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7 Common Grammar Mistakes on Presentation Handouts

Presenter Tip - Brush Up on Grammar Skills

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In general, we think of a presenter as a speaker who is going to give us some very useful information in a verbal talk. If the topic is of real interest to us as an audience, we have hopes that the presenter will give us some sort of take-away in the form of at least one handout package.

So, if you are the presenter, you should be providing the audience a handout that is perfect – perfectly spelled and grammatically correct. Once the hard copies are out there, the print says it all. Spelling mistakes look unprofessional, but errors in grammar are just totally unacceptable. Take the time to actually proof-read your material, not just rely on that handy-dandy tool, spell check. Better yet, get fresh eyes to do that task for you. You might be the greatest speller, but spelling the wrong word correctly won’t win you any professional friends.

So, on that note, avoid these common grammar mistakes (in no particular order) that are like “nails on a blackboard” to me, and possibly to a prospective client.

1. YOUR versus YOU'RE

This is probably the most common grammar mistake I see. But the trick to making the right choice is easy.

Incorrect: "Come to my office when your finished making that presentation."
Correct: "Come to my office when you're finished making that presentation."
Correct: "What time is your next appointment?"

How to choose:
You’re is a contraction of “you are”. Test your sentence by replacing your with “you are”. If it makes sense to use “you are” then the correct choice is you’re.

Read more on using Your and You're

2. IT'S versus ITS

Incorrect: "Bring the CD along with it’s software key."
Correct: "Bring the CD along with its software key."
Correct: "It's on the second shelf from the left."

How to choose:
• If the usage can be replaced by “it is” then the correct choice is it’s.
• In the case of a possessive, use its as in “The dog hurt its paw.”

Read more on using It's and Its

3. THEN versus THAN

Incorrect: "The fourth quarter sales were far more then the third quarter sales."
Correct: "The fourth quarter sales were far more than the third quarter sales."
Correct: "Create this presentation then finish up the reports."

How to choose:
• Use than when a comparison is being made. “This laptop is bigger than that laptop.”
• Use then when there is a time element or a sequence. “Do this first and then do that.”

Read more on using Then and Than

4. AFFECT versus EFFECT

Incorrect: "The server outage will not effect our office employees."
Correct: "The server outage will will not affect our office employees."
Correct: "What effect will these new sales figures have on next year’s budget?"

How to choose:
Affect is used as a verb while effect is most often used as a noun.

Read more on using Affect and Effect

5. LOSE versus LOOSE

Incorrect: "Don’t loose the key to the new office."
Correct: "Don’t lose the key to the new office."
Correct: “This part fell off my laptop because the bolt was loose.”

Read more on using Lose and Loose

6. COUPLE versus COUPLE OF

What happened to the little word "of" when used with "couple"?

Incorrect: "I had a couple files on my desk and now they are gone."
Correct: "I had a couple of files on my desk and now they are gone."

How to choose:
• There is no choice. The word "of" should follow "couple". It is that simple.

7. And finally, my biggest pet peeve – REDUNDANCIES

Why say one word when you can say two?

Incorrect: "I bought the exact same laptop for myself."
Correct: "I bought the exact laptop for myself."
Correct: "I bought the same laptop for myself."

Incorrect: "This new product is very unique."
Correct: "This new product is unique."

Unique and exact are absolutes. A thing cannot be more exact or more unique than something else. It either is exact, or unique or it is not. There are no degrees or qualifiers of sameness or uniqueness.

And little did I know that I could read about 200 Common Redundancies. Do I want to drive myself crazy?

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