Common Writing Mistakes to Avoid in Professional Work

Most writing on the internet is garbage. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; the web hosts an infinite amount of content and content creators, but few curators of that content. Furthermore, it can be intimidating to try and revamp your writing; it’s akin to climbing a mountain or building a house. But if you’re serious about creating solid content (and what business isn’t these days?), then you’ve got to take the first steps toward competent writing.

This blog won’t transform your writing overnight, but it will provide solutions to three utterly common and avoidable mistakes that most untrained writers perpetrate daily.

Less or Fewer? 

You can blame the grocery store for this common blunder. Walk across any checkout line and you’re likely to see the sign, “Fifteen items or less” In reality, the sign should read, “Fifteen items or fewer.” “Fewer” refers to plural nouns (i.e. “items”) while less is used when referencing singular nouns (“I drink less milk than I used to.”) There is one exception: less should be used when referring to units of time and amounts of money. Easy enough to remember – they’re both pretty important. If your friend makes ten dollars an hour, and you make eight, then you make two dollars less than he does.

Impact is Not a Verb 

It just isn’t. Sure, it’s tempting to talk about “impacting your social-media strategy in a positive way,” but it’s also wrong. Use any of these superior alternatives in place of impact: influence, affect, coerce, impair, deter, hit, strike, land, change, alter… They’re all preferable to using impact as a verb.

The Ever-Tricky Phrasal Adjective 

You use phrasal adjectives every day, even if you don’t know what they are. To put it simply, a phrasal adjective is a phrase that acts as an adjective to describe a noun. So if you’ve ever recommended a time-honored method, or worried about public-health issues, or looked for a high-paying job, or dreamed about a fairy-tale ending, then you’ve used phrasal adjectives. And as you might have noticed, those examples are hyphenated.

Phrasal adjectives take the hyphen and allow for quicker and easier comprehension when reading a sentence, but most novice writers omit the hyphen, or place it in phrases where it’s not needed. For instance: a company might research focus-group recruiting in their area, but if you’d like to recruit a focus group, you no longer need the hyphen. Understanding how the phrasal adjective works might seem like a small fix – but it’s capable of improving your writing exponentially, and setting you apart from the majority misusing and abusing the language on the regular.

Take some time to fix these three common mistakes and you’ll have taken the first actions toward improving your writing style — the only way possible – one word at a time.


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