Quality is Job #1

IStock_000005288325XSmallIt’s “you’re” when you mean “you are,” and it’s “your” when you mean to signify possession.  “Are those your sunglasses?” … “You’re the best.”

The apostrophe in “it’s” is a contraction for “it is” – I know it is strange, but when you see an apostrophe in “it’s,” it is NOT intended to imply possession.  “It’s hot outside.” … “Put the baby bird back in its nest.”

When you want to say something is really cool & important, you might write it down as having “cache.”  But “cache” is “a hiding place; a secure place of storage.”  You probably meant to say “cachet,” pronounced ka-shay, which means “prestige.” 

While you’re digesting this, maybe reconsider how you spell “rapport.”  It’s a great word – pronounced ra-‘poor – denoting a harmonious connection, as in, “The client and the editor quickly established a warm rapport.”  But I’ve seen it mis-spelled far too creatively.

Yes, I am a grammar geek.  Yes, I frequently consult the Merriam-Webster search add-on in Firefox.  And it’s not just because I am a bonafide lover of the English language.  It’s because clients and the media take notice of these little errors.  It causes clients to question how well you’re representing them in public.  It gives the media yet another reason to think poorly of PR practitioners. 

It’s about being a pro.

UPDATE: More than one commenter has rightfully taken me to task for forgetting another big grammar gaffe.  “Loose” denotes ease, or slackening of pressure; “lose” is used as in a loss.  So it’s “It was a shame to lose a client due to silly grammatical errors” … “Let’s keep the meeting agenda loose.”  You might “loosen” a knot but you never “loose” something, you always “lose” it.

(This concludes my high-falutin’, holier-than-thou, Monday morning sermon.)

Posted on: June 9, 2008 at 10:50 am By Todd Defren
27 Responses to “Quality is Job #1”


  • Dan Greenberg says:

    Loose the hounds, I say!

  • PR Squared says:

    Golden Grammar Gospels Redux

    I got a pretty good reaction with my post last week about common grammatical/spelling errors.  Due to popular demand, I’ve decided to do this on a semi-regular basis.  (Read: when I am short on time, or ideas, for meatier posts. …

  • Todd Defren says:

    Actually, Mark, I checked on that. It’s an acceptable spelling. :)


  • Mark Johnson says:

    “Bona fide” is the correct spelling. =)

  • Beth Kay says:

    Ha ha, this reminds of “Friends,” when Ross says exactly the same thing! “YOU’RE means you are… YOUR means YOUR!”

    I love a good Friends quote!

  • Ford Kanzler says:

    Hi Todd,

    Remedial education in English usage isn’t a waste of time or a sermon. It’s overwhelmingly and obviously essential in PR. English (or any language) is worth writing well in for many reasons, not the least of which is your (or your company’s) professional reputation. Ungrammatical communication certainly threatens credibility.

  • The one I’ve seen a lot of recently is “peaked my interest” or (worse yet) “peeked my interest.” It’s *piqued* my interest.

    Also, the number of people who confuse “everyday” with “every day” also makes me crazy.

  • Spelling and grammar are hugely important! They show not only your general education level – maybe that sounds elitist or old fashioned, but it matters – but also the amount of time you put into revising what you wrote, which give me an idea of how much you care about me and what I think of you.

  • Hannah Smith says:

    I agree completely. This is why at my college the public relations emphasis is under the journalism major. You are required to pass a class in grammar before you can start doing actual public relations work. I’ve heard from my classmates in the other disciplines that they don’t see why a public relations student needs the same rigorous training as a journalist. It is because being a good writer is a prerequisite for playing in the game. Successful PRos need to know the fundamentals.

  • Bryan Saxton says:


    Whenever sending a text message or using an application such as twitter, I use abbreviation marks to save space(w/out, &, bc), but I try not to leave out punctuation that changes the meaning of a word (its vs it’s).

