Article by Jo Duxbury

I’m not sure whether autocorrect or ignorance is to blame, but my social media feeds have been riddled with eyesores recently. As a grammar nerd, I can’t help but cringe to see very intelligent people making basic language mistakes. Sure, in some context a little leeway is fine – like in chatty, conversational tweets. But anything that’s put out there on behalf of your company, brand or even your own personal brand (like a link to your latest blog post) really should not contain errors like these…:

Reins (noun) / reigns (verb).

I see this one ALL the time. With homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently), if you’re speaking, nobody knows you’re misspelling your words. But write it down and you’d better (a) know that spelling variations can change meaning and (b) use the right version. A person does not take over the reigns of an agency – she takes over the reins (like a carriage driver controlling his horses). She might reign over it though (like a queen).

Vial (noun) / vile (adjective).

Another homophone. Correct use would be: “He poured the vile liquid into a glass vial.” Not “The leftovers I had for lunch were vial.”

Sight (noun) / site (noun).

Yet another homophone: ‘Sight’ is to do with your eyes. A ‘site’ is a place. So you would make a ‘site visit’ and say that something is ‘out of sight’.

Elusive (adjective) / illusive (adjective).

South African accents do not help when it comes to confusing these two. Elusive comes from the verb ‘to elude’ – e.g. Mr Right is proving to be elusive (he’s hard to find). Illusive is derived from the word ‘illusion’ – oh and there’s ‘allusive’ too (from ‘allude’)… But chances are it’s ‘elusive’ you’ll be using most often. Emigrate (to leave a country to live somewhere else) and immigrate (to arrive and live in a country) are similarly confused.

Some other clangers spotted recently:

  • “A piece of history is busy dying” – Don’t interrupt it, it’s got a lot to do.
  • “Social media works for business’s” – For business’s what?
  • “With its intellegent software…” – But its not-so-clever spellcheck…
  • “There was a myriad of…” – Please, please don’t use ‘myriad’ unless you know how to use it properly.
  • “It’s already April, do you see the year as almost over?” – No, I see a run-on sentence.
  • “Where to get replacement number plate’s.” – Yet another example of apostrophe abuse.
  • “We do our utmost best.” – Your best is already a superlative, now you just sound like you try too hard.
  • “I was taken a back by it all.” – Whose back was involved?
  • “We going to be there.” – Shoot me now.

And my final pet peeve is not a grammatical mistake, but just really bad form: “Dear valued client”. If I’m valued so much, you’d think the company could have bothered to do a simple mail merge and personalise the salutation. It’s almost as annoying as companies who thank me for my patience…

Grumpy Grammar Nerd signing out!

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