Don’t Let These 4 Grammar Glitches Get the Best of You

Jul 18, 2013 | Career Development

WhovsWhom2Flawless grammar. It’s one of those precious skills all administrative professionals want, but not everyone has a knack for – or the time and patience to develop.

Being grammatically correct is crucial for admins since their job involves frequent correspondence – written and verbal – on behalf of their executives and teams, in addition to their own communications. While great grammar doesn’t come overnight, there are some grammar rules every admin should know to maintain a professional appearance for themselves and their executive. Here’s the rundown on four of the most common grammar glitches, and tips on avoiding them.

1. Who or whom? Both words are pronouns. However, who explains who is doing something, and whom denotes who has something done to it. If you’re trying to figure out which word to use, Mignon Fogarty (also known as Grammar Girl) recommends the following: “Like whom, the pronoun him ends with m. When you’re trying to decide whether to use who or whom, ask yourself if the answer…would be he or him. If you can answer the question being asked with him, then use whom, and it’s easy to remember because they both end with m. For example, if you’re trying to ask, “Who (or whom) do you love?” The answer would be “I love him.” Him ends with an m, so you know to use whom. But if you are trying to ask, “Who (or whom) stepped on Squiggly?” the answer would be “He stepped on Squiggly.” There’s no m, so you know to use who.

2. I.e versus e.g. Both are abbreviations for Latin terms: i.e. stands for id est and e.g. stands for exempli gratia. However, you don’t need to remember Latin to know which one to use. Instead, think of e.g as “for example” and i.e. as “that is.” If you use e.g., an example should come after it. For instance, “I like shades of blue, e.g. (for example) navy and sky.” You’re listing a few examples of the shades of blue you like. On the other hand, i.e. should clarify something. For instance, “I watch a lot of sports, i.e. (that is) baseball and basketball.” In this case, you’re only listing the sports you watch.

3. Neither/nor and either/or. The first thing you need to remember is that either and or are best buddies, so are neither and nor. This means they’re usually found together. Either/or are used in an affirmative sense when there’s a choice between two options. For instance, “We can either go now or after work – it’s your decision.” Neither/nor are used in a negative sense when you want to say that two or more things are untrue. For instance, “Neither my boss nor my team went to the conference.”

4. Further or farther. There’s a simple way to choose between these two. Just remember that farther applies to distance and further is an abstract term that you can’t measure. If you’re talking about a concrete, specific distance, farther is the right choice. For example, Kate jumped just an inch farther than Jim, and caused further confusion about who was the better long jumper.

Making the right grammar choices is crucial in maintaining your professional appearance, as well as your executive’s and team’s. Keep these tips in mind as you’re writing your next memo, letter, or other correspondence. And remember, you can always ask someone else to proof your work, or use an online grammar tool, such as Grammarly, to ensure your copy is clean. After all, when it comes to grammar, there’s no such thing as too perfect!

© 2013 Julie Perrine International, LLC


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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at

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