We know that our clients don’t have time to run everything they write past us, so we added a page of top proofreading tips to our website, to help them when they’re writing letters, emails and other short communications. Here are some more mistakes we see week in, week out.
Less versus fewer
If you can count it, use fewer. If you can’t, use less.
‘I’m going to use less flour in my cake next time – and fewer drops of vanilla.’
When it comes to getting this wrong, supermarkets are frequent culprits. You know that lane nearest the exit, the one you can’t take your trolley through? The sign often says ‘Five items or less’ – it should be ‘fewer’.
Compliment versus complement
‘Compliment’ means praise, or flattery. ‘Complement’ means ‘make complete’, or ‘put the finishing touches to’.
‘I would like to compliment you on your new website; it really complements your brand.’
(And while we’re on the subject, if you want to say that something’s free of charge, it’s complimentary, not complementary.)
You can avoid some of these with judicious use of the ‘Find’ function in Word or Acrobat. For example, if we’re reading a document on health, we always run a search on the following:
- pubic (usually the author meant to type ‘public’)
- manger (‘manager’)
- heath (‘health’).
These words won’t show up in a spell check, so just spend a minute searching on them once you’ve finished writing. You could save yourself a lot of embarrassment…
I was reading a document about Norfolk a month or so ago. The author wanted to say that the roads were ‘lined with copses’ – but typed ‘corpses’ instead. Easily done, but the fine people of Norfolk wouldn’t have been too happy to read that their county had just become the backdrop to Night of the Living Dead.
If you have your own burning proofreading question, contact us and we’ll do our best to help.