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by Stephen Logan on 15th January 2010
Very few of us can boast immaculate spelling and grammar. We are all susceptible to the odd slip; however, that shouldn’t be an excuse to allow errors to creep on to the pages of your website.Consulting a dictionary or, easier still, running your work through a spell checker takes no time at all. Neither, for that matter, does a thorough proof read. Whilst some mistakes might slip through the cracks, some are unforgivable.
For example, what if you misspell one of your site’s keywords? Suddenly not only do you lose credibility for what is supposed to be a subject on which you are an authority, but you also jeopardise your SEO chances too. Being top of the rankings for a typo is pretty poor form in anybody’s books.
Sometimes there are errors that slip through that we don’t see. In most instances they are technically correct, however, when placed in the context of what you have written, are in fact incorrect. Confused? Well, here are a few common examples:
Too/to – You can’t have to much of a good thing, for one good reason, it should be ‘too much’. Too often an erroneous ‘to’ slips in where it’s not welcome, the reverse is also true of course. Whilst ‘to’ is a preposition ‘too’ is an adverb meant to denote a noun that is excessive or used in place of ‘as well as’.
They’re/their/there – This is a sticky one. The first thing to say is that ‘they’re‘ is just an abbreviated (conjunction) form of ‘they are‘, so shouldn’t be used in any there or their situation. ‘Their’ refers to anything that relates to a person or group of people – ‘this is their word, so let’s leave it at that’. ‘There’ or on the other hand refers to places and acts as an adverb, although there are plenty of other examples to choose from .
Referring to people – their
Referring to places – there
Trying to say they are – they’re
Bear/bare – a bear may be an animal, but it is also a word that you really need to bear in mind when writing website copy. Bare on the other hand indicates something wholly different, suggesting something that is naked or otherwise exposed. Getting these two mixed up can lead to some very strange misunderstandings. Things come to bear, they can be bearable but should rarely come to bare.
Advice/advise – strangely this is quite a common one. In simple terms you can offer advice, or you can choose to advise somebody. The trick to unravelling this is by pronouncing both, advice has an ending that is phonetically the same as ‘nice’ or ‘rice’, whilst ‘advise’ sounds more like ‘wise’. So you can give advice, just never provide advise.
Apostrophes – Other issues relate to the use of apostrophes. These are most commonly used within conjunctions, which are two words combined in to one – for example you’re (you are), they’re (they are), aren’t (are not) it’s (it is).
Another common use is to imply a sense of belonging. For example, this is Koozai’s Blog, not Koozais Blog. In the case of anything that is just a standard plural term an apostrophe should never be used – books, CDs etc. Where a word ends with an ‘s’ naturally (or is a plural) that belongs to an item then you can either put an apostrophe at the end alone, or an apostrophe followed by another ‘s’ – The Times’ article was hopelessly biased, or The Times’s article wasn’t without its merits. Both are acceptable, but the lone apostrophe is becoming more common, in the UK particularly.
As you are probably already well aware, there are plenty of potential banana skins within the English language. Verb confusions, mislaid apostrophes and improperly used conjunctions are just a few. The issues raised are in fact just a smattering of the errors you are likely to encounter day-to-day when browsing the Internet.
In terms of your website, it is hugely important that you eradicate as many of these issues as possible. Consistency and accuracy are two of the things that help us determine whether a business is trustworthy or not. In the fast moving world of the Internet you can’t afford to be making a poor first impression, so making sure your copy is up to scratch is essential; here’s hoping this post is up to scratch too!
So what are the errors that turn you away from a site? What language mistakes have you stumbled upon that left you wondering whether to laugh or cry? What really gets your goat? As always, we’d love to know.