Since I began editing full time for Straight North, I’ve yet to read content that hasn’t needed at least one or two minor edits. Understandably, well-written copy free of error is tricky — even the most seasoned writers can make mistakes. Oftentimes, basic grammar rules get overlooked. At Straight North we edit according to the Associated Press Stylebook, so while some of these edits are specific to AP style, they’re all great rules to be mindful of whether you’re writing an email, blog post or other business-related content. Here are the most frequent mistakes I encounter during a day of editing:
1. Apostrophe placement — I often find apostrophes are used when they’re not needed. For whatever reason, it can be tempting to use an apostrophe incorrectly. For example, writing TV’s (possessive) is incorrect when talking about more than one TV. Simply write TVs, and exclude the apostrophe to make it plural. This is also common when it comes to the word it. Adding an apostrophe with an “s” means it is, while its should be used to show ownership.
- It’s hot outside.
- The business decided its office needed an update.
2. Health care vs. Healthcare — According to AP style, health care is two words (unless written as part of a company name that uses it as one word, etc.).
3. Noun/pronoun usage — This one is extremely common, especially confusing singular/plural usage. Consider the following example:
- Incorrect: He went to see if his teacher was still at their desk.
- Correct: He went to see if his teacher was still at her desk.
4. Symbols — In general, words should be used in lieu of symbols. Common examples include percentages, degrees Fahrenheit and the misuse of an ampersand (&) — unless it’s in a company name, etc.
- Percent, not %
- And, not &
5. Each other/one another — I was surprised to learn this, but the term each other should be used only when referring to two people. When referring to two or more people, use one another.
- The two children looked at each other.
- The students applauded one another.
In many instances, the terms are interchanged or inconsistent — and thus require editing.
6. Excess words/prepositions — This is especially frequent and an incredibly easy mistake to make. Prepositions such as up, off or in should be eliminated if they don’t alter the meaning of a sentence.
- We should use
upthe food before it spoils.
- She sent
offher college application earlier this month.
inthe gaps of the article.
7. Starting sentences with “But”, “And” or “So” — Simply don’t do it!
8. Off of — I frequently come across off and of used successively. In this case, the word of is unnecessary and should be eliminated.
- The truck towed the vehicle off
ofthe busy road.
9. Toward/Towards — Use toward, never towards. The same rule applies to backward, and forward.
- The employees were working toward the same goal, realizing they needed to move forward instead of backward.
10. OK vs. okay/ok — According to AP style, use OK, capitalizing both letters.