9 Common Mistakes in Business Writing and How to Avoid Them


Grammar is finicky, and some of the rules just don't make straightforward sense . (Remember that rule about not splitting infinitives? That was passed down from Latin, where you literally couldn't split an infinitive, as infinitives were single words.) Even so, proper grammar is a hallmark of writing professionally, just as proper formatting is.

To help you avoid common pitfalls, we've prepared a list of nine common grammar mistakes in business writing:

  1. "Fewer" and "less." "Fewer" is used with nouns you can count (example: "one meeting, two meetings"), and "less" goes to the uncountable nouns (you can't say "one effort, two effort"). You can have fewer meetings with less effort.
  2. "It's" vs. "its." This is an exception to the apostrophe-s rule of forming possessives. "Its" is its possessive form, while "it's" means "it is."
  3. "Neither, nor." Nor is only used in this construction; it's not a synonym for "or." Neither "nor" nor "or" should be misused.
  4. "Then" and "than." "Then" is used in time comparisons, and "than" is used in all other comparisons. If you know that, then you'll know which word is better than the other.
  5. Sentence-ending prepositions. As a rule, avoid these. There may be situations where the preposition ends a fixed phrase – "put up with," for example – but in general, words like "by," "over," and "around" shouldn't end sentences, unless to construct them otherwise would be awkward.
  6. Subject-verb agreement. An intimidating term, but it really means "use plural verbs for plural nouns and singular verbs for singular nouns." So, "She ran the meeting" or "They run the meeting," not "She run the meeting."
  7. "Lie" and "Lay." "Lay" takes an object. You can lay yourself down, but you can't lay down.
  8. Misplaced modifiers. Modifiers should stick with the phrases they modify. "I lectured the new employee, who had been working for a day" rather than "Having been working for a day, I lectured the new employee."
  9. Oddballs. Some verbs have irregular past tenses; some nouns have irregular plurals. The best solution is to learn these oddities .

To learn more about avoiding common grammar mistakes in business writing, contact Hurley Write, Inc .

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