Last time we talked about how to avoid mistakes and how to accept them. Now let’s have a close look at the most vulnerable areas when it comes to talking English correctly.
- Incomplete comparisons
When you’re asserting that something should be compared to something else, make sure you always clarify what that something else is. Otherwise, it’s impossible for your readers to discern what the comparison actually means.
For example: My smartphone is faster, better, stronger.
Faster, better, stronger … than what? What are you comparing your smartphone to? A friend’s smartphone? An older model? It would be better to say: My smartphone is faster than an older model
- Dangling modifiers
This mistake happens when a descriptive phrase doesn’t apply to the noun that immediately follows it.
For example: After declining for months, David tried a new tactic to increase the sales.
What exactly is declining for months? David? In reality, the sentence was trying to say that the sales were declining — not David. We can use a different structure here, for example: David tried a new tactic to increase the sales after it had been declining for months.
- Referring to a brand or entity as ‘They’
When referring to a company or organization in writing, the organization in question should always be referred to as an “it,” not a “they.” Unless, of course, you’re referring to the actual people who work there.
For example: Trade Inc. has offices in Warsaw and Gdansk. They are a full-service digital marketing agency.
You should have said: It is a full-service digital marketing agency.
- Me and I
These two are commonly confused.
For example: When you get done with that report, can you send it to John and I?
Try taking John out of that sentence — it sounds weird, right? You would never ask someone to send something to “I” when he or she is done. The reason it sounds weird is because “I” is the object of that sentence — and “I” should not be used in objects. In that situation, you’d use “me.”
The right variant would be: When you get done with that report, can you send it to John and me?
- i.e. vs. e.g.
Many people use the terms interchangeably when trying to elaborate on a point, but each one means something different:
i.e. means “that is” or “in other words”. It comes from the Latin words “id est”.
e.g. means “for example”. It comes from the Latin words “exempli gratia”.
Only use “i.e.” and “e.g.” when writing informally. In formal documents, such as essays, it is better to write out the meanings (“for example” or “that is”).
He travelled to many different countries, e.g. Japan, Australia and Canada.
He disagrees with our plan – i.e. he won’t accept it.
- Then vs. than
Confusion between “then” and “than” probably arises because the two look and sound similar.
“Than” is used in comparisons.
“Then” is used to indicate something following something else in time, as in step-by-step instructions, or planning a schedule (“we’ll go there then there”).
She was better at it than him
We’ll go to the boss first, then the HR department.