These days, with social media being a major part of our everyday lives, how you present yourself in writing is increasingly important. If you don’t pay careful attention to the quality of the posts you make online you could be hurting yourself in ways you haven’t even thought of, or can’t even imagine.
A Good Example of This on Facebook
A post appeared recently wherein the author had decided to go into some sort of rant about how they were very upset with people who used animal and cartoon images as their Facebook profile picture. This person wanted only photos of the actual person to be used, and they were therefore going to “unfriend” anyone on who used an image other than their own photo. In this case that the person’s little rant also made numerous disparaging remarks about the characters and motives of the people who don’t use their own photo on Facebook.
The real kicker was that the individual’s rant was absolutely riddled with errors in basic English spelling and grammar.
What would your reaction to this post be? Exactly.
When a post seems to be bordering on illiterate, it loses all credibility. Whatever point they were trying to make about the FB profile photos suddenly became meaningless at best, and hypocritical at worst. And you wouldn’t be the only one to dismiss this person based on the poor quality of that post.
But here’s the most important part: whether you intend for it or not, your post may well be seen by thousands of people worldwide.
Yes, thousands. Even if you have your settings updated to maximum privacy. Anyone within your approved circle of friends can screenshot what you say and post it anywhere else.
Employers are Watching
Prospective employers routinely check out the Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin profiles of job applicants. If you have a habit of making posts with spelling and grammar errors (because it’s only social media, right?), chances are that this will be noticed and taken into account by hiring managers. Any job that requires at least high school graduation will require good writing skills. College Admission Staff Are Watching
Admissions staff at universities and colleges also check out the online posts of applicants. Do you want to present yourself as semi-illiterate to a college or university? The worst thing about this is that if you get “screened out” by applications staff for your poor social media posts, you’ll never even know that this was the main reason you didn’t make the cut!
Prospective Dates Are Watching (Really!)
In Aziz Ansari’s book “Modern Romance” (Penguin Press, 2015), he states that poorly written text messages are a turn-off and sometimes a deal-breaker for many people during the initial phases of dating.
First, you would be surprised as to how many people claim to have college-level education and then post a profile that is rife with errors in spelling or grammar. So it makes the prospective date wonder: are you telling the truth about your education? If not, what else are you lying about?
Second, if you’re not willing to put your best foot forward when you’re actively trying to impress a date – whether it be for a short-term relationship or a spouse for life – it indicates you’re unlikely to put any effort into the relationship. And who wants to waste time on that?
Always, always have a grammar and spell checker program installed and running whenever you compose any type of social media post or text. Also, after drafting even the shortest of messages, STOP and read it over BEFORE you send it. Correct any errors and edit it for clarity if necessary.
Something we notice on a regular basis when we read business letters, memos, reports, and other such documents is the use of unnecessary words to over-describe a situation or condition. These are known as redundant or superfluous words. It’s very easy to get into this bad habit when writing.
In fact, using two or three words when one will suffice can weaken your point rather than strengthen it. For effective written communication, we recommend that you make every effort to avoid using unnecessary words and phrases.
The following is a short sample list of some of the more common redundant words and phrases that we often see, alongside shorter alternatives:
absolutely essential ………………… essential accounted for ………………………….. caused by actual experience …………………… experience attached please find ……………….. attached is at your earliest convenience …… soon consequent results …………………… results despite the fact that ……………….. although few in number …………………………. few for the purpose of ………………….. for free of charge …………………………. free in advance of …………………………… before in the process of being …………….. being in the near future ……………………. soon is suggestive of ………………………. suggests make a decision to ………………….. decide make the acquaintance of ……….. meet mutual cooperation ………………….. cooperation on behalf of ………………………………. for on the grounds that …………………. since perform an analysis of ……………… analyze provided that ……………………………… if take under advisement …………….. consider under no circumstances ……………. never until such time as ………………………. until within the realm of possibility …… possible
We should mention that the words and phrases shown on the left-hand side above are not wrong. They are just a more cumbersome way of saying something that can be stated more simply. Nevertheless, for style reasons, there may be situations where the phrase shown on the left is more appropriate in a particular context. Or, there can be situations where one may choose to alternate between the two approaches, in order to avoid repetition.
A couple of years ago we posted a series of articles about words that are often used incorrectly. This is the beginning of another multi-part series on a similar subject but with even more confused and/or misused words than before. We’ll start the list of words in alphabetical order and expect to cover three or four letters per post.
