… accept it were a misunderstanding…

Yes, folks, I read that on a Houston corporation’s website today. How could a copywriter make such foolish grammatical, usage, and spelling mistakes, and how could a copy-editor not catch the errors?

Copywriting mistakes are easy to make. In a world so used to texting abbreviations, you might not even know that you’ve made an error. Certainly the spelling and grammar check on your word processing application does not catch everything.

Always assume your visitors are probably very savvy people. How many times have you clicked away from a webpage because you just couldn’t take copywriting mistakes in the form of misspelled words or misused language? Most likely you questioned the credibility of the site and the company. Why else would they not proof their work?

Some of the more glaring copywriting mistakes occur in language usage. Many readers will find them extremely grating, so be sure you don’t make the errors.

  1. Accept and except. Accept is consent. Except is not to include meaning “but”. I would accept your offer for lunch, except I am not free today.
  2. Affect and effect. Affect (verb) is to influence. Effect (noun) is a result. The weatherman affects our behavior; the effect is we carry an umbrella if he forecasts rain.
  3. Me and I. I is a nominative pronoun used as the subject. Me is an objective pronoun used as an object. Consider the sentence: My Mom and I went shopping. You can break it down into two sentences: My Mom went shopping. I went shopping. You wouldn’t say “Me went shopping”, would you?
  4. Principle and principal. Principle is a basic truth, rule, or law. Principal is controlling, main, or original. Pressure is principal to understanding Bernoulli’s Principle.
  5. Your and you’re. Your is a possessive pronoun. You’re is a contraction of you are. If you’re looking for your book, it is on the table.
  6. Its and it’s. Its is possessive. It’s is a contraction for it is. It’s only natural for a dog to bury its bone.
  7. Their/They’re/There. Their is a possessive pronoun. They’re is the contraction for they are. There indicates location. They’re looking for their books over there.
  8. Advice and advise. Advice (noun) is a recommendation or a suggestion. Advise (verb) is to make a recommendation or suggestion. Your advice is sound; please advise me how to implement the plan.
  9. I.e. and e.g. Those Latin abbreviations are misused a lot. I.e, short for id est, means that is or in other words. “I’m going the writing place, i.e. my garden.” E.g., short for exempli gratia, is such as or for example. “There are many places I can write, e.g. my office, my garden, the arboretum, and the lake, because I am relaxed.”
  10. Assure/ensure/insure. Assure is to give confidence. Ensure is to provide or safeguard. Insure is to protect from loss. “I assure my son that school is a safe place because his teacher will ensure his safety.” “My indemnity health policy insures against catastrophic medical bills”.

And then there are the irritating copywriting mistakes in spelling. These are the ones that are seen over and over again.

  • Judgement instead of judgment
  • Lightening instead of lightning
  • Missunderstand/missunderstood instead of misunderstand/misunderstood
  • Misinformation instead of disinformation – make sure when to use each!
  • Catagory instead of category

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Don’t drive potential sales (audience) away by making these copywriting mistakes in grammar, usage, and spelling. And don’t forget to call Houston’s Directory One if you need help with your copywriting or editing.