If you work in communications, you’ll be well versed in your duty to keep everyone in your organisation on brand – but setting the standard for spelling and grammar is up there on your list of responsibilities, too. It’s no mean feat, especially if you struggle a bit on this front.
To help you along, I’ll feature some tips on common grammar and spelling mistakes from time to time, starting in this post with a tricky one: ‘benefited’ vs ‘benefitted’.
Do you need to worry about spelling and grammar?
Before we dive in, perhaps you’re asking yourself whether it’s really all that important in these digital days of Twitter speak and snappy chats. Does anyone even notice poor spelling and grammar any more?
The answer, in my experience, is yes. It’s just as important as ever and people do notice. Sending out communications that are full of mistakes will damage your credibility as a professional communicator, whether it’s an email to a colleague, a news article on your intranet or a printed leaflet. It calls your expertise and skills into question and chips away at all that hard work you’ve done to build your reputation and gain people’s trust, so that they’ll respect your recommendations.
I’ve worked with some really gifted communications managers who had buckets of marketing know-how and amazing instincts, but who couldn’t spell or put a hyphen in the right place to save their lives. If you fall into that camp, do what they did and make sure you get colleagues to proof read your work, but you can improve slowly but surely.
Right & wrong vs stylistic decisions
If your organisation has a style guide, follow it for points of usage, such as hyphenation and capitalisation. Sometimes, the rules in style guides differ from what might be considered strictly ‘correct’ in terms of grammar or spelling. The important thing is to be consistent.
Back to ‘benefited’ vs ‘benefitted’
Knowing when to double the consonants in verbs can be quite tricky, but it all becomes clearer once you know the rules. This guidance comes from Oxford Dictionaries online, which should be a bookmark on every communicator’s browser! I always default to the Oxford dictionary and style Manual unless there’s an organisational style guide in place.
So, the question here is: When you have a verb like ‘to benefit’ or ‘to travel’, do you double the ‘t’ or the ‘l’ when you add -ed or -ing? Here are the rules to follow…
Do the double when:
1. the verb ends in one vowel and a consonant, with the stress at the end
Example: admit, admitted, admitting
2. the verb ends in a vowel and ‘l’
Example: travel, travelling, travelled
3. the verb has only one syllable and ends with one vowel and a consonant
Example: stop, stopped, stopping
Stay single when:
1. the verb ends with a vowel and a consonant and the stress is not at the end of the word
Example: benefit, benefited, benefiting
2. the verb ends with two vowels and a consonant
Example: wheel, wheeled, wheeling
Simple! (Now, I hope I haven’t made any mistakes in this post!)