Words are hard, and the struggle is real. As the company proofreader, I see a lot of syntactical mistakes. Some of them make me cringe, others make me laugh, but all are likely avoidable. Now, I can’t say when it comes to our lexicon I’m perfect, because I’m human. I do make the occasional mistake myself. But, the following are the mistakes I see most often.
1. Subject-verb agreement
Incorrect: An important part of my life have been the people who stood by me.
Correct: The people who stood by me have been important parts of my life.
We should all know, by now, that “is” is singular and “are” is plural. Simple, right? Wrong. You’d really be surprised by the amount of times this actually gets overlooked by writers when sentences start to get more complex. I know it’s not intentional (assuming you passed 2nd grade).
2. Sentence Fragments/Incomplete Sentences
Incorrect: The best thing I’ve seen all day.
Correct: This is the best thing I’ve seen all day.
This is probably the most common mistake I see. It might seem cool and all existential to break up sentences, but in formal writing, I’ll assuredly mark it. Now, don’t get me wrong; I think sentence fragments and incomplete sentences do have their place. Heck, look at Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, E.M. Forster; they all did it. However, if you’re name isn’t well-known in the English (or Advertising) canon, I suggest you stick to the rules.
3. Missing Comma After Introductory Element
Incorrect: Before she had time to think about it Sharon jumped into the icy pool.
Correct: Before she had time to think about it, Sharon jumped into the icy pool.
This one is probably the thing that least gets my goat. While I’m a huge proponent of using commas in the proper places, especially after introductory elements, I don’t get up in arms about it because commas aren’t always necessary. In fact, an overuse of commas is a huge pet peeve of mine—don’t even get me started debating the Oxford/serial comma. If you’re a copywriter or know anything about our lexicon, you know what I’m talking about.
4. Misusing the Apostrophe With “Its”
Incorrect: I don’t believe its finally Friday.
Correct: I don’t believe it’s finally Friday.
At this stage in the game, we should all know the difference between “its” and “it’s.” If you don’t…I feel like I need to apologize for your school system because it completely failed you. You may find yourself writing something like, “its easier for you than it is for me,” but please, save me the headache. If you’re unsure, just replace “it is” and see if it makes sense. That’s a surefire way to keep me from going to town on your project with my pen.
I haven’t listed many mistakes here, but, like I said, these are the ones I see most often. And that’s not to disparage any of our copywriters; they’re all awesome! But I know when you get going, grammar and spelling are probably the last things on your mind. My suggestion is to take a minute and re-read. Trust me, my red ink and sanity will thank you.