Are you confused about the apostrophe? - UKcopy Copywriting and Corrections

Archive for the ‘English Language’ Category

Are you confused about the apostrophe?

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

I can’t think of a punctuation mark that causes more excitement and confusion than the apostrophe. Many people, especially English teachers, get very upset when it is used incorrectly.

In fact, a British man got in trouble a few years ago for drawing apostrophes onto road signs where they had been omitted by his local council. There is even an Apostrophe Protection Society!

Practicality versus Pedantry

There is so much confusion around when to use the possessive apostrophe that many are advocating dropping it entirely as the meaning of the sentence is usually clear from the context. However, this hasn’t gone down well with the apostrophe advocates.

I’m going to go out on a limb, risking the ire of the apostrophe pedants, and suggest if you’re not sure about whether you need an apostrophe or not then you should leave it out.

A little light reading

Fortunately some people on the internet have got a sense of humour about the apostrophe. Have a look at these:

 

How to use the apostrophe – The Oatmeal

Free the Apostrophe

 

 

Grammar Goofs for Native Speakers?

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

A post at ClayzMama.com pointed me at an infographic by CopyBlogger.com called 15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly.

It’s a great little summary of the most common grammar mistakes that we see being made by native English speakers but, it turns out, not so much by non-native speakers.

Mistakes by non-native speakers can be more elementary than the 15 listed by CopyBlogger. Missing out the definite article (the) and the indefinite article (a) tend to be the ones we see the most. However, they tend to get things like then/then. their/there/they’re and the general use of the apostrophe right.

The difference, I think, comes down to the way we learn languages. Our native tongue is usually learned by listening to others speak it. The most common errors I see with young native speakers these days are spelling words how they sound and not how they are correctly spelled.

When we learn a second language the process is more formalised and, usually, involves more study of the writen language than the spoken. Also, while English teachers in the UK have been told not to teach grammar directly anymore you will tend to be taught grammar when learning a foreign language.

So, I think, this illustrates why English teachers wish their students would read more. It really helps!

It’s not just foreigners

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

It is not surprising that those speaking English as a second language often have difficulties. However, for many who have English as their first (and possibly only) language it can be just as much of a struggle.

Those suffering from dyslexia, and other conditions, often find it difficult to communicate by letter or email because they cannot make themselves understood or they’re worried about being judged unfairly.

Our correction service can help to ensure your communications are clear, correct and professional. We work with you to make sure your message gets across and you are taken seriously by those you are contacting.

Contact Us now to find out how we can help you »

Beware of Non-native speakers offering English services

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Recently we have been redesigning our website. During the process we started looking at the websites of other people offering English Correction and Copywriting services.

What struck us most (apart from how dated some of the sites looked) is that so many of these services are run by non-native speakers. The problem with this is that how can you be sure that your English is being corrected properly if it is being done by someone who doesn’t speak English as a first language?

English Correction and Copywriting

A lifetime of experience

It seems unfair to suggest that non-native speakers can’t do a good job but the websites we looked at were littered with small errors. Simple nuances can make a huge difference and it takes a lifetime of experience and exposure to English to get things right.

Our Copywriters use English every day of their lives. They are constantly exposed to it in many different settings. From casual conversations to formal written work they are familiar with the conventions that are expected.

However good a non-native speaker is they cannot match this level of exposure and competence.

Don’t risk your livelihood on bad English Copywriting

If you need to communicate in English for your business then please don’t think that just any English Copywriters will do. Poor copy will put off your potential customers. It looks unprofessional and sometimes can even cause confusion.

Non-native speakers cannot match true native English speakers for subtlety and accuracy. If you want to be taken seriously make sure you get native English speakers to do your Copywriting and English Correction.

The documentation is as important as the product

Monday, February 14th, 2011

It doesn’t matter whether you are producing a physical product for commercial gain or writing Open Source software; the documentation is still essential. For a physical product the quality of the instructions on how to use it could mean the difference between a happy customer and a returned product. With software, both commercial and Open Source, good documentation is key to rapid adoption.

For too many projects documentation seems to be an after thought but it is still part of the product and it gives customers an impression about the company that produced it. Good documentation is actually a promotional feature. It should be celebrated and announced to anyone who will listen and as much care should be taken over the documentation as the advertising copy.

With software projects the problem is down to who produces the documentation. It is often left to the developers themselves to create it. Developers don’t want to write documentation, they want to code. Also, they may not have the skills to write good documentation. Often the best person to write the documentation is someone new to the project but skilled at explaining things. If they can explore the software and ask the developers any questions they have then they will be able to produce documentation that is valuable to the user. A developer is not a user. They have different needs and expectations.

Many manufacturers, especially in the Far East, are now able to take advantage of the Internet and sell directly to customers would wide. This is either through their own website or via auction and merchant services like Ebay. It is an unfortunate fact that poor English on websites and Ebay adverts severely harms customer confidence and trust. This is especially true on Ebay where customers worry about being ripped off by foreign merchants and being unable to get their money back. To reassure potential customers and to build a professional online presence it is essential that English copy is correct and reads in a professional and appropriate way.

This may sound like it is going to cause a large increase in cost but if you already have your documentation, website, adverts translated into English UKcopy can quickly and cost effectively check and correct your English for you.

We also now offer a $5 Ebay advert correction service so if you are using the same advert multiple times then it is definitely worth getting it checked and corrected.

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for more information or look at our Prices page.

Why does speaking and writing English matter?

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

This is a Guest Post by Aleks Ozolins BA

Do you speak or read English?

Silly question really – you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t read English.

English is the most widely spoken and understood language in the world with 43% of people speaking it fluently every day as a first or second language.

Many more people have some knowledge of English, whether from entertainment and news media, the Internet, business, or travel.

When you speak to someone they hear your voice, and see your expression and body language. Surprisingly only nine percent of your message is the words; the rest is sound and vision. When you write, the words are all you have to work with – content is everything. So when you write, the style needs to be compelling; the meaning of your words must be clear and relevant to your audience’s needs.

Sometimes when you write you want people to take note and be motivated to do something. Perhaps you’re asking them to buy a product or service, or to take social action. You could be writing detailed information to guide others. In all cases, your message must be clear and easily understood.

No matter how you learned to speak English, everyone one has to learn how to write it. You speak English daily, but mostly no one has criticised or corrected your writing since you left school or university. Whatever your level of competence, you may not have used the best choice of words, or there is an error of construction, style, spelling, or punctuation.

There are at least a quarter of a million distinct English words, excluding technical words. Choosing the right word is a challenge. Spelling checkers are unreliable as they often substitute alternative spellings as you type. This is particularly true when British spellings differ from American ones. Further problems can arise from matters of idiom, cultural, and gender sensitivity, or knowledge of social customs.

A professional English correction service, where dedicated editors and proofreaders use their detailed and specialised knowledge, can help you produce the best work for your purpose. They can work with you at any point from design through first draft to the finished product. Everyone can also benefit from professional proofreading to find errors in their copy. When you proofread your own work, you see the words you intended to write, rather than the ones on the paper.

Roughly half a million new English books are published each year. Numbers of magazine articles are probably about the same. Google indexes around two billion new web pages in English every month. To attract, hold, and retain an audience in this mass of information, your words need to be clear, concise, and correct. Increasingly, time-poor and fickle audiences will turn away from anything they cannot understand and act on quickly. You can not let spelling or grammatical errors affect the flow of your message. The cost of a professional correction service is a small price to pay to ensure this doesn’t happen.