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Common Copywriting Errors and How to Avoid Them

KIM COURVOISIER - FEB 1, 2017

English is not the easiest language. First of all, it is not a phonetic language, which is what makes watching 12-year-olds tackle words like “asceticism” and “staphylococci” at the Scripps Spelling Bee so thrilling. It’s also full of homophones, or words that have the same pronunciation, but different meanings like “to,” “two,” and “too.” Not to mention there are several exceptions to the rules in English such as “I before E except after C.” And, let’s not even talk about how to make a surname that ends with “s” possessive.

Simply put: English can be challenging even for the biggest grammar nerd, and it’s easy for even the most talented writer to mess up sometimes. Unfortunately, as a copywriter, you’re not afforded the luxury of grammar goofs. You have the responsibility to make sure your copy is error-free, and if you don’t, you can count on someone calling you out on it. We’ve all seen it, done it, or had it done to us.

To avoid being called out for an erroneous mistake, here’s a list of the most common copywriting errors.

1. Confusing homophones like “you’re” and “your”

Let’s talk about one of the most common grammar mistakes out there: the notorious muddling of “you’re” and “your.” Here’s how to remember the difference.

“Your” is possessive. For example:

“You’re” is a contraction of “you are.” For example:

When in doubt, ask yourself whether or not the word “are” belongs in your sentence. If it does, write “you’re.” If not, stick with “your.”

Similar errors

English would be a breeze if you only had to worry about getting “your” and “you’re” right, but there are several other homophones that can be problematic. Here’s a rundown of other common errors to help you get it right.

They’re, There, and Their

It’s vs. Its

Two, To, and Too

2. Is it “who” or “whom?”

It doesn’t seem like adding an “m” to the end of a word like who would be such a big deal, especially when many of us forget about it in daily speech, but it does. Here is the difference.

Who

Whom

Similar error

Again, there is more than one instance where you can easily confuse pronouns. For example, sometimes it’s difficult to know when to use me, myself, or I.

Me, Myself, and I

3. Words that are too close for comfort

In English, there are also several words that are close in spelling, but different in meaning, and people mix them up all of the time. Here are the most common problems.

Then vs. Than

Complement vs. Compliment

Lose vs. Loose

Affect vs. Effect

Farther vs. Further

Principal vs. Principle

Assure, Insure, and Ensure

Fewer vs. Less

Peak vs. Peek vs. Pique

The most commonly confused phrase is “sneak peek”. Remember, you’re sneaking a look at something not sneaking a mountain.

 4. Frequent punctuation errors

Not only is it possible to use words incorrectly, it’s also possible to trip up on punctuation. Rather than pointing out every possible way to misuse punctuation, let’s review the basics of commas and semicolons.

Use commas to separate:

Use a semicolon to:

5. Bland words to omit from your copywriting

If you use any of the words outlined in this last section, you’re not making an error; you’re potentially guilty of being boring. If you’re looking to spice up your copy, try and eliminate or cut out the following words:

• Just
• Very
• Really
• Amazing
• Absolutely
• Completely
• Actual
• Literally
• Totally
• Quite
• Suddenly
• In order to
• Like

Do yourself a favor and conduct a quick “control/find” in your documents, and delete any of the words listed above.

Wrap up

English is a complex language, which makes creating flawless content difficult. Hopefully, this guide will help you clean up your writing when it matters most.

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