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Let’s Eat Grandma: Finding the Clearest Way to Communicate

Posted on: February 5th, 2015

Let's eat grandma | Let's eat, Grandma. Commas save lives.

According to Forbes, we make decisions about people within the first seven seconds of meeting them. Start with your best foot forward and establish credibility through proper language and correct grammar. In the world of communication, everything is tangible and permanent.

With so many grammatical rules and several different national standards, presenting your thoughts correctly can be difficult. To help, we’ve compiled a quick list of common writing mistakes and how to counteract them with instructions from the Associated Press Stylebook. Get your typing fingers ready, fellow communicators. We’re going back to school.

Misusing Commas

Never underestimate the power of the comma. Sometimes, a missing comma could change the meaning of a sentence: “Let’s eat Grandma,” vs. “Let’s eat, Grandma.” It’s best to avoid the last comma in a series, known as the Oxford comma in professional writing. For example, “We called Matt, Amy and Eric,” should be used over, “We called Matt, Amy, and Eric.

Fewer and Less

“Fewer” is for things you can count, “The company has fewer clients than last year, ” whereas “Less” is used for figurative terms, “She has been less passionate about her work lately.” An easy way to remember this rule is to think about the signs above your grocery store check-out line, it always reads “10 items or fewer.”

Me vs. I

It sounds simple, but even the best of us can make this mistake. To figure out which one to use, take the other person out of the sentence. It may sound more natural to say “Jen carpooled to the meeting with Sam and I,” but if you take Sam out of the sentence, it reads, “Jen carpooled to the meeting with I.” If you keep this trick in mind, “Jen carpooled to the meeting with Sam and me,” is the clear winner.

Redundancy

The only way to fix redundancy is to be meticulous about proofreading. “The launch party will take place at 6:30 p.m. tonight” is redundant. The abbreviation “p.m.” indicates the time of day without having to also say “tonight.” In the sentence, “The team was completely certain the client would be satisfied with the outcome,” it is unnecessary to include the “completely,” because “certain” is already an absolute.

“Literally”

Misusing “literally” has become increasingly common. While it’s not earth shattering or an IQ dropper, it can take away from your credibility. If you are in a bind with a project and say, “I have literally tried everything,” chances are your boss will know you have not actually exhausted every possible option. Saying, “She literally took ten years to respond to my email,” is not only overdramatic, but probably very untrue. You may not find a solution to your problem, but at least you’ll be grammatically correct in your distress.

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