On becoming uncommonly error-free
in your speaking and writing...
By Jack Thomas
Whether you’re speaking or writing, the level
of your skill with language is either an asset or a detriment to
your overall professional image.
All but a rare few of us make an error from time to time.
If, however, you use poor grammar while trying to lead,
teach, persuade, or otherwise influence others, those who recognize
your errors will be suspicious of everything that you have to say.
Anyone who writes or speaks for a living should
spend as much time as required to learn to use language properly.
Lapsing into an informal mode once in a while for effect is
acceptable, but when you demonstrate, for example, that you don’t
know the difference between “effect” and “affect,” your
mistake negatively affects your credibility with educated listeners
I’m not a language purist.
When I’m talking with country relatives, I tend to let my
hair down a little. As
a professional editor, however, I am always amazed when I’m
watching a high-budget movie and the actor who is portraying a
college professor, for example, says, “I bought this for you and
I.” In this usage, of
course, the personal pronoun “I” should be “me.”
Most people speaking informally would say “for me and
you.” That is more
nearly correct than the former.
The correct form, of course, is, “I bought this for you and
me.” This is easy to
see if you take out the “you,” so it reads, “I bought this for
me.” Almost nobody
would say, “I bought this for I.”
I ran across a gentleman once who had written a
Top 10 song back in the 60s with a key line in the chorus that ended
in “for you and I.” In
my youthful ignorance, I pointed out his grammatical error and,
predictably, he was not very appreciative of my generosity.
“How many hits have you wrote?” he asked, thus ending the
As a professional writer/editor, I’m usually
very alert to errors in grammar and spelling.
Before I changed my Internet connection, outstanding examples
were sent to me daily in the form of spam email from not-so-bright
people who claimed they wanted to solve my financial problems.
Under the subject column, one spammer asked, “Are your
payments to high?” Another
declared, “You’re loan has been approved!”
To find more tips on how to avoid the mistakes
in English that plague most of the American population, I would
suggest that you use Google
as a search engine and then type in “common mistakes in
errors in English” gets similar results.
When doing this, one of the sites that will pop up,
surprisingly enough, is Common
Errors in English by Paul Brians.
This site provides an excellent discussion on the subject and
also lists the various words that often are confused.
You might also want to consider buying the book that
Professor Brians has written on the subject.
Once you reach adulthood, it’s difficult to
change old habits, but it’s well worth the effort to learn the
basics of good grammar. As
young people increasingly abandon books and magazines for television
and computer videos, language skills continue to decline.
Writers who can put together an error-free paragraph are in
great demand. No matter
what your career choice might be, good language skills will give you
a competitive edge.
If you’re already an outstanding achiever in
your field, but lack confidence in your language skills, you might
want to consider getting professional help with your writing and
speaking projects. That’s
pretty easy to do. Just