As promised in last week’s post about grammar mistakes to avoid on your website, here are some more common word mix-ups you should keep an eye out for when writing on your business website.
* INTO VS. IN TO
Into is a preposition which indicates movement from the outside to the inside of something or a transition from one thing or state into another. This includes both literal and figurative movements and transitions. Examples:
- Come into our main store for even more savings.
- This puts money back into your pocket.
- We help turn business problems into business opportunities.
When using in to, in is an adverb (modifying the verb) and to is a preposition. In many cases in to means in order to. Examples:
- Come in to save even more (note, in this case it means come in order to save; in the very similar first bullet example above it meant come inside so you can save).
- You must write in to enter the contest.
- Turn your completed forms in to the customer service rep.
* THAT VS. WHICH
That is used in restrictive clauses. What that means is you should use that when what follows could not be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence. Examples:
- Companies that invest in their workers profit in the long term.
- Small problems that are not addressed quickly can become major problems.
- Grammar tips that are confusing are worse than no tips at all (we’re hoping that’s not the case here).
In all the cases above, if you took out the restrictive that clause (that are not addressed quickly, that invest in their workers, that are confusing) the sentence meaning would change. For example, the last sentence would change to mean that all grammar tips are worse than no tips at all—and we know that can’t be true.
Which is used for nonrestrictive clauses, those that could be removed from the sentence without changing the meaning. These non-restrictive clauses often contain extra information that you could see inside parentheses and usually have commas before or before and after the clause. Examples:
- Companies investing in their workers, which is becoming a trend, leads to long term profits
- Small problems, which all companies have, should not take big resources to address.
- Confusing grammar tips are worse than no tips at all, which we hope isn’t the case here.
All those which clauses above could be cut out without changing the meaning of the rest of the sentence. You could also put the clauses in parentheses without affecting the sentence. In the first example, the clause “which is becoming a trend” is additional, expendable information; the core of the sentence is that companies that invest in their workers will profit.
* WHO VS. THAT or WHICH
As in the examples above, that and which are relative pronouns used for inanimate objects. When referring to people, you’ll always be correct to use the pronoun who. Examples:
- You are the one who we are working for.
- Only people who enter the contest before Friday can win.
- Website visitors who view three or more pages are 37% more likely to purchase.
While all the above uses are correct, some would be OK using that in the last example (visitors that view) since it’s the least personal reference. You’re talking about people, but as statistics.
Some are also OK with using who when referring to animals (especially close pets) and organizations, such as companies.
Strictly speaking, a company is a thing, but if you want to emphasize the humanity of your company (it is an organization made up of people, after all) you can chose to use who strategically in your copy: “We are a company who cares deeply about our customers.”
* FARTHER VS. FURTHER
Use farther when referring to physical distance (think of the most common use of the word far). Examples:
- You shouldn’t have to drive farther than five miles to get to one of our stores.
- Tiger Woods hits the golf ball a lot farther than I do.
Use further when referring to figurative distance, progress, or amount. Examples:
- Nothing could be further from the truth.
- After further investigation, we decided to discontinue the product.
- Our sales team is further along in the transition than the marketing team.
Further is also used as a verb, meaning to help promote or advance something.
- All employees must buy in to further the new direction of the company.
* E.G. VS. I.E.
E.g. is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase exempli gratia, which means “for example.” When you see that first e in e.g., think example.
- Winners will receive a variety of prizes, e.g., iPods, digital cameras, T-shirts.
- The contest will be judged by an expert (e.g., me).
- Choose from a number of industry-specific templates – e.g., accounting, construction, consulting, real estate, retail, transportation – to build your website.
I.e. is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase id est, which means “that is.” You use i.e. as you would use “in other words” or “namely.” It is used to specify or clarify whatever preceded it in the sentence. For that reason it is often used after a technical term or jargon that may not be widely understood.
- We’re focused entirely on the end users, i.e., parents and their kids.
- Unfortunately, a radical redesign (i.e., starting from scratch) was required.
As you may have noticed, both e.g. and i.e. have periods following each letter and are lowercase unless starting a sentence. They are followed by a comma, and will have some punctuation before them to set them apart from the sentence: often parentheses, dashes, or commas.