TriComB2B Blogger - John Acquavita

Common B2B Writing Errors

John Acquavita

I’ve been proofreading and editing copy professionally for quite some time. My career history encompasses positions in the news, publishing, and advertising and marketing agencies. I’ve worked on press releases, media advisories, academic papers, textbooks, and advertising and marketing materials of just about any variety. This includes, but is not limited to: magazine ads, websites, microsites, tweets, interactive pieces, videos, Web banners, brochures, white papers and blogs.

Needless to say, I’ve seen my share of client and internal errors in the written word over the years. Allow me to share some with you as a means of helping you avoid a potential error yourself...

“1st”, “2nd”, “3rd”, etc. — There is never a need to use ordinal numbers such as these in business text. Ever. I cringe every time I read a date with one of these included in it.

AFFECT/EFFECT — Affect is a verb (e.g., This rule will affect us all.). Effect is a result (e.g., The rule will have a negative effect on us.).

AMPERSANDS — Using the “&”symbol is more than acceptable if you’re taking notes in a meeting or are in a brainstorming session, but not for use in formal business copy.

BEST, BETTER — If you’re comparing more than two things, use best, otherwise, always use better if you’re only comparing two things.

BETWEEN, AMONG — The word between is used when comparing ONLY two things; use among when you’re comparing three or more things.

E.G., I.E. — The former means “for example”; the latter means “in other words”. For example: I bought some pieces of fruit, e.g., apples, pears and strawberries. | I bought some pieces of fruit, i.e., a product of plant growth beneficial to humans.

HEALTH CARE — This is always two words, regardless of whether it is used as a noun (the industry in general) or as an adjective (e.g., a health care provider).

MANGER, MANAGER — This may very well be the most common mistake in business text. One is used primarily to describe the events of Jesus’ birth in Nazareth. The other is a common job title in the business world.

MANUFACTURES, MANUFACTURERS — This is probably the second most common error I encounter. Manufacturers manufacture materials.

THAN, THEN — The word than is used to compare a larger quantity to a smaller one; use then when writing about time.

THEIR, THERE — The word their denotes the possessive form of a group; there denotes location.

TO, TWO, TOO — The word to is one-half of an infinitive verb; two is a number between one and three; too is used to emphasize an additional thought. For example, My wife went to shop at two stores. I went to shop at two stores, too.

TOWARDS — Unless you’re writing for a British audience, use toward.

TRADE SHOW — This is always two words.

WEB, WEB PAGE, WEBINAR, WEBSITE— Note carefully the capitalizations of the following: Web; Web page; webinar; website

WHITE PAPER — This is always two words.

WHO — Use who when discussing any sort of people (e.g., consultants, customers, end users, audience members, etc.). For example, The product launch will affect end users who require certain capabilities.

YEAR — There is no need to add the year to a date if it is in the current year (e.g., The conference will occur on November 10, 2015. “November 10” is sufficient.).


Quick side note: I once had a personal finance manager contact me via form letter to try to persuade me to hire him for my retirement planning. As soon as I saw the letter, I immediately knew I would never use his services, because my name was misspelled on it. When he called me a few days later, I said to him, “If I can’t trust you to spell my name correctly, how can I trust you to invest my money wisely?” He had no response.

As always, the lesson remains: proofreading is important.

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