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Writing Tips - 5 Ways To Better Articles
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Bad spelling or punctuation reflects badly, no matter what you're writing. A few days ago I received a letter from a graduate seeking a job as a copywriter. She cited meticulous attention to detail as one of her strengths.
Such a shame, then, that in her first sentence she inquired whether I had any "vacencies" in my business. A simple spell-check would have picked that up, never mind a proof-reader.
We all make mistakes, so it's always worth double- and triple-checking everything you write to make sure it's as good as it can be. You never know who might be reading it.
Whether it's an ezine article, your resume, a Christmas thank-you letter or your stab at a Booker Prize-winning novel, here are five common errors to watch out for:
1. Rogue apostrophes. One of the most common areas for error! "It's" is the abbreviation of "it is" and not the possessive. If the car has a dent on its bonnet, there is no apostrophe. The easiest way to work it out is to repeat your sentence out loud and say "it is" where you've written "it's". Does it still make sense?
2. Their versus There. This is difficult, because a spell-check won't pick it up - so watch out when you read your work back. Most people do know the difference, and it's just a typo. "There" might refer to a place ("Have you been there?") or be used as a pronoun ("There is nobody here"), while "their" is the possessive pronoun ("That's their car"). Test it - are you talking about more than one person, and is it something they own?
3. Effect/Affect. "Effect" is a noun. "What effect will it have if there are spelling mistakes in your work?" "Affect" is the verb: "Will bad spelling affect your chances of getting a job?" If you mentally put "the" ahead of the word, that should sort you out - this won't work if it's a verb. (Sometimes 'effect' is used as a verb - such as "to effect a resolution" - but those of us that use plain English don't tend to do this!)
4. Your/You're. We're back with the possessives and apostrophes again... "Your" is the possessive. Is it your bag, your house, your badly-written website? If so, then you're right to use "your"! "You're" is the contraction of "you are": "You're not leaving yet, are you?" If you can say "you are", then that's the version you need.
5. Question marks. I've noticed an increase in question marks at the end of sentences? Because it's more common now to raise the voice at the end of a sentence? That doesn't mean it should translate into everyday writing! If you're asking a direct question, use a question mark: "Do you think we should leave soon?" Not: "So I think we should leave soon?"
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