Basic business writing – Of or have … and other common goofs

This is an extract from the 30 Day Basic Business Writing  Challenge by @SuzanStMaur


LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – SEPTEMBER 24:  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

…Of/have: such commonly spoken and written words, but sadly not interchangeable.

If you’re talking about something in conditional terms, you need to say “I could have … would have … should have.” The use of the word “of” instead is incorrect and despite it sounding right when you speak it, should not be used in your writing if you want to be correct.

But that’s not the only common mistake we tend to be guilty of in our business writing … in fact I researched the most common goofs currently in business use recently and came up with more than 1.500 terms … and that’s still growing exponentially. I’ve put all my findings together in an eBook you might like: “Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them

In the meantime, here is a selection from the book of the most commonly goofed-up terms in business and other writing. I’ve dealt with two truly major areas of confusion –

  • “they’re/their/there” and “your/you’re/yours” separately.) Although you’re unlikely to incur the death penalty for getting these and other common goofs wrong … to do so can andoften does make you look unprofessional.
  • Accept – Except … accept = to agree, to agree to receive … except = apart from, leave out
  • Allude – Elude … to allude to something is to hint at or refer to … to elude means to escape or bypass … e.g. “he alluded to his recent comments about her but what he meant eludes me…”
  • Allusion – Illusion … allusion = something hinted at or suggested … illusion = imagined vision or sight
  • Alot – A lot … A lot needs two words. Or you can allot something, which means to allocate or give out.
  • Altogether – All Together … altogether = completely, entirely … all together = everyone at once
  • Brake – Break … brake (n. and v.) = device to stop motion, act of doing so … break = to damage, often beyond repair
  • Bridal – Bridle … bridal = to do with brides and weddings … bridle = what a horse wears on its head
  • Chile – Chili – Chilly … Chile = country in South America … Chili = very hot, spicy vegetable and its derivatives … chilly = rather cold
  • Cite – Sight – Site … cite (v.) = to mention or point out … sight = vision … site (n.) = given area, e.g. construction site
  • Coarse – Course … coarse = rough … course = conduit for water, etc., also series of lessons or instruction
  • Could of … Might of … Should of … Would of …etc. WRONG! Of is a preposition and doesn’t belong here. It’s could have … might have … should have … would have … etc. If you want to be picky, it’s called the conditional perfect tense of the verb.
  • Currant – Current … currant (n.) = berry fruit e.g. blackcurrant, also type of dried grape … current (adj.) = of the moment, up to date
  • Dependant – Dependent … dependant = noun, e.g. someone who depends on you … dependent = adjective … so in theory you could say “this dependant is dependent on me for …”
  • Did’nt … Is’nt … Would’nt … Should’nt … etc. WRONG! The apostrophe goes where the missing letter is, so the correct versions are didn’t, isn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t, etc.
  • Elicit – Illicit … elicit (v.) = to draw out of … illicit = not permitted Emigration – Immigration … emigration = leaving to become a citizen in another country … immigration = arriving in another country to become a citizen there.

    Remember that emigration only has one “m.” TIP: remember which is which by the fact that “immigration” goes IN, with an “I,” and emigration goes out, as in EXIT.

  • Eminent – Imminent … eminent = famous … imminent = due to happen very soon
  • Fewer – Less … fewer = smaller number of things you can count … less = smaller quantity of something that can’t be counted e.g. water, etc.
  • Hear – Here … hear = to listen to … here = at this point or place
  • Irregardless … this word doesn’t exist! It’s either regardless, or irrespective
  • Lets – Let’s … lets = allows, or (UK) rents out … let’s = contraction of let us
  • Lose – Loose … lose (v., pronounced “looz”) = to misplace or be deprived of something … loose (adj., pronounced with a soft “s”) = free from attachment. Spellings often cause confusion, but then so does much of the English language…
  • Palate – Palette – Pallet … palate = the roof of your mouth … palette = type of tray on which artists lay out
  • Patience – Patients … patience = calm perseverance … patients = people receiving medical treatment
  • Prostate – Prostrate … prostate = a gland within the male lower urinary tract … prostrate = lying down face down
  • Right – Rite – Wright – Write … right (v., adj., adv.) = correct, correctly … right (n.) = opposite of left, also something you’re entitled to … rite (n.) = formal act or ceremony … wright (n.) = worker, e.g. wheelwright, playwright … write (v.) = to put words together, the physical act of doing so
  • Seperate – Separate … seperate = WRONG! Correct spelling = separate (v. and adj.)
  • Stationary – Stationery …stationary (adj.) = at a standstill … stationery (n.) = writing materials, paper, etc.
  • To – Too – Two … one of Banana Skin Words’ early purchasers asked me why I hadn’t included this one and I said because I thought it was too obvious! Anyway, for reference … to (prep.) = expressing motion or direction … too = also … two = the number 2
  • Were/wasn’t … many people use the word “were” when they’re just talking about themselves in the past tense. It’s not quite so simple, though:

I was at the meeting

You were at the meeting

S/he was at the meeting

They were at the meeting

I wasn’t at the meeting

You weren’t at the meeting

S/he wasn’t at the meeting

They weren’t at the meeting

  • Whose – Who’s … whose = belongs to whom? … who’s = contraction of who is

And your challenge for today … correct the common goofs in the following paragraph…

I really can’t except these price rises even if we alot the increase to our customers, because considering that all together the competition come in at the same price or lower than ours, and we’re only braking even on your current costs, we can’t afford your proposed increases. Had you introduced the increases gradually we could of coped, but we wasn’t prepared for this. You should have wrote to us back last year to warn us so we might of been able to absorb it irregardless of the currant financial crisis. If you wish to illicit another years contract with us your going to have to revise your quote, because we don’t want to risk loosing customers.

Post your solution in the comments below!

Want the other 29 days, plus extras? Get the 30 Day Basic Business Writing Challenge below:

30 Day Basic Business Writing Challenge – eBook
Are mistakes in your writing letting you down in your career or business? Wish your written communication was as good and professional as you are? Here’s the help you need: the easiest, friendliest way perfect your basic business writing in just 30 enjoyable days
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