With the rise of modern technology and possibilities for remote work, the written word has become more important than ever.
Of course, nobody's perfect, and an occasional mistake or typo isn't the end of the world. But if your written communication is consistently sloppy or riddled with errors, you can leave others with a bad impression, or mistakenly convey the wrong idea.
So, what are some of the most common writing mistakes to look out for?
Microsoft recently combed through the data provided by millions of subscribers to create a list of the 10 most confusing word or phrase pairs in the English language. (Hat tip to our friends over at Business Insider for the original share.)
If you want to improve your writing, make sure you have the following right.
1. "Lets" and "let's"
Lets is the third-person present form of the verb, let.
My mom lets me make my own decisions, as long as I keep her informed.
Let's is a contraction of the words let and us.
Let's go out to eat tonight.
2. "Awhile" and "a while"
According to Oxford, the single word awhile is an adverb meaning "for a short time," and shouldn't be confused with the noun use of a while, which means "a period of time."
We can stand here awhile, but we stood there for a while.
3. "Affect" and "effect"
Affect is used primarily as a verb meaning "to influence or make a difference to."
The environment was beginning to affect my health.
Effect, on the other hand, is used both as a noun and a verb. It means "a result" as a noun, or "to bring about" as a verb.
She knew the effect her voice had on others. (noun)
The new manager hoped to effect change in her department. (verb)
4. "Each other's" and "each others"
Each other's is the possessive form of each other.
We checked each other's work.
Each others and each others' are both incorrect.
5. "Years' experience" and "years experience"
Years' experience is a possessive form meaning years of experience.
This position requires a minimum of five years' experience.
Years experience is incorrect.
6. "A" and "an"
Most English speakers know this one, but it's still a common writing mistake:
You use a as the article before a noun that begins with a consonant (or consonant sound).
My dad bought a new car yesterday.
In contrast, an comes before a noun that begins with a vowel (or vowel sound).
Would you like an apple?
7. "Everyday" and "every day"
Everyday is an adjective meaning "encountered or used routinely, typically, or daily; commonplace."
He grew tired of everyday chores, like cleaning his room and taking out the garbage.
In contrast, according to Grammarist, "in the two-word phrase every day, the adjective every modifies the noun day," and the phrase usually functions as an adverb.
The new intern is excited to go to work every day.
8. "You" and "your"
You probably wouldn't make this mistake when speaking, but it's common when writing.
For clarity, you is the second-person pronoun and is used to refer to the person (or people) that the speaker is addressing.
I love you.
Your is the possessive form of you.
What's your name?
Of course, also be careful not to mistakenly use you're, which is the contraction of the words you and are.
You're going to the party tonight, aren't you?
9. "Advice" and "advise"
Advice is a noun meaning a suggestion, a recommendation, or guidance.
Do you have any advice for me?
Advise is a verb meaning to offer a suggestion or recommendation.
I advised you not to go that route.
10. "Its" and "it's"
Its is the possessive form of the pronoun it, meaning "belonging to or associated with a thing previously mentioned or easily identified."
The sour cream is past its expiration date.
It's is a contraction of the words it is or it has.
It's a beautiful day today.