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5 Writing Mistakes That Can Get You Fired

January 25, 2010

5. Correcting the Boss’s Grammar

It doesn’t matter whether they don’t know the difference between “which” and “that” or “it’s” and “its” or “when” and “where,” you’re taking your life in your hands if you want to criticize the guy who holds your future in their hand.

What’s the Rumpus?

At first glance, you could solve this simply by keeping your mouth shut, but suppose your boss is in danger of looking foolish? For example, a friend of mine once forwarded me a letter from her boss to some handicapped clients. In the letter, her boss accidentally referred to quadriplegics as paraplegics. That may not sound like much to you, but it meant a lot to the client.

How Do I Fix It?

If there’s a major concern, it’s better to bring it to the boss’s attention—but when you receive an e-mail entitled “Their’s Going to be a Meeting Tomorrow,” just bite your tongue…or fingertips.

4. Links

What’s wrong with this sentence?

Visit our seller on the Web at

What’s the Rumpus?

Got it? Give up? Go ahead and click the link. What comes up? It sure ain’t Amazon. If someone’s paying you to advertise their website and you screw up, that can grow into a pretty big problem. Granted a mere broken link won’t likely get you fired, but if you’re advertising and linking to, that’s gonna be a toughy to explain.

How Do I Fix It?

Before you post it, click the link…then ask a co-worker to check it, too, as sometimes what you see on your computer isn’t what’s going to be on everyone else’s. Plus it’s good to have a witness.

3. Affectations

I love coming up with bizarre contractions, such as “these’re’nt” for “these are not” or “I’d’ve’nt” for “I would have not.” I find them funny, but that doesn’t go for my co-workers/boss.

What’s the Rumpus?

As much as you may prefer to write in your own little way, but few others will be on board. You may know what you mean, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does…and they’re going to get very annoyed very quickly if they have to decipher everything you write.

How Do I Fix It?

However you want to write in the privacy of your own home, that’s fine, but when you’re at work, leave the odd spellings and creative approach to language behind.

2. Images

Let’s play another round of “What’s wrong with this?”

Ducks Unlimited is an international non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of wetlands and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, other wildlife, and people.

What’s the Rumpus?

The image is flipped. Like a broken link, a screwy image can put the kibosh on an account, reflect poorly on the company, and reflect equally poorly on you. Corporations take their brands seriously and pay designers some good fischke to come up with something eye-catching. Again, it may not seem to be a big deal for you, but it will be to your client.

How Do I Fix It?

Same with links, make sure you double-check all the images, and get your co-workers to check it, too. If you’re not sure, visit your client’s website and match the image/logo with whatever shows up on their page.

1. Don’t Look Now, But Your Modifier’s Dangling

There’s a reason listed this as the number-one grammatical error that makes you look stupid:

The dangling participle may be the most egregious of the most common writing mistakes. Not only will this error damage the flow of your writing, it can also make it impossible for someone to understand what you’re trying to say.

What’s the Rumpus?

Dangling modifiers will do all those things copyblogger described, but given their commonality and the potential for seriously offending someone, it’s pretty important to address. To give you an idea, read this:

Weighing over 13 tons, CEO Jeff Spackmeyer uses the Power-Thrust 3000 to lift his own house.

How Do I Fix It?

I’ve you’re really not sure and you’ve already screwed up, just blame it on Ward in accounting.


3 Responses to “ 5 Writing Mistakes That Can Get You Fired ”

  1. anncine on January 25, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I just run everything by Edgar(editgar). We can all see that it has worked out just swimmingly so far. He is really just in it for the broccoli, but aren’t we all?

  2. geoffrey on January 25, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Best contraction ever is y’all’d've.

  3. Shannon on January 25, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I know I do all these things on a daily basis. God Bless you for keeping your mouth shut. :)