So, here are some more frequently confused and/or misused words to add to your list.
accuracy, precision “accuracy” is how close something is to the true value and to what degree it is free of error. “precision” is the measure of the “fineness” of a value; usually measured in numeric terms. Examples: His shooting was very accurate in tonight’s game. The laser-cut the diamond to a precision of .005.
affect, effect “affect” is usually used as a verb, to mean “influence”. “effect” as a verb means to “cause” or “bring about” something. As a noun it means “impact” or “result”. Examples: The cost of prescription drugs has seriously affected the cost of public healthcare. His new strategy will certainly have an effect on the company’s bottom line.
allusion, illusion, delusion “allusion” is an indirect reference to something. “illusion” is when something appears to be real but isn’t. “delusion” is a persistent belief in something that is contrary to fact or reality. Examples: Her allusion to the manager’s wife was completely unfounded. The mist hanging over the river created an optical illusion. The delusion that all doctors are infallible still persists in some quarters.
alternate(ly), alternative(ly) To “alternate”, means to do something in turns, one after another. “alternative” refers to one or more choices or options. Examples: When training, every two minutes we alternate between wind sprints and jogging. Our only alternative at this point is to go back the way we came. (“alternate” can sometimes be used as a noun; e.g. we took the alternate route).
amount, number “amount” refers to a quantity of something. “number” is when something can be counted. Examples: A significant amount of snow fell last night. A large number of snow plows are out on the road today.
anyone, any one “anyone”, as one word, can only refer to people. “any one”, as two words, is used when referring to things. Examples: Anyone here is eligible for the draw. He couldn’t blame her illness on any one factor.
appraise, apprise “appraise” means to “assign a value” to something. “apprise” means to “make aware of” something. Examples: The mortgage broker appraised my house at well over $300,000. You should apprise him of what happened last night at the embassy.
approve, approve of “approve” means “to ratify” or “sanction” something. “approve of” means “to accept something” or “to think well of” something. Examples: Once they add the paragraph I requested, I intend to approve the agreement. The Mayor enthusiastically approved of the two new appointees.
assume, presume “assume” means to believe something based on a theory or hypothesis, without actual evidence. “presume” means to believe that something is true unless it is proven to the contrary. Examples: Let’s assume that he will do the right thing and appear at the preliminary hearing. I presume this cutback will result in significant reductions to plant output.
assure, ensure, insure “assure” means “to guarantee” or “be convinced” that something will happen. “ensure” means “to make sure” that something will happen. “insure” is used to describe covering something with insurance. Examples: I can assure you that the increase will be more than the rate of inflation. Fill your tank now to ensure that you can make the trip without having to stop. I plan to insure my new car for both collision and public liability.
attentiveness, attention “attentiveness” refers to the state of being attentive or considerate. “attention” refers to the act of focusing or concentrating the mind on something. Examples: The nurse’s exceptional attentiveness to her patients was noticed by her superiors. We appreciate your attention to this pressing matter.
beside, besides “beside” is a preposition that means “immediately adjacent” or “by the side of” something. “besides” can mean “moreover” or “in addition to” something. Examples: The man sat beside his daughter while they waited. He’s not eligible for coverage. Besides he’ll be changing jobs next month in any case.
biannual, biennial, semi-annual “biannual” means for something to occur “twice a year”. “biennial” means for something to occur “every two years”; or to last for two years. “semi-annual” means for something to occur “twice a year” or once “every six months”. Examples: We conduct a mini-audit of the business on a biannual basis. I believe that environmental conference is a biennial event. We review our hardware inventory levels semi-annually.
characteristic, distinctive, typical “characteristic” is a quality that distinguishes and identifies. “distinctive” is a feature that sets a person or thing apart from others in its group. “typical” is a characteristic specific to a group, type or species to which a person or thing belongs. Examples: Novak always made his characteristic fist pump and bow after winning a match. That designer has a distinctive style when working with recycled wood. That long-winded letter was typical of a government bureaucratic.
cite, quote To “cite” something is to refer to it or repeat it as proof of what was said. To “quote” something is to repeat it, verbatim. (enclosed in quotation marks). Examples: He cited numerous legal precedents while making his argument. To quote John Lennon on that, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
common, mutual “common” means belonging to many or to all. “mutual” means “reciprocal”; feelings or actions felt or done by two or more parties with reference to the other parties in the group. Examples: Miscommunication is a common problem among online users. Their feelings for each other were mutual.
compare, contrast “compare” should be used when referring to likenesses or similarities. “contrast” is correctly used when pointing out differences. Examples: Those numbers compare favorably with those of last quarter. In contrast to my measured approach, his is to rush forward, full steam ahead.
compliment, complement “compliment” is an expression of praise, admiration or flattery. “complement” is when one person or thing is combined with another, they form a complete unit. Examples: Frank complimented Sharon on her new hair style. The addition of the new pergola really complements the patio.
comprise, constitute, compose “comprise” means “to consist of” or “to be made up of” something. “constitute” and “compose” are equivalent; and mean “to make up” or “account for” something. Examples: A baseball game comprises nine innings. The land mass of Canada constitutes more than 60% of North America. Those ten provinces and three territories constitute the country of Canada.
continual, continuous “continual” implies a close recurrence in time; a rapid succession of events or constant repetition. “continuous” uninterrupted in time or sequence. Examples: His partner’s continual complaining eventually drove him away from the business. The continuous barrage of heavy metal music eventually broke him down.
council, counsel “council” is a decision-making governing body, advisory board, or board of directors. “counsel” refers to the provision of advice or guidance. Examples: Last night, City Council rendered its decision on garbage pick-up days during the summer. I sought him out in order to seek his counsel on these latest developments.
Okay, that’s enough for the first installment. As I mentioned above, I’ll be making additional posts like this one — three or four letters of the alphabet at a time — every few months over the next year or so.