A friend recently rode in an Uber that had this on the back of the seat in front of him for his use. While I appreciate the thoughtfulness that goes into making your passengers comfortable during their ride, the wrong word was used. They are confusing, so we’re going to explore the differences:
Complement: something that fills up, completes, or makes better or perfect.
Her shoes were the perfect complement to her dress.
Compliment: an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration
He appreciated the compliment on his new haircut.
Complementary: serving to fill out or complete
The pink shoes were complementary to her whole outfit.
Complimentary: given free as a courtesy or favor.
The wine was complimentary with a spa service.
In this example, the use of the charger was free and while I suppose it could complete or make better a day going bad because your phone was dead, I think the intent was that charging was free while you were in the Uber vehicle.
A friend sent this one to me and it recently appeared on Reddit, but I thought it was interesting to show that even if everything is spelled correctly, sometimes placement is an issue. You need to try to look at your writing as a whole to make sure that all the parts of it are correct.
A friend sent me a part of this description she saw while looking for a sun visor. I checked and was able to find the full ad and there were so many errors. I assume English is not the ad writer’s first language, but you can see how important clear writing is to understanding what it is they are trying to say. It is the same for your writing. And at least the seller has a good legal team!
A reader sent this to me. It was a sponsored ad on Facebook. I have removed identifying information. It was correct in the headline, but incorrect in the actual body of the ad.
This looks like it was one of those “I know what it is supposed to say” problems–where you skip over words that are misspelled because your brain knows that it is supposed to be even though your eyes could see something different. That can happen when you’ve read it too many times, you are going too fast, or you didn’t proofread it at all because the spell checker didn’t show any mistakes. Slow down and actually read the email, the letter, the pleading, or the ad before it is published or sent off.
My daughter sent this to me from her local grocery store. It just makes me laugh–especially working in the legal field. I’m sure they mean “caramelized” onion relish since that’s what it says in the description of the sandwich, but I’m not sure how it got to be “criminalized” onion relish in the name of the sandwich. Perhaps they were listening to a true crime podcast or streaming episodes of Snapped while they were working and got distracted.
This was in a local breaking news post I received. I initially caught the “best to their ability” error–which should be “to the best of their ability”–and noticed that the last part of the last sentence could be rewritten to make much more sense. Something like “It is unclear if there were any other injuries to occupants in the area.” When you are proofreading for someone, don’t be afraid to change the language to make what they’re trying to say more clear. But please don’t just change it without letting them know what you changed. There are two reasons for this: (1) it could be a little learning lesson for them on how to word something so others will understand and (2) your edit may not be right and there may be a reason it was worded that way. Particularly in the legal field, I always redline my suggested changes to the documents I proofread. I know they are tired of seeing me delete commas, but there could be a method behind their madness and I could screw the whole thing up if I just made the changes without letting them know they are my suggestions. Happy proofing!
This was a picture in a Facebook group I’m in that made me stop and look again. It gives me the opportunity to discuss the difference between less and fewer. Less is something that can’t necessarily be counted such as “Jane wished there was less hate in the world.” Fewer, on the other hand, is typically something you can count, such as calories and the number of items you are putting on the grocery belt. Check out a helpful blog post here. For now, at least this company is consistent in their error, but it really should be “fewer” in both instances.
After a recent Proof That blog post about apostrophes and plurals, I had someone ask the question about words that end in “s” and how you make those words possessive. As much as I see it done wrong and as many questions as I get regarding plurals vs. possessives, I know it is a difficult concept to grasp, so I introduce an Apostrophe Decision Chart! You just check the boxes that answer the question about what you’re trying to do and it will help you decide if your word is possessive and needs an apostrophe, is a plural, or just needs to be left alone. There are several articles and Grammar Giggles on Proof That blog about apostrophes, possessives, and plurals, including one of the very first blog posts “Apostrophail.” You can search proofthatblog.com in the search box on the right-hand side of the home page for other articles about apostrophes and other topics you may be struggling with. But for this Apostrophe Decision Chart, let me know if it helps you or if it just complicates things for you. Everyone learns differently and my hope is that this will help those who need it to have an easier time figuring out whether or not to use an apostrophe and then how to use the apostrophe if one is needed. The Apostrophe Decision Chart is located in the Files section of proofthatblog.com or click here.
I think news outlets are the worst at trying to get news headlines out quickly so they can beat their competition to it, but that sometimes leads to mistakes that shouldn’t be made. In this case, it looks to me like the headline was edited, but they didn’t edit the entire headline–just replaced one phrase with another, but didn’t remove all of the pieces of the replaced phrase. You will be amazed at how much the quality of your writing will improve if you will just slow down and actually read what you are writing.
A reader sent this one to me. It took some researching for me to confirm that the warm water would “envelop” your body. Here is the Merriam Webster online dictionary definition of “envelop” and “envelope”
Envelop – transitive verb
1: to enclose or enfold completely with or as if with a covering
Envelope – noun
2: something that envelops: WRAPPER
the envelope of air around the earth
A transitive verb is defined as “a verb that requires a direct object, which is a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase that follows the verb and completes the sentence’s meaning by indicating the person or thing that receives the action of the verb.”
In this example, you are talking about the action the water takes on your body (direct object, which is a noun). Envelop is the correct word here because it will “enclose or enfold completely with or as if with a covering.”