spell, but you'll forgive me right? Wrong.

The truth is that even if your business has nothing to do with writing in an obvious way, every business has to communicate, and in these days of competitive online marketing where you have to Twitter, blog, and jump through social networking hoops to get noticed, you don't want to be noticed for the wrong thing, as this can be just as bad as not being noticed at all.

From a marketing standpoint, I am very hesitant to purchase from a blogger or internet marketer whose copy has errors, because it simply makes me not trust them. Also, what is the point in apologizing for this? If you are weak in grammar, spelling, and punctuation, study up and practice improving through exercises, or, hire a writer or consultant to review your copy and make sure everything is correct.

So, here is my gift to readers today, a list of commonly misspelled words as well as words we frequently confuse.

Accept, Except
  • accept = verb meaning to receive or to agree: He accepted their praise graciously.
  • except = preposition meaning all but, other than: Everyone went to the game except John.

Affect, Effect

  • affect = verb meaning to influence: Will lack of sleep affect your game?
  • effect = noun meaning result or consequence: Will lack of sleep have an effect on your game?
  • effect = verb meaning to bring about, to accomplish: Our efforts have effected a major change in university policy.

A memory-help for affect and effect is is RAVEN: Remember, Affect is a Verb and Effect is a Noun.

Advise, Advice

  • advise = verb that means to recommend, suggest, or counsel: I advise you to be cautious.
  • advice = noun that means an opinion or recommendation about what could or should be done: I'd like to ask for your advice on this matter.

Conscious, Conscience

  • conscious = adjective meaning awake, perceiving: Despite injury, the patient remained conscious.
  • conscience = noun meaning the sense of obligation to be good: Chris wouldn't cheat because his conscience wouldn't let him.

Idea, Ideal

  • idea = noun meaning a thought, belief, or conception held in the mind, or a general notion or conception formed by generalization
  • ideal = noun meaning something or someone that embodies perfection, or an ultimate object or endeavor
  • ideal = adjective meaning embodying an ultimate standard of excellence or perfection, or the best

Its, It's

  • its = possessive adjective (possesive form of the pronoun it): The crab had an unusual growth on its shell.
  • it's = contraction for it is or it has (in a verb phrase): It's still raining; it's been raining for three days. (Pronouns have apostrophes only when two words are being shortened into one.)

Lead, Led

  • lead = noun referring to a dense metallic element
  • led = past-tense and past-participle form of the verb to lead, meaning to guide or direct:

Than, Then


used in comparison statements: He is richer than I.
used in statements of preference: I would rather dance than eat.
used to suggest quantities beyond a specified amount: Read more than the first paragraph.


a time other than now: He was younger then. She will start her new job then.
next in time, space, or order: First we must study; then we can play.
suggesting a logical conclusion: If you've studied hard, then the exam should be no problem.

Their, There, They're

  • Their = possessive pronoun: They got their books.
  • There = that place: My house is over there. (This is a place word, and so it contains the word here.)
  • They're = contraction for they are: They're making dinner. (Pronouns have apostrophes only when two words are being shortened into one.)

To, Too, Two

  • To = preposition, or first part of the infinitive form of a verb: They went to the lake to swim.
  • Too = very, also: I was too tired to continue. I was hungry, too.
  • Two = the number 2: Two students scored below passing on the exam.

Two, twelve, and between are all words related to the number 2, and all contain the letters tw.
Too can mean also or can be an intensifier, and you might say that it contains an extra o ("one too many")

We're, Where, Were

  • We're = contraction for we are: We're glad to help. (Pronouns have apostrophes only when two words are being shortened into one.)
  • Where = location: Where are you going? (This is a place word, and so it contains the word here.)
  • Were = a past tense form of the verb be: They were walking side by side.

Your, You're

  • Your = possessive pronoun: Your shoes are untied.
  • You're = contraction for you are: You're walking around with your shoes untied. (Pronouns have apostrophes only when two words are being shortened into one.)

One Word or Two?

All ready/already

  • all ready: used as an adjective to express complete preparedness
  • already: an adverb expressing time

    At last I was all ready to go, but everyone had already left.

All right/alright

  • all right: used as an adjective or adverb; older and more formal spelling, more common in scientific & academic writing: Will you be all right on your own?
  • alright: Alternate spelling of all right; less frequent but used often in journalistic and business publications, and especially common in
    fictional dialogue: He does alright in school.

All together/altogether

  • all together: an adverb meaning considered as a whole, summed up: All together, there were thirty-two students at the museum.
  • altogether: an intensifying adverb meaning wholly, completely, entirely: His comment raises an altogether different problem.

Anyone/any one

  • anyone: a pronoun meaning any person at all: Anyone who can solve this problem deserves an award.
  • any one: a paired adjective and noun meaning a specific item in a group; usually used with of: Any one of those papers could serve as an example.

Note: There are similar distinctions in meaning for everyone and every one

Anyway/any way

  • anyway: an adverb meaning in any case or nonetheless: He objected, but she went anyway.
  • any way: a paired adjective and noun meaning any particular course, direction, or manner: Any way we chose would lead to danger.

Awhile/a while

  • awhile: an adverb meaning for a short time; some readers consider it nonstandard; usually needs no preposition: Won't you stay awhile?
  • a while: a paired article and noun meaning a period of time; usually used with for: We talked for a while, and then we said good night.

Maybe/may be

  • maybe: an adverb meaning perhaps: Maybe we should wait until the rain stops.
  • may be: a form of the verb be: This may be our only chance to win the competition.
Additional Resources
The Elements of Style,
William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
First published in 1918 by Strunk, a professor at Cornell University, it was known as “the little book” on campus. Updated in 1957 by E.B. White, the great writer and columnist for The New Yorker, this timeless, 105-page guide should be read and referred to by anyone who writes.

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