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  • Scott Diel

Is English Your Second Language? You Should Really Stop Doing These 10 Mistakes

ESL is “English as a Second Language,” and I was asked to name the ten most common problems I see in business. Here goes:


1. Capitalize the “Y” in “you” only when it begins a sentence or if you are addressing God.


2. “This” and “that” are not interchangeable.


3. Definite/indefinite articles (the/a) are not optional.


4. If you want “British English” then honor it by using collective nouns in the British way. Don’t simply use American English with British spellings. That’s Canadian. Probably.


5. The word “already” should usually be replaced with “as early as,” but often it’s not needed at all.


6. If you’re not one-hundred percent sure of the meaning of a word you’re using, consider looking it up in a dictionary. (See Oswald Bates.)


7. Don’t be familiar. The rules for non-native speakers are more lenient, but you can’t make up your own. (E.g., Use proper punctuation in salutations and, for amazing your European friends at parties, please know that once upon a time English did have an informal, second person singular pronoun: thou, thee, thy, thine. You’re free to use it if you want to be eccentric.)


8. Don’t make up your own abbreviations. “br” does not mean anything, nor do “b/c” and “f.ex.” In fact, you shouldn’t be abbreviating anything in your prose.


9. “Fuck” and its kin aren’t words that are used in professional environments. They should not be used in formal writing or correspondence but rather saved for the Bruce Willis character in your Hollywood screenplay.


10. “Shithole” is one word. Even Donald Trump knows that.

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Well done. Chat you on Friday!