April 30, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Things that bug me more than they should.

Things that bug me more than they should.

I have a tendency to think that blog posts need to be researched, thought through, developed–and, quite frankly, this mentality gets in the way of writing as often as I should. It’s the perfectionists’ curse, and it’s particularly harmful in blogging.

I’ve kept a running list of things I see online that bug me, and after seeing yet another last night on Twitter, I decided to just throw down a list. This has little relevance from a PR or social media perspective, unless, well, you are a PR practitioner making these mistakes. But I doubt it–most of these are pretty rudimentary errors, but they are everywhere.

  1. First, the one that spurred the list. I saw, last night on Twitter a fairly well-known commentator refer to “waiting with baited breath.” Baited? Like, with bait? No. The correct form is “bated breath.” Here’s the history. It’s a short form of abated, apparently.
  2. Everyday vs. every day. People seem to use the first incorrectly fairly often. If you are talking about something you do daily, like taking a walk, you say “I take a walk every day.” If you are talking about something that is commonplace, use the other form: “She wore her everyday jeans to the opera.” (But don’t do that. Wear something nice to the opera.)
  3. Must of/would of/should of. These drive me bonkers–they are flat-out wrong. It’s mistaking the sound of “would’ve” (contraction of would have) and translating it to “would of.” It is “I would’ve gone with you, but I had other things to do.” Saying “I would of gone with you” does not make sense. At all.
  4. This next one is, I’m sure, a product of my Political Science degree and years in politics, but I see this error all the time online–sometimes, amazingly, even in professional publications. When one is referring to political parties, the word is capitalized. A Republican proposal, a Democrat legislator. When one is referring to the political theories, they are lower case: a republican form of government, a direct democracy.
  5. Peace of mind versus piece of my mind.  This one cracks me up. When discussing something that reassures you, it provides you “peace of mind.” When you are annoyed, and want to get something out in the open, you give someone “a piece of your mind.” When I see “well, having a backup plan just gives me piece of mind,” I can’t help but think “which part?”
  6. “A lot” is not one word. It just isn’t. And every time I see “alot” I think of this: The Alot is better than you at everything.
  7. It’s versus its. I have my own theory as to why this is wrong so often–I’ve had both Word and the auto-fill on my Android phone switch my correct use of this to the incorrect form. (Word gives me that annoying green under-squiggly that suggests I have a grammatical problem.) If you can read the sentence and say “it is” use it’s. Example: It’s not that hard to remember this. If you are referring to the possessive, then: “the dog chased its tail.” If you say “it is” in that sentence, it doesn’t make sense anymore. “The dog chased it is tail?” No.  Its.

So, there you have it. Seven things that bug me way more than they should. I was going to add compliment vs. complement, but while I was writing this, Ragan.com posted “7 Language Errors that Spell-check Will Miss,” so that’s already been covered.

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for just over 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR work, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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