when words count

"Impact PR’s work in crafting the content for our web site paid for itself almost immediately." Rob Fields, MD Fields Tiling Sept 07

As with food, fashion, toys and technology, language goes through fads. In business, it's never fashionable to use language incorrectly, especially words with not quite the right meaning. For the people you want to influence, what they see and understand from your web site, brochure, flyer, sales materials, ad or media release creates their perception of you and what you stand for. You only get one chance to get it right and it needs to be correct and professional the first time round.

Here are some really common mistakes popping up everywhere that are easily avoided, just by proofreading. Don't rely on your computer spell checker - it may use spelling from a different language (US American) or 'predict' a completely wrong word and change your intended meaning.

"Your" versus "you're" - People seem to have forgotten about conjunctions probably due to the low standards of literacy many young people now have and the issues caused by a SMS-happy Gen Y. "Your" always relates to some form of possession as in "your bag" or "your responsibility". "You're" means "You are" so if you really mean to say "You are going to love this", you should use this version ""You're going to love this", instead.

CD's  - unless the  compact disc owns something, the correct plural of CD is CDs. The same goes for potatoes, tomatoes, pizzas. A very common mistake in advertising and on menus, these days.

It's and its - English is one of the most difficult and illogical languages in the world today. If you put an apostrophe followed by an "s" after "It", it means "it is". If you want to show that something or someone owns something, you would use "its" lke this -   "the dog lost its collar". Confusing, huh?

"Fewer" versus "less" - here's another common mistake cropping up on radio and starting to creep into common usage. The correct way to use these two words is to always use "fewer" when describing multiples of actual things and "less" when qualifying something abstract. e.g. "As the price of fuel rises there will be fewer cars on the road as more people take public transport."
"There will be less burden on the road network when people abandon their cars for public transport, now that fuel prices have hit the two dollar per litre mark."

Receive - just remember this rule and you'll always spell receive correctly - " "I" before "e" except after "c". There is no such word as "recieve".

& - Most of you would know this little symbol called an ampersand means "and". But don't mix ampersands and the word "and" spelt full out in web content or any content for that matter. It just looks like you haven't proofread or checked your copy and did it in a hurry.

Gratuitous capitalisation - It's very tempting for inexperienced business owners to use an awful lot of capitals in web content and promotional materials to make a point. That's fine if you're talking about your brand as that's a proper noun but only capitalise all letters in your brand name or company name if that is how it always appears or if it's an acronym like QANTAS. I think it's improper and defeats the purpose if you pepper capitals throughout your content as it distracts readers. Sentense case is much easier to read so make it easy for your prospects and clients to grasp what you have to say - ditch the unnecessary capitals. If you woudn't find this kind of practice in a major brand's web site or marketing materials (and I'm talking global brands here), for goodness sake, don't do it in yours. Emulate best practice and keep it simple and easy to read.

Homonyms like wear, where and we're and there and their - Spell check is not that intelligent. In fact, it can be downright dangerous, especially with its helpful suggestions and predictive text feature. Always double check and read through your copy carefully in hard copy, especially if it's online as it's easy to miss when spell check programs have substituted a completely different word to the one you originally intended but may have slightly misspelt. We derive meaning by putting together all the words in sentence and making sense of them."Wear" usually relates to clothing. "Where" is always about place or direction and "we're" simply is a short form for "we are". "There" relates to place and "their" denotes possession e.g. "Their dog".

"Practice" and "practise" - In Australian English (and not US English), if you are going to use it as a verb i.e." I want to practise the piano", it's always the version with the "s". If you want to use it as a noun such as "they are partners in a great law practice", then it's always the double "c" version.

Always proofread everything before you make it 'live', send it to the media, printer or your clients!