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E-mail Errors that will Ruin Your Credibility with Clients

Coaching for Lawyers5 Grammar Mistakes to Avoid NOW

Oops! You just hit send and that email you sent to a client is riddled with grammatical errors. Unless you're using Gmail, there is no "undo" button in your email account. Your client will receive the email and, perhaps, have second thoughts about hiring you.

Email errors can sometimes ruin your credibility. Plain and simple.

Also read: The App that Cuts Through Email Clutter

Don't look dumb, ACT smart before you send out your emails. Here are five grammar mistakes to avoid in ALL of your writing materials:

1. Your vs. You’re

“Your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your car” or “your practice.” “You’re” is a contraction for “you are,” as in “you’re an excellent lawyer."

2. It’s vs. Its

As elementary as this seems, this is a very common mistake. It’s also easily avoided by thinking through what you’re trying to say.

“It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” “Its” is a possessive pronoun, as in “the dog has lost its collar.”

Here’s an easy rule of thumb—repeat your sentence out loud using “it is” instead. If that sounds goofy, “its” is likely the correct choice.

3. There vs. Their

“There” is used many ways, including as a reference to a place (“let’s go there”) or as a pronoun (“there is no hope”). “Their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their bags” or “their opinions.”

Always do the “that’s ours!” test—are you talking about more than one person and something that they possess? If so, “their” will get you there.

4. Affect vs. Effect

This one trips me up to this day.

“Affect” is a verb, as in “Your ability to communicate clearly will affect your income immensely.” “Effect” is a noun, as in “The effect of a parent’s low income on a child’s future is well documented.”

By thinking in terms of “the effect,” you can usually sort out which is which, because you can’t stick a “the” in front of a verb.

5. The Dangling Participle

Check out these two examples from Tom Sant’s book Persuasive Business Proposals:

After rotting in the cellar for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.

Who or what is rotting - the oranges or his brother?

Featuring plug-in circuit boards, we can strongly endorse this server’s flexibility and growth potential.

Who or what has plug-in circuit boards, the server or the people who are endorsing the server?

The problem with both of the above is that the participial phrase that begins the sentence is not intended to modify what follows next in the sentence. However, readers mentally expect it to work that way, so your opening phrase should always modify what immediately follows. If it doesn’t, you have left the participle dangling, as well as your readers.

Also read: Important Tips for Avoiding Email Typos

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