  • Kesten Migdal says:

    Ha, good one. I was just tweeting about this the other day (@kmigdal), but more about how people speak than write. My favorite meeting phrase is “flush it out” instead of “flesh it out.” You want to flush a great idea down the toilet? Also, it’s ET-cetera, not ECK-cetera. I heard a very smart man on NPR the other day repeatedly say “ECK.” One of my other favorites is “coming down the pipe” instead of “coming down the pike.” It’s pike meaning road, like the Jersey Turnpike, not like the sewer pipe. Oh, and let’s not forget “clink in my armor” instead of “chink in my armor.”

  • How about knowing when to use “who” instead of “whom” (and vice versa.)

    I love grammar! Thanks for the interesting post!

  • Hey there,

    I tend to find the common CP Style mistake of the punctuation mark appearing outside the quotation marks, instead of inside.

    She said, “I think blogs are groovy.”

    : )

  • Erika Napoletano says:

    Brilliant post, Todd. Let’s not forget the all-too-oft lapse into “text messaging speak.” As in, “I found ur post 2day gr8!”

    Kill me…kill me now. Who pays by the character anymore?

  • Stuart Bruce says:

    One of my personal bugbears is using an ampersand (&) instead of and. An ampersand should only be used when it is part of a name or official title and never use an ampersand instead of the word ‘and’ in text.

    Sorry mate, but this grammar geek spotted “cool & important”. :)

  • Jany says:


    As important as grammar and spelling are to communication, whether it’s with a reporter or client, what’s your take on short communications via text, im, twitter or a smartphone? I know that when I’m writing a short email message using an iPhone (and I know the person relatively well), I tend to leave the apostrophe out of “its” and some contractions. Perhaps it’s a bad assumption, but punctuations are a pain when using iPhone’s predictive text, and I generally skip them. So “their.” :)


  • Yous all kvetch too much :P Eat, shoot and leave, will ya? Good post. Not saying I adhere, but good post.

  • Bryan Saxton says:

    Count me in as someone who who would be happy to listen to more of your Monday morning sermons, especially if they’re about grammar. I especially appreciated the reminder about the difference between “loose” and “lose.”

  • Ashley Cohen says:

    Great post Todd! I agree with Shel, can you make this a regular post? How about tackling i.e. versus e.g next week? That’s my personal pet peeve.

  • Todd Defren says:

    Thanks, all, for the addtl examples. @Shel, given the quick & ferocious responses to-date, I just might do a semi-regular post like this one!

  • Shel Holtz says:

    Can you make this a regular Monday morning post? Ever since Terry Fallis abandoned “Inside Proper English,” I’ve been jonesing for something like this. Maybe you could tackle “further” and “farther” in your next installment.

  • Glen says:

    A peeve of mine is “premier” (first in rank) versus “premiere” (debut).

  • While we are on the topic let’s toss out another gramurder with: irregardless.

    Really? When I hear this or seer it I immediately shut off and do everything I can to stop myself from screaming “fraud!”

  • Your so right! I see apostrophe abuse all the time and its so frustrating! ;)

  • Simon says:

    I totally agree. Spelling things correctly is important. People might scan your content and ignore accidentally misspelled words. Not when it comes to “it’s” and “its” though. It probably takes 5 minutes to check the grammar with word or a similar software.
    Thanks for suggesting the Merriam-Webster search add-on, going to get that one immediately.

  • The worst is the seemingly increasing use of “loose” to mean “lose”. As in, “I would like to have gone for a coffee, but I was worried that I’d loose my place in line…”

    Also, I have to disagree with your pronunciation of “rapport”. It’s from the French, and is pronounced Ra-pour or Ra-porr.

  • Mel says:

    Todd — how could you forget some all time favorites such as “loose” versus “lose” and “their” versus “there?” As the father of two teenagers, the lack of emphasis I see on corrent spelling and proper use of grammar in our schools really kills me. Thank God we older folks are still around for the time being to try to enforce the rules!

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