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If the reader gets the gist of a message, does the spelling matter? Perhaps a casual approach to spelling works on a personal Facebook page where your circle of friends has a similar approach. But in business, errors could not only cause embarrassment to your organisation or make you appear less competent, they could cost money.

The best way to avoid falling off the horse and inadvertently using the wrong word is to learn spellings and meanings off by heart. You can search for commonly misused words online or refer to a good grammar guide like The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. If in doubt, always check meaning and spelling in a reputable dictionary like the Oxford or Macquarie.

Here are three tricky words that could throw you and land you in the proverbial mud.

‘Been’ versus ‘being’. Recently a grammar-fiend friend emailed me a photograph of a board outside a shop which read, ‘Christmas orders, been taken’. Now, if I saw that poster I wouldn’t bother going into this shop. Clearly, this business has run out of goods – the orders have already been filled. The next time my friend walked past the shop, the sign (which was fortunately written in chalk) had been changed to ‘Christmas orders being taken’. Ah, now I might stop and put in my order.

To be a little less harsh, we can probably reason that it’s only November so it’s unlikely that Christmas stocks have already been depleted. But it still leaves me wondering about many things. Should I stop and ask whether it’s too late to put in my order? Will the business get my order right? Does the business owner pay attention to detail in other aspects of his or her work?

‘Complimentary’ versus ‘complementary’. An extremely common error, these two words might sound exactly the same but they mean something completely different. If you are offering a complimentary product, you are offering something for no charge. A complementary product, on the other, is one that works well with, or goes with another. A particular wine might complement a certain menu item; or the glass of wine might be complimentary (free) if you order two courses.

‘Founder’ versus ‘flounder’. A business that is floundering is one that is struggling, usually financially. There is hope. But if my business adviser or accountant tells me my business has foundered, it means I’m sunk. My adviser may be too when clients take their business elsewhere.

There are multiple words in English that sound the same but are spelled differently and have completely different meanings. Getting the spelling right and choosing the correct word is challenging even for many native English speakers. On the other hand, if you’re in a restaurant with your complimentary glass of wine waiting on a flounder which has been freshly caught and is being served with a complementary sauce, you may not be floundering with the English language at all.

To ensure your publications are free from grammatical errors, contact Concise Writing Consultancy on 02 9238 6638 today.