Our Biggest Grammar Pet Peeves

May 13, 2014 | Public Relations

Want to hear a joke?

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


To who?

To whom.

Hilarious, right?

Maybe the general public doesn’t find grammar-related jokes as funny as us G-Peeps. (OK, one G-Peep. We won’t call her out.) But even for those who don’t consider themselves proficient in the many grammatical rules of the English language, those rules matter in branding.

Plenty of businesses – both national and international – including high-profile retailers Old Navy and Victoria’s Secret have been embarrassed by bad grammar in marketing campaigns. And it’s likely affecting their bottom line: In a 2013 survey by U.K. firm Global Lingo, nearly two-thirds of consumers said they’d avoid doing business with a company that’s made obvious spelling or grammatical errors.

At Gavin, each team member is involved with ad copy, writing and proofing, so we’ve all developed our personal grammar pet peeves. We bet you can relate to a few:

  • More than vs. over – Traditionally, more than / less than indicated numerical value, while over / under indicated spatial relationships. For example, “I bought more than 10 tickets,” but “I set them under the table.” In April, the Associated Press caused chaos by removing the distinction to match common usage patterns.
  • Every day vs. everyday – Used as an adjective, everyday is one word. For example, I eat breakfast every day, but for some people, it’s not an everyday occurrence.
  • Homophones – Words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently and that carry different meanings. Your (possessive) vs. you’re (you are), and there / they’re / their are two popular series that get misused often. Accept vs. except, affect vs. effect and than vs. then also often trip people up.
  • Apostrophe use – Use them sparingly and wisely. Creating a plural is not an excuse to pepper your language with apostrophes. For example, celebrate happy hour on Thursdays, but be sure to pick up Thursday’s full menu to see our other offerings.
  • Advise vs. advice – One is a verb (to advise), and one is a noun (advice). For example, I’d advise waiting until Tuesday, but I understand if you don’t want my advice on the matter.

Here at Gavin, we pay close attention to our copy, because we believe that first impressions matter. Bad grammar is bad for branding – and bad for business.

And that’s no joke.