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October 3, 2013

How Poor Grammar Could Hurt Your Chance to Make a Sale

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bad-grammar-salesI recently received this disturbing chat: "Is it time to eat Niti?"

Um, I'm sorry ... what? You want to eat me? Should I drop everything and run?

You see, by forgetting something as simple as a comma, my coworker went from courteous to cannibalistic.

That's right, folks: Poor grammar can cause serious miscommunication -- and hurt your chance of making a sale.

When your emails to prospects are riddled with typos and grammatical errors, you're essentially telling them you're careless.

Your emails are a reflection of your professionalism and ability, and if you can't handle proofreading an email, why should a prospect give you the time of day?

Here are seven common mistakes you should ensure don't get through in your emails to leads so you can avoid looking silly.

1) Its vs. It's

This is a common mistake that makes me (and likely your prospects) cringe. "Its" is a possessive pronoun, while "it's" is a contraction. How to use each in prospecting:

  • "I'd like to take you through some of its features."
  • "It's a great way to help you improve your lead generation."

2) Their vs. There vs. They're

The problem with this mistake is that it's relatively easy to make, often through no fault of your own -- I know that I sometimes type very quickly and don't realize autocorrect is auto-screwing-me-over.

Make sure to double-check your usage here -- if you miss this one, you might as well just call it a day with your prospects, because they're not going to take the time out of their day to sit there reading your email.

3) Misplaced Apostrophes

I often see apostrophes used to make nouns plural. What you're actually doing is making them possessive, and then you sound really silly. Here are two examples of what I'm talking about:

  • "I wanted to connect with you to provide some tip's to improve your traffic." (What you're actually saying: "I wanted to connect with you to provide your traffic of some tips.")
  • "Sales has changed in the 2000's with the advent of the internet." (What you're actually saying: "Sales has changed with the advent of the internet of the 2000.")

Remember, you never, ever need to use an apostrophe to make a noun plural.

4) Dangling Modifiers

"After declining for months, Jean tried a new tactic to increase ROI." Is Jean declining for months, or is the ROI? What are you trying to say?! Make sure your participle matches up with the noun to which you are referring.

5) Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs are annoying -- you can't just add "ed" to the end of the verb to change it to past tense. I recently received a prospecting email that said, "An old client of mine leaped into blogging without building up a backlog of posts." All that went through my head at that moment was, "It's leapt,and then I deleted the email.

When in doubt, try cross-checking against this list of common irregular verbs.

6) Commas

Like my example at the beginning of this post, I'll reiterate: Commas are really important (they're the difference between me joining my colleague for lunch and me becoming lunch). Misplacing a comma (or forgetting it entirely) can result in skewing the meaning of your entire sentence.

7) Prepositions to End Sentences

While not technically a grammar error, it sure can be annoying. You sound more sure of yourself with a strong end to a sentence, as you can set the tone for your conversation.

"When do you want these case studies by?" sounds better as "By what time do you want these case studies delivered?"

"Here are some options we can work with" sounds better as "We can work with some of these options."

Remember: Knowing simple grammar rules and when to use the right words can help you avoid looking like a dud.

Image credit: Darren Foreman

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