The Grammar Geek: Avoiding Confusion

This post isn’t about grammar per se, but about a good way to find your own grammatical errors in your business writing:

After you’ve written something, read it out loud.

Why? Well, maybe you were interrupted mid-sentence and wrote the end of it hours later. I’ve done that and ended up with all sorts of messes, like doubled or missing words or subject-verb agreement issues. If I read what I wrote out loud and I am careful to read it word-for-word, I will hear the error and be more likely to correct it. After all, most of us know what proper business English sounds like, even if we don’t know the rules behind it.

This technique works best if you can walk away from your work for several hours (or overnight), because you are less likely to read what you thought you wrote and more likely to read the actual words on the page. When I wrote computer training manuals (a very long time ago), I discovered that I often mentally supplied missing words as I proofread my work. Unfortunately, many of my errors made it to press, where I’d find them a week or two later. Quite embarrassing!

Along with reading your work aloud, consider having your own proofreader–preferably someone who doesn’t speak or write like you do. This second set of eyes will be much more likely to catch your mistakes, and can save you from embarrassing gaffes.

(On this blog I usually simply read things aloud immediately after writing and then publish–hence any errors you might find!)