Basic Grammar Rules So You Can Be Taken Seriously

I’ve seen lots of professional businesses and individuals both trying to convey a professional representation of themselves either on their blog, Twitter, Facebook or all of the above. Yet one thing in my mind that always lowers the bar they think they’re setting high is basic grammar and spelling mistakes. No matter high-profile they think they are, if I see something like "your" when they should have used "you’re," my respect for them drops, and it drops a lot.

Now I’m not saying you should have a degree in the English language, but there are certain things that are so easy to learn, you would think someone would have at least proof-read some of their big stories. Regardless, if you want to be taken seriously, there’s a small selection of grammar and spelling rules that you really should know.

Here are some examples of when to use what and why you shouldn’t use what when:

  • Alot vs A lot

    A lot describes a large quantity of something. Alot is not a word and doesn’t exist. End of discussion.

    Example: I said I have alot of great photos published in dozens of magazines regularly, and all of my Twitter followers stopped following me. Then I said I hate photography a lot of the time and they all came back.

  • Your vs You’re

    This is incredibly easy, so I’m always very surprised when I see it misused so many times.
    It’s this simple: You’re is a contraction of "you are." Your denotes possession. That’s it! A simple way to remember it, is if "you are" doesn’t make sense, odds are you should use "your."

    Example: You’re holding your camera upside-down. Thus, you’re probably not a very good photographer.

  • Then vs Than

    Then refers to a time, while Than is a comparison.

    Example: That lightning is coming in quicker than I had anticipated. As a result, I will take a quick picture of that moose, then run back my car.

  • They’re vs There vs Their

    This one’s a little trickier, but there are a few tricks to remembering each one. They’re is another contraction, this one of "they are." If putting "they are" in your sentence doesn’t make sense, then it’s time to try another one. There refers to a place. You can remember this one because it has the word "here" in it, which is also a place! Finally, their shows possession. You can either do the process of elimination test for this one, or a bit of a stretch of an example is that their has the word "heir" in it, as in, heir to the throne.

    Example: They’re standing too close to that bear over there. He is going to maul them and their cameras, leaving them with enormous hospital bills, in addition to gear costs. Then they’re going to have to put down that bear there because they’re not smart with their photography skills.

  • It’s vs Its

    Simply put, it’s is yet another contraction, this one of "it is." Its shows possession. That’s it.

    Example: It’s a shame the bear chased that photographer into its den.

  • To vs Too vs Two

    To is often used to reference a place, or is associated with an action of doing something. Too can either mean also, or in addition to, or can even be used to add more emphasis to a description. Two is a number. Please don’t mess that one up.

    Example: It’s too dark and too late at night to take a good photo of that mountain. Those too, are two good examples of weak excuses to not do photography.

  • Weather vs Whether

    Weather refers to atmospheric conditions outside. Whether refers to whether or not you care about your professional image.

    Example: I don’t really care whether I use good grammar or not. If everyone stops following me because I make absolutely no sense, I can always go enjoy the nice weather outside.

If my explanations still leave you puzzled, you can always check out The Oatmeal’s explanation. He’s got pictures.

0 thoughts on “Basic Grammar Rules So You Can Be Taken Seriously

  1. Great advice, Mike. I really think this is a great post, because bad grammar is one of my pet peeves, especially the confusion of possessives with plurals. I see businesses doing it all the time, and think it reflects really poorly on them.

    1. Thank you, Greg! It’s definitely a huge pet peeve of mine as well and I’m always surprised to see how many companies, both big and small, continue to make such major mistakes that are otherwise so easy to avoid.

  2. Great advice, Mike. I really think this is a great post, because bad grammar is one of my pet peeves, especially the confusion of possessives with plurals. I see businesses doing it all the time, and think it reflects really poorly on them.

    1. Thank you, Greg! It’s definitely a huge pet peeve of mine as well and I’m always surprised to see how many companies, both big and small, continue to make such major mistakes that are otherwise so easy to avoid.

  3. LMAO at this – while at the same time applauding it wholeheartedly.

    Having said that, I must take issue with the last one. Since I’m Irish and, as we all know, it rains a lot in Ireland… My Dad always calls it the “whether report” as in, whether it will or whether it won’t!

    As for the “alot” I can only recommend the following genius post:
    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

    Thanks, Mike!

  4. LMAO at this – while at the same time applauding it wholeheartedly.

    Having said that, I must take issue with the last one. Since I’m Irish and, as we all know, it rains a lot in Ireland… My Dad always calls it the “whether report” as in, whether it will or whether it won’t!

    As for the “alot” I can only recommend the following genius post:
    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

    Thanks, Mike!

  5. I am glad you did this, it’s refreshing to see someone taking his grammar/spelling seriously.
    One that seriously bugs me is “should of” when one should use “should have”, as in “I should have paid attention to my English teacher” :).

  6. I am glad you did this, it’s refreshing to see someone taking his grammar/spelling seriously.
    One that seriously bugs me is “should of” when one should use “should have”, as in “I should have paid attention to my English teacher” :).

  7. I’m totally on board with you regarding proper grammar, especially the “poor grammar” vs “lack of credibility” relationship. I was never any good in school when it came to English and writing classes, but felt I have gotten better simply due to reading many, many books over the years. Seeing grammar done the right way has helped me, or at least I think so.

    In closing, I’d like to give another example of poor grammar that I see all the time; the use of “loose” when “lose” should be used. I don’t recall ever seeing the reverse of this.

    1. Thank you, Mac! That’s another great example. I was also horrible in English class in school and interestingly enough I actually learned proper grammar so that I could pass French! Even though it didn’t really stick until I started seeing how many uneducated kids were running very popular websites in the late 90s and early 2000s.

  8. I’m totally on board with you regarding proper grammar, especially the “poor grammar” vs “lack of credibility” relationship. I was never any good in school when it came to English and writing classes, but felt I have gotten better simply due to reading many, many books over the years. Seeing grammar done the right way has helped me, or at least I think so.

    In closing, I’d like to give another example of poor grammar that I see all the time; the use of “loose” when “lose” should be used. I don’t recall ever seeing the reverse of this.

    1. Thank you, Mac! That’s another great example. I was also horrible in English class in school and interestingly enough I actually learned proper grammar so that I could pass French! Even though it didn’t really stick until I started seeing how many uneducated kids were running very popular websites in the late 90s and early 2000s.

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