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How to up your grammar game for clean and clear communications

Magnifying glass highlighting a grammatical mistake

Use these tips to avoid common inconsistencies and improve communications

As communicators, we spend a lot of time finding and arranging the right words to create clear, effective messages. A critical part of this process is making sure we use words correctly to avoid confusion and eliminate distractions. In recognition of National Grammar Day (March 4), here are a few of the most common mistakes we encounter and tips to avoid them.

Common proofing catches

  • Consistency 
    • Voice: Whether you’re using active or passive voice, keep it the same throughout your communication.
    • Formatting: Check your headers, sub-headers, bullets and other stylized text to confirm their structure is consistent within the document or slide deck. For example, are you using sentence or title case for headers? Are your bullet points all complete sentences with appropriate punctuation or are they all fragments? Either way, don’t mix and match within a list!
    • Style: Use your organization’s style guide or preferred style (e.g., AP, Chicago) to confirm commas, punctuation and capitalization are incorporated correctly.
  • Word choice
    • Incorrect usage: Some words sound or seem the same but have different meanings—and are misused frequently. Be sure to pick the one that fits your intended message. Common examples include: 
      • Their vs. there vs. they’re
      • Know vs. now
      • Than vs. then
      • Its vs. it’s
      • Which vs. that
      • E.g. vs. i.e.
      • Comprise vs. compose
      • Further vs. farther
      • Number vs. amount
      • Few vs. less
      • I vs. me
      • Your vs. you’re
      • Who vs. that
    • Extras: Keep your writing as crisp and clean as possible by avoiding unnecessary words and phrases that don’t add to the meaning or context. For example, if you have the word “that” or the phrase “there are” in a sentence, you likely have an opportunity to rephrase and shorten it to create an easier reading experience.

Tips for upping your grammar game

  • Take a break and then revisit. If the schedule allows, give yourself time between drafting and finalizing. If you can review your content with fresh eyes, you’ll be more likely to catch errors you missed earlier. Even better, have someone else review from a different perspective—just be clear about what you’re asking them to look for (e.g., grammar vs. content changes) and how you’d like to receive any changes or suggestions (tracked, incorporated directly, etc.).
  • Know your organization’s preferred style. Take time to understand and align with your organization’s style guide or preferences. By keeping those guidelines in mind from the start, you’ll make the editing process a lot smoother.
Graphic depicting their versus there versus they're

Taking the time to review what you’ve written before finalizing is a key part of creating clear and effective communications, and is a step that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Need fresh eyes on a complex project

Sometimes, the longer you work on a project or create content about a particular topic, the harder it can be to refresh your approach or succinctly share key points and actions. From long-term strategy to crisp, tight messaging, Pivot consultants are here to help you create clarity. Learn more today!

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