Having a good grip on grammar, a penchant for punctuation and superb spelling skills are all essential when it comes to PR and marketing. Poorly drafted copy on your website, typos in your social media posts or rogue apostrophes on leaflets can come across as careless and sloppy.
And as jarring as it is to see any of these mistakes on professionally produced materials, it’s hardly surprising when you consider some of the weird and wonderful spellings, rules and anomalies in the English language. Like these, for example:
I before E, except after C
Who doesn’t remember using this rhyme at school to help with the spelling of words such as ‘receive’, ‘believe’, ‘deceive’ and ‘relieve’?
A simple, easy to remember rule that works every time.
Well, unless of course your foreign neighbour who is an almighty eight feet in height or your teacher with the weird veins are their own weight in forfeited gold.
Or if you’re on an ancient glacier and one finds oneself deficient in science knowledge, lacking an understanding in government policies whilst extremely efficient in concierge etiquette within society, you may find one fancies a cup of tea to warm up and get your head in the books!
In which case, it’s I before E after C!
Words we get wrong a lot!
There are many words that sound similar and are therefore often incorrectly interchanged. Such as:
Hone in/home in – the first means ‘to sharpen’ – ‘home in’ means to focus or move closer to something. Hone can also be used without the ‘in’ as in to hone one’s skills.
Accept/except – the first means to receive; the second, to leave out.
Complement/compliment – the first is something that completes and the second is to praise.
Precede/proceed – meaning to come before and to go forward.
Then there are the words whose definitions are commonly misunderstood or mistaken. Take these for example:
Ignorant/ignorance – this means ‘a lack of knowledge or information’ – it does not mean ‘to ignore.’
Literally – this means something that actually happened. For example, you didn’t ‘literally wet yourself laughing’ unless you left a puddle on the floor!
Ironic – meaning something that is the opposite of what is expected not something that is unfortunate. Don’t get me started on that Alanis Morissette song…!
Factoid – this is often mistaken for meaning a small fact, or piece of trivia but it actually means ‘false information’. Very useful in these times of fake news!
Awful language to avoid in 2020
The speed of technological advances means that new phrases and words are being coined all the time. But their shelf-lives are short, and it doesn’t take long before they begin to sound hackneyed and clichéd. Examples include:
State of the art
Single point of contact
Think carefully before using any of the above and consider simpler alternatives instead. Unless you’re writing a poem, clear, straightforward copy is generally much easier and pleasant to read than paragraphs peppered with ‘buzz’ words and boardroom bingo!
If word smithery isn’t one of your talents, fear not! We at Izzy PR love nothing better than a spot of spell-checking and paragraph crafting.
Call on us for all your proof-reading and copywriting needs firstname.lastname@example.org