How much attention do you pay to your grammar at work? Is it even important?
Take commas, for instance. Though they might seem like a minor detail, the absence of one can completely change the meaning of a sentence, as in the famous example, 'Let’s eat, Bob!'. Now if we remove the comma and write 'Let’s eat Bob!', Bob might start to feel quite nervous.
In today’s fast-paced world where instant messaging is part of our daily lives, we might not spend much time checking our punctuation marks for correct usage. But though your friends might understand you well enough, the margin for miscommunication is wider when you are communicating to colleagues or clients.
Clear, accurate communication is essential in the workplace for a number of reasons. When you craft a written message in correct English, you are more likely to achieve your objectives faster, avoid misunderstandings, and convey credibility to the recipient. Good grammar doesn’t only ensure your message is received as intended, it demonstrates qualities to your employer like conscientiousness and professionalism.
So what are some quick improvements you can make? Make a note of these common errors to give your writing, and your confidence, an instant boost.
Simple English grammar mistakes to avoid
Use the apostrophe correctly
Apostrophes are used for possessives (to show ownership) and contractions (to show the omission of letters when joining words together).
- Example of an apostrophe used to indicate possession: 'the manager’s office'
- Example of an apostrophe used in a contraction: 'you’re welcome'
Use correct articles
Articles are words that define a noun as specific or nonspecific. There are two types of articles in English: definite and indefinite.
- The definite article is the word ‘the’. For example, “please send me the report”. This makes it clear that a specific report (the noun) is being referred to.
- The indefinite article is the word ‘a’ when it precedes a word beginning with a consonant, and the word ‘an’ when the following word begins with a vowel. For example, “please send me a report”. This request is non-specific.
Fewer or less?
Though we often see the two words used interchangeably, they actually have different uses. Fewer means 'not as many', while less means 'not as much'. In other words, the former can be used to describe countable nouns, like numbers, while the latter applies to uncountable nouns, like ‘water’, or ‘space’.
- For example, 'I have fewer than ten people on my team', or 'there is less space in my office now that the team has grown'.
Affect or effect?
Similarly, affect and effect sound similar but mean two different things.
- Affect is a verb that means to influence or change, whereas effect is usually a noun; it is the result of the ‘affect’ placed upon it.
- In other words, good grammar on your resume will probably affect your employment prospects. The effect might be securing an exciting new job.
Information or informations?
This one is simple.
- The correct word is always ‘information’, as it is considered an uncountable noun in English.
Learning to identify grammatical mistakes is a part of learning a new language, and the best way to improve your accuracy is to practise as much as possible. Ask a trusted colleague or friend to proofread your email or presentation if it is something important. Outside of work, read daily, and read widely – studying good English will help you to spot any simple errors in your own writing.
If you are looking for more support in this area, the British Council’s Grammar Skills for Work 1 course could be right for you. Speak to your HR department about signing up to improve your English grammar and communicate clearly, concisely and precisely.