Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Good Grammar is Good For Business

GrammarSo how did you celebrate National Grammar Day?

I spent mine scouring the web for dangling participles, split infinitives and the misuse of “it’s” and “its.”

Good grammar is not sexy. But it can separate a super lawyer from a slothful one. And it can bring you more business.

A national real estate company recently conducted a survey of residential property listings. It found that many ads contained misspellings and botched grammar. More importantly, it found that 50 percent of potential buyers said these errors mattered “a lot” as they made their purchasing decisions.

Words matter. Using them the right way makes a difference. Especially in our profession, where precise – and concise – communication is key.

5 Common Grammar Goofs

  • "Your and You’re." These two words might look alike, but their functions are completely different. “You’re” is a contraction for “you are.” “Your” is a possessive pronoun.
  • “There” and “Their.” This pair is commonly confused. They needn’t be. “Their” is a possessive pronoun. “There” can have different meanings (to indicate a direction, a place, or even a subject), and therein lies the problem. Use this simple test: if you are referring to something that belongs to two or more people, “their” or “theirs” is the way to go.
  • “I” and “me.” Trouble arises when a first-person pronoun appears as the last in a series of objects in a prepositional phrase. “I” might look correct in such circumstances. Example: “Send a copy of the transcript to Joe Smith, Jane Doe and I.” Wrong. The objective – not subjective – form is proper. “Send it to Joe, Jane and me.”
  • Affect” and “Effect.” Here is the best way to keep this pesky pair in their proper places. Remember that “affect” is a verb that connotes action, while “effect” is a noun that signifies a consequence. Thus: “My screeching voice affects you negatively.” Or: “My screeching voice has a negative effect on you.”
  •  “A lot” is two words. “Alot” is not a word. If you want to indicate a large quantity of something, say “a lot.”

Take This Simple Test

  1. The shirt _____ her blue eyes. (a) compliments (b) complements
  2. Which of these sentences is grammatically correct? (a)  “Are you happy with the idea of my teaching you grammar?” (b) “Are you happy with the idea of me teaching you grammar?”
  3. Mr. Tate is very ill and needs to _____ down before we leave for the auditorium. (a) lie (b) lay (c) laid
  4. I know that using the right coffee maker can greatly _____ the taste. (a) affect (b) effect
  5. The band played ___________ hit song as the encore of the show. (a) it’s (b) its (c) their
  6. The argument swayed the judge, bailiff, jury members and ____. (a) I (b) me (c) we

 

Answers: (1) b (2) a (3) a (4) a (5) b (6) b

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact jay@lawyersmutualnc.com, phone 919-619-2441.

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About the Author

Jay Reeves

jay.reeves@ymail.com | 919-619-2441

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Over the course of his 35-year career he was a solo practitioner, corporate lawyer, legal editor, Legal Aid staff attorney and insurance risk manager. Today he helps lawyers and firms put more mojo in their practice through marketing, work-life balance and reclaiming passion for what they do. He is available for consultations, retreats and presentations.

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