You may have read recently that one vowel might cost British Airways a pretty penny after sending a couple to the Caribbean (Grenada) instead of their intended Spain vacation (Granada). In a digital age where public blunders go viral before brands can even think of hitting the delete button, it’s more important than ever to be mindful of producing well polished content.

While word processors’ spellcheck may be a PR pro’s best friend, sometimes the infamous red squiggles below a word can be misleading. Indeed, Grenada and Granada are both words, but you have to think: Which word was intended?

If you have been following my other posts, you know that grammar, spelling and proofreading are all things that excite me. As rbb’s resident proofer, I’ve put together a list of six misspellings and grammatical errors PR pros should always avoid.

1. Its vs. It’s

  • Use the apostrophe when you mean “it is” or “it has.”
  • Don’t use the apostrophe when you are using “its” as a possession.
  • It’s been raining for days, and my poor dog can’t take its walk outside.

2. Affect vs. Effect

  • Use affect when you are talking about changing something.
  • Use effect when you are talking about results.
  • The humidity is starting to affect my mood, but at least it hasn’t had an effect on my new hairdo.

3. Compliment vs. Complement

  • Use compliment to refer to a nice comment or remark, or something is free.
  • Use complement when referring to things that go together.
  • The new restaurant had complimentary drinks on opening night that complemented certain meals in their menu.

4. Assure vs. Insure vs. Ensure

  • Use assure when telling someone everything is OK.
  • Use ensure when making sure of something.
  • Use insure as a synonym for protect.
  • I assure you the rain will stop by this weekend. Otherwise you may want to ensure that you are insured for flood protection.

5. Precede vs. Proceed

  • To precede is to go before.
  • To proceed means to move forward.
  • As soon as it stops raining I will proceed with mowing the lawn. Cutting the grass will precede planting new flowers.

6. Then vs. Than

  • Then includes an element of time.
  • Than is a comparison of items.
  • If it starts thundering, then it’s time to come inside. But if it’s raining less than yesterday, you can stay outside.

What are some words you find yourself second guessing?