What the hell is wrong with you? Yes you, the hipster too young to grow the wretched Shoreditch beard; yes you who commissions the tech wizards with designer glasses working from a bean bag to build your start up’s website for two grand instead of the eight they normally take; yes you who within five years will be flying to LA every six weeks to ‘consult’. FFS, with all your success, why don’t you care how your English looks?
Don’t worry, I’m not going to embarrass you and point out how many mistakes are lurking on your website, app, brochure and social media pages (although, believe me, I really could, would, and even should). Instead, free of charge (I’m all heart) here is a list for you pin on the Smeg fridge in the breakout area of the converted hat factory where you work. It is not exhaustive but it will remind you of how empty your lives really are, and when you are old enough to buy a beer, you will come to the care home where I live and personally thank me as I dribble down my cardigan.
It’s / its: Dude, it’s simple, so put the word in its correct context.
Numbers: One to nine and 10 to infinity.
Hyphens: Short hyphens are for prefixes and long hyphens to divide clauses in a sentence:
The pro-Europe MP made a passionate speech. (short hyphen)
We currently have places for two interns – please contact our personnel department for further details. (long hyphen)
And / &: Don’t use & as ‘lazy’ shorthand. See the difference, firstly where & is used correctly – Marks & Spencer, B&Q; Health & Safety Executive. Then, where it should not be used: The long and winding road.
Less or fewer: The word ‘less’ applies to uncountable nouns (for example weight and periods of time). It does not apply to numbers of people and items. It costs less than £10. I have received fewer parking tickets this year.
In terms of: Do not use, ever. The phrase is a virus contaminating the English language. If you use it, your computer will crash and a divine presence will make Haggerston look like Croydon..
Money: You know you love it so give it some respect. Turnover last year was just south of £10m. The industry is worth £12bn.
How to write a phone number: Really? Yes, my friends. You may well be sitting on $7bn worth of investment but if you write your number 07973824303 people will think you are a hairy-arse plumber with receipts and Mars wrappers on your white van dashboard. Break up the numbers: 07973 824303 and for landlines think a new football line-up 3-4-4 (020 7254 1500).
Chill out on exclamation marks: I was editing a website turning over around £15m and spotted this gem: Thanks to all our staff who participated in the fun run. We raised over £4,000 for charity!!! Why stop at three? Treat an exclamation as you would a glass of boutique wine, savour and caress it, don’t cheapen it with repetition.