My top ten easy copywriting mistakes

My top ten easy copywriting mistakes

Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes but, when it comes to copywriting, some are pretty unforgivable.

Every word you write leaves a lasting impression on your reader and just because you’re copywriting for the web (or any other digital format), it doesn’t mean you can slacken off. So when you’re writing emails, websites or even the lowly SMS, remember they deserve grammatically correct, error-free copywriting!

If you’re worried you might be making obvious errors, then here are my top ten easy copywriting mistakes and how to fix them.


  • Your – possessive adjective. (Your copywriter is hot.)
  • You’re – the contraction of ‘you are’. (You’re a great copywriter.)


  • Its – possessive adjective. (The company is great but its website sucks.)
  • It’s – the contraction of ‘it is’. (It’s easy to make a copy mistake.)


  • There – in or at that place. (I had coffee over there.)
  • Their – possessive pronoun. (Their copywriter is fantastic.)


  • Loose – Adjective meaning free from attachment. (My tooth is a bit loose.)
  • Lose – Verb meaning to come to be with out. (I always lose my wallet.)


  • Bear – animal. (I saw a bear in the forest.)
  • Bear – deliver. (I hope my SEO work bears fruit.)
  • Bare – naked. (I slapped his bare bottom.)

Could have/Could of (Would have/Would of)

  • ‘I could have eaten the whole cake’, not ‘could of eaten the whole cake.’
  • ‘I would have liked to go home’, not ‘would of liked to go home.’

Allow/Allows, Lets/Let’s

  • Allow – Passive form of the verb ‘to allow’.
  • Allows – (Kate allows her clients to take her to lunch.)
  • Let – Passive form of the verb. (Let me go.)
  • Let’s – A contraction of ‘let us’. (Let’s eat some cake.)


  • Stationary – Not moving. (The car was stationary.)
  • Stationery – Writing materials. (I love to buy stationery.)


  • e.g. – The Latin abbreviation for exempli gratia (for example), to be used before giving specific examples.
  • i.e. – The Latin abbreviation for id est (that is) and used when you want to make something clearer.

American spelling

  • We’re not part of America (yet) so make sure it’s (for example):
  • Specialise not specialize.
  • Adviser not advisor.

A few others that are irritating but somewhat harder to explain (so I haven’t) are:

–       Dangling Modifiers

–       When to use ‘that’ and when to use ‘which’

–       And the classic (mis)use of colons

Do you have a pet copywriting hate?  Please share it below.

P.S. Picture from Writing Forward.

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  • Jack Cohen

    I received an email other day ‘Congradulating me’ on the birth of my daughter.
    I think that has to be the worst spelling mistake ever.


  • Kate, you’re great (and hot!). My pet peeve is people who use “literally” incorrectly or too often, although it’s usually spoken more than written.

  • Two more I just spotted:

    Then / than

    assure / ensure / insure

    • Hey Mitch

      The literally absue drives me crazy. One of your lot, Rachel Zoe was recently quoted as saying “We’re literally gonna need to pull dresses out of our asses”. Nice!

      Okay let me get these others straight:
      Then = At that time. ‘I was much thinner then’.
      Than = Bit harder. Hmmm, introducing a second element for comparison, ‘Mitch is a better copywriter than Kate’ and erm…to express contrast? “I ate cheese rather than touch the quiche.”

      Assure – Tell someone something positively or confidently to dispel any doubts they may have, “Kate assured Mitch he was a very handsome man”.
      Ensure – To make certain something is the case. “Kate waiting on his doorstep to ensure he didn’t leave with out saying goodbye.”
      Insure – As in insurance, paying lots of money to greedy companies on the off chance that something gets nicked or lost or broken or set on fire. “Kate decided to insure her bottom for $1 million”.

  • Graham Price

    I still see people using apostrophes for plurals for no good reason – especially words that end with a vowel for some reason – photo’s, pizza’s, etc.

  • Uri

    Hi Kate,

    This article is great!

    It made me feel real good about myself as although English is my 2nd language I managed to figure out all the items.

    Now I’m sure I managed to make a complete fool out of myself and have at least twenty errors in these two sentences.

    LOL 🙂

    • Hi Uri!
      Thanks for your (error free) comment! Glad the article was useful. Best wishes, Kate.

  • Craig Delahoy

    Americanisation. Yes, I hate it too. For our web work, it’s particularly painful (have to code CENTER instead of CENTRE). It even gets political out here, where our governing political party can’t spell their name right – they call themselves “Labor”, yet their website talks about the “labour movement”, so they can’t even be consistent in their errors. Oh, and I still go to the “theatre” to enjoy the “humour”!

    • Those pesky Americans, removing vowels and messing around with letter order left right and CENTER!

  • Kate,

    This is one I dislike.

    Pacificly vs specifically.

  • Brilliant summary and examples, Kate.

    You’ve covered the ones most frequently abused, although I’ve seen confusion between sight and site – including by technical writers.

    Sight is associated with seeing – Her sight is excellent.
    Site is a location or place – A shopping centre will be build on this site.

    Let’s keep doing our best to help writers get these right (perhaps we can have a graduation rite for successful writers [tongue very firmly in cheek]

    • Another good one to add to the list Desolie. The list I think is pretty much endless!
      Thanks so much for commenting.

  • Lesley Tither

    A recent repeat episode of Morse got me thinking about the -ise, -ize debate as, like the writer, I was always taught -ise was UK English, -ize was American. I was therefore surprised that Oxford gives specialize as standard English, with specialise as the alternative, and the same for apologize and many other -ize, -ise words. Is this something that’s come in and out of fashion over the years or was I just misiniformed in my formative years?

    • Lorks I honestly didn’t know that. I still use ‘ise’ and my grammarwarlord proofer does too. I guess grammar rules are not actually enforced by anyone so a lot of it is down to personal preference. Think I’ll stick to the old school though!

      Thanks for commenting!

  • The thing that drives me thermonuclear is “sat” instead of “sitting”. And it’s common even on the Beeb…

    “I’m sat here writing this…” makes as much sense as “I am currently walked along the road”.

    Sat = past tense
    Sitting = present tense.

  • Definitely. Seems to me most people think this word is spelled “definately” (and other erroneous variations).

    • HI Barry, yes I agree. I think this one has something to do with the whole ‘spell it as it sounds’ ethos. If you’re saying Definitely with an American twang that I sounds very much like an a! Tricky language English! Thanks for your comment.

  • jamiebeags

    Oh blimey yeah those are sneaky. I recently had issues with… Loose/lose (as in lose weight), alcohol (I spelled it alcahol), houmous (spell checker hates it, I love it) and everything that requires a hyphen between two words. Also my own surname Beaglehole sends my auto-correcter into meltdown – I get Beglerod, Before, Brittle but never Beaglehole 🙁