Monthly Error Hunt - Business Grammar and Usage

Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published August 27, 2021, updated November 23, 2022
Monthly Error Hunt - Business Grammar and Usage

Quiz yourself on your business grammar and word use skills.

November 2022 - Jargon

When you get back to the office, let's touch base and do a deep dive into this new software. It looks like it's going to be a game changer.

Can you spot the error? 

This sentence is full of jargon. Phrases like "deep dive" or " touch base" or game changer" are overused. While there is nothing wrong with this sentence grammatically, the excessive jargon emotes both insincerity and imprecision.
 
Learn more about jargon in this article, and review the 127 top jargon examples we see far too often in business writing.

We also created a Jargon Grader tool to help you ensure your writing is jargon-free.

 

October 2022 - It vs They

Finyo has offices in Los Angeles and the UK. They are a full-service consulting firm.

Can you spot the error? If not, here is the correction:

Finyo has offices in Los Angeles and the UK. It is a full-service consulting firm.

A simple way to remember whether to use "it" or "they" is to remember that people are "they" and a thing is an "it." A company or organization should always be referred to as an “it."
 

If you intend to refer to the people who work there, you could instead write,"Finyo’s team members work in Los Angeles and the UK. They are a full-service consulting firm.” 

 

September 2022 - Plural and Possessive Commas

Should we go get the cake's and cookies so we have them in time for Brenda's lunch surprise?

Can you spot the error? If not, here is the correction:

Should we go get the cakes and cookies so we have them in time for Brenda's lunch surprise?

Adding an apostrophe and an "s" to a word shows ownership, but it doesn't make a word plural. In the case above, "cake's" is written to show ownership when is actually plural, so no apostrophe is needed.
 
There is, however, an apostrophe in "Brenda's" because Brenda has ownership over the lunch surprise (and there is only one of Brenda).
 
 

July 2022 - Commas after introductory elements

Let’s offer a rewards program so our every day customers feel valued.

Can you spot the error? If not, here is the correction:

Let’s offer a rewards program so our everyday customers feel valued.

The correct usage is everyday, not every day. Everyday is an adjective to describe a noun that is common, routine, or typical. 
 
 
 

June 2022 - Commas after introductory elements

Before she had time to think about it Kelly hit send on the email before removing the CEO. 

Can you spot the error? If not, here is the correction:

Before she had time to think about it, Kelly hit send on the email before removing the CEO. 

comma comes after an introductory word, phrase, or clause. A comma separates this from the rest of the sentence, giving the reader a pause that can often help avoid confusion.
 

 

April 2022 - Possessives modifying possessives

An independent research company polled hundreds of our customers, and the results are currently being calculated. We should receive the report by next Wednesday.

I have not yet seen any of the research company’s statistician’s data, but until I have the opportunity to review this, we need to defer all pricing changes.

Can you spot the error? If not, here is the correction:

I have not yet seen the data from the research company’s statistician, but until I have the opportunity to review this, we need to defer all pricing changes.
 
Simply change the wording if possible to avoid the awkward construction. This is an example of attaching a possessive form to another possessive form. Most style guides do not recommend this.
 
 

March 2022 - Consistent subjects

If one is to be a good neighbor, you must be considerate of the space and environment that we all live in.

Can you spot the error? If not, here is the correction:

If one is to be a good neighbor, one must be considerate of the space and environment that we all live in.
 
Subjects must be used consistently. If you choose to use the impersonal "one" as a subject, you must continue to use the impersonal "one" throughout the sentence. 

 

February 2022 - Comma splices

Diane has stepped down from the remainder of this project, who wants to fill her spot?

Can you spot the error? If not, here is the correction:

Diane has stepped down from the project. Who wants to fill her spot?
 

If you didn't see the comma splice error, don't feel bad! This is the most common error we see.

 
 

January 2022 - Hyphens in business documents

Five year-olds looked overjoyed on the first day of preschool, but disillusionment soon set in.

Can you spot the error? If not, here is the correction:

Five-year-olds looked overjoyed on the first day of preschool, but disillusionment soon set in.
 
Are there five year-olds? Or, are all the children five years old? If so, a hyphen is needed for all of the modifiers in that phrase:
  • Five-year-olds indicates the group of children are all five years old

  • Five year-olds indicates there are five year-old children. Those five children would be very precocious year-olds to be attending preschool!

 

September 2021 - Flaunted vs. Flouted

Hunter's colleagues were outraged when he flaunted the department rules by publishing his article with no editorial review.

Can you spot the error? If not, here is the correction:

Hunter's colleagues were outraged when he flouted the department rules by publishing his article with no editorial review.

Flaunted and flouted are common word choice errors.

  • Flaunted means "to display or obtrude oneself to public notice."
  • Flouted means "to treat with contemptuous disregard."

August 2021 - Thing or Think

The proposal is rambling and fails to reflect our real value. If Caleb thinks the board will accept this proposal he has another thing coming!

Can you spot the error? If not, here is the correction:

The proposal is unclear and fails to reflect our real value. If Caleb thinks the board will accept this proposal he has another think coming!

This is a word use error. "Thing" should be "think" in that example.

Historically, the correct phrase was "...he has another think coming." 

Thing is acceptable usage now if the phrase stood alone, but with think proceeding thing directly in the sentence, it's unclear and sloppy because the first think doesn't relate syntactically if thing ends the sentence.

July 2021 - Bullet List Punctuation

Thank you so much for the follow-up details. As a final step, can you please:

  • enter the updated information on page three of your Vendor Application
  • update your company's information in the Vendor Portal
  • fill out the attached Banking Verification Form PDF
  • send me a copy of your W-9

We look forward to working with you!

Can you spot the error? If not, learn how to correct the mistake here.

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Take your grammar to the next level in our online self-paced Proofreading & Grammar course. 

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June 2021 - Fewer or Less

I stopped at Staples yesterday before a meeting, knowing my boss would be annoyed with me if I were late. I picked up the five items I needed and headed to the checkout lane that indicated "10 Items or Less." The person in front of me had 17 items. I counted them. I was late for my meeting because of that person's thoughtlessness.

Can you spot the error? If not, learn how to correct the mistake here.

May 2021 - Comma Use with Appositives

I'm sorry for the delay shipping your order! My assistant, Carrie, will call you tomorrow to resolve this problem. She and I will continue working through the holiday until everything ships.

Can you spot the error? If not, learn how to correct the mistake here.

April 2021 - Bear or Bare

Thanks for baring with me. The final report will be uploaded in 15 minutes.

Can you spot the error? If not, learn how to correct the mistake here.

 

 

Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published August 27, 2021, updated November 23, 2022
Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.

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