Business English Writing Skills


Common writing mistakes that make you look unprofessional

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Incorrect spelling. With spell-check software and Google, it's much easier to spot and correct spelling mistakes. This is good because spelling mistakes undermine your credibility.

The wrong word. Software alone will not find every mistake: it will not tell you if you have written their instead of there, or mad instead of made. Read through your copy and watch out for typos and homophones (words that sound the same but are spelt differently).

Changing tenses. Be consistent. Be careful with tenses. Don't just jump from one to another without taking into consideration their use and importance. You know this joke? The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was tense :)

Its / It's. Another common mistake. Its denotes ownership, for example: "I don't like its (the carpet's) colour. Whereas,it'sis an abbreviation of it is, for example: "It's a lovely carpet."

Txt spk. Never abbrevi8 wrds the way u might on a txt msg. It's hard to read. Apart from common abbreviations like CD or PC, avoid acronyms too, if possible. You may think it's professional to use the jargon of your industry but the odds are you'll just make it harder for your readers to understand what you're trying to say.

Can not. A big no!!! This is such a common mistake. If you decide to use the full form and not the abbreviation can't, write cannot, NOT can not! Please. But this goes for cannot, not other modal verbs. Remember: may not, might not, could not, should not but cannot

          Some Commonly Confused Words

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Accept vs. Except

Accept (verb) - to receive

  • I accepted all my birthday gifts with gratitude.

Except (conjunction) - apart from; otherwise than; were it not true

  • When Susan travels, she packs everything except the kitchen sink.

Affect vs. Effect

Affect (verb) - to have an effect on; influence; produce a change in; to stir the emotions

  • The dog's death affected his owners.

Effect (noun) - anything brought about by a cause or agent; result

  • The new speed limit law had little effect on the speed of the motorists.

Cache vs. Cash

Cache (noun) - a safe place to store supplies; anything stored or hidden in such a place

  • They found a cache with some cash and jewels.

Cash (noun) - money, coins, bills; currency

  • ATM machines dispense cash.

Lose vs. Loose

Lose (verb) - to become unable to find; to fail to win or gain

  • Did you lose your glasses again?

Loose (adjective) - not tight; giving enough room

  • I've lost twenty pounds, and now these jeans are really loose.

Passed vs. Past

Passed (verb) - past tense of the verb "to pass"

  • I think we passed the store. Let's turn around and go back.

Past (adjective) - of a former time; bygone; (noun) - the time that has gone by; days, months, or years gone by

  • In the past, I've lost a lot, but I'm much tougher now.

Site vs. Sight

Sight (noun) - something seen, a view, field of vision

  • She was a sight for sore eyes.

Site (noun) - a piece of land considered for a specific purpose

  • It was a perfect site for the new shopping center.

Than vs. Then

Than (conjunction) - used to introduce the second element in a comparison

  • This office is bigger than that one.

Then (adverb) - at that time; next in order;

  • Check your spelling, then send the email.

Their vs. There vs. They're

Their (adjective) - of, belonging to

  • They were proud of their work.

There (noun) - that place or point

  • Just put it over there.

They're (contraction) of they + are

  • They're going out tonight.

To vs. Too vs. Two

To (preposition) - in the direction of and reaching; as far as; to the extent of

  • I'm going to Baltimore.

Too (adverb) - in addition; as well; besides; also; overly; to a regrettable extent; extremely

  • I'm going to Baltimore, too.
  • I'm too busy. I can't go to Baltimore.

Two (adjective) the number 2

  • I have two jobs.

Your vs. You're

Your (adjective) - belonging to you

  • Is this your report?

You're (contraction) - you are

  • You're a great friend!


Can you think of any common mistakes that you make? Please let us know and we'll try to include them in our weekly lessons. We hope this was helpful. See you soon!