Is your grammar undermining your professional image? Just because you know when to use I vs. me and you haven’t mixed up your subject-verb agreement since you were 6, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Here are seven grammar mistakes that, while not as glaringly wrong as “Me and him went to the store,” can still cause your colleagues to doubt your competence.
Better vs. best
Remember, it’s good, better, best. You can’t have a best out of two. If you’re comparing two items, you need better. For example: “Out of the two cars he’s considering, I think the sedan is the better choice.” If you’re comparing more than two things, use best.
Anxious vs. eager/excited
Anxious is not a synonym for eager or excited. Anxious implies a negative feeling, like nervousness or apprehension. You might be anxious to do well on a test, but you’re eager or excited to go on vacation.
Insure vs. ensure vs. assure
These three words give a lot of people trouble. Even professional writers sometimes get them wrong. Here’s the bottom line:
- Insure means to provide insurance. You insure your car or your house against loss or damage.
- Ensure means to make sure something happens. Life insurance ensures that your children will be provided for if anything happens to you.
- Assure means to make confident. You assure your boss that the project will be completed on time.
Affect vs. effect
Almost everybody has to stop and think about this one. The easiest way to remember it is that effect is almost always a noun, and affect is almost always a verb. For example, “The changes he made to the company’s business processes had a substantial effect on sales,” but “The changes he made to the company’s business processes affected sales.” So, to affect something is to change it, and the results of that change are the effects. Need an easy way to remember? Affect and change both have an a, and effect and result both have an e.
Couldn’t care less vs. could care less
Getting this one right is easy if you stop and think about what you’re saying. If you say, “I could care less,” you’re saying that you do care…otherwise, there would be no room for you to care less. The phrase you’re looking for is, “I couldn’t care less.”
Free vs. for free vs. for nothing
You can’t get something for free; the for indicates a specific dollar amount. You can, however, get something free. To help you remember, just mentally substitute $100. If you would say, “I got it for $100,” then you can’t say, “I got it for free.” You would either say, “I got it free” or “I got it for nothing.”
Having a professional image is a huge part of career success. It may be unfair, but, if your colleagues see you as smart, educated, and professional, they’ll be more likely to attribute your accomplishments to skill rather than luck. Don’t let these seven grammar mistakes undermine all of your hard work. Keep the spotlight where it belongs – on you and your accomplishments.