Grammatical Errors Sabotage Writer’s Message, Credibility

Embarrassing_Grammar_MistakesWhen this headline written by a member of one of my LinkedIn groups hit my inbox, I did a double take:
Is you Networking, Notworking?

Although it’s catchy, I clicked on the link to see if the errors — you instead of your, no capital Y, and a comma where none is needed — were intentional as a means to attract attention or whether they truly were oversights.

When I read further, I decided they had to be oversights, as these faux pas were only the beginning.

Should I let the writer know? I asked myself.

No one likes a grumpy grammarian, so I decided instead to use it as a lesson: Edit, edit, edit so you don’t embarrass yourself or hurt your credibility in a vast arena such as LinkedIn.

Here is the paragraph that followed the headline. I added numbers to help you track the corrections:

Are you building the sustainable returns you desire from your networking? Are you wondering if it is all just a waste of time? Or, maybe you think it is just for those people that (1) are naturally outgoing? (2) If your networking is having rather lack lustre (3) returns, what if I told you it is not your fault, you just need 3 simple steps mixed with a authentic (4) to you strategy (5) and (6) whala…you (7) will have success? Interested in learning how the successful are making their magic happen? Contact me.

This breakdown shows what The Ruthless Editor would suggest correcting:

(1) “… you think it is just for those people that are naturally outgoing?”
People are who; objects and animals without names are that.

(2) “Or, maybe you think it is just for those people that are naturally outgoing?
This is not a question; it is a statement that should end with a period.

(3) “If your networking is having rather lack lustre returns …”
Lackluster is one word, not two, and it’s luster, not lustre.

(4) “… 3 simple steps mixed with a authentic to you strategy …”
A word that starts with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) is preceded by the article an, not a: an authentic.

(5) “… a authentic to you strategy” took a couple of readings, but I think the writer is implying that you need a strategy that is authentic and unique to you, a strategy that is yours alone. To express it properly and clearly, use hyphens to make authentic-to-you a compound modifier for strategy: You need an authentic-to-you strategy.

(6) “and whala…you will have success?”
Again, it was not apparent on my first read, but as I examined the context, I think whala is meant to be voilà, a French word that expresses exclamation. Think ta da! or something of that tone and implication.

(7) “and whala…you will have success?”
Three consecutive dots form what is called an ellipsis that generally is meant to indicate either an omission, a pause longer than what a comma would imply, or a trailing off of thought. An ellipsis should consist of three dots with a space before and after it: ( … )

Given my need to override spellcheck multiple times as I tried to replicate the writer’s errors for this post, I’m flabbergasted that whatever program used to create the message allowed them all. Or maybe someone wasn’t paying attention.

This situation brings to mind a wise observation by author David Foster Wallace:

“Act in haste, repent at leisure.”

I hope this writer has a trusted and courageous friend or colleague who gets in touch so the post can be corrected as soon as possible. If it remains as it is, I doubt that the writer’s invitation — “Contact me” — will generate the hoped-for results.

No one is perfect. We all miss something from time to time. But a one-paragraph post with this many mistakes implies either lack of writing skills or carelessness — or both.

Killer Tip: It can be difficult for you to edit your own work. Before you post something that will have broad distribution, consider copy/pasting it into a Word doc for a final look. Word’s spellcheck is not perfect or foolproof, but it will call your attention to obvious errors and help you avoid widespread embarrassment.

If you created a post with multiple errors, would you want someone to inform you?

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)