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What Partners Hate: Eight Grammar Gripes—And How to Avoid Them

  1. Misuse of commas

Tip: If you have and or but in the middle of a long sentence, check what follows. If it’s a person or thing, put a comma before the and or but. If not, no comma. Examples: “He deposited the check, but the client forgot to record the payment” vs. “He deposited the check but forgot to sign it.” If your issue is the serial comma, click here instead.

  1. I vs. me vs. myself

Tip: Myself and herself and himself are almost always wrong, as in “Please contact Jane Doe or myself” and “The team was led by the client and myself.” (You need me in both cases.) Click here for more on I vs. me following prepositions.

  1. Who vs. whom

Tip: Recast the sentence by inserting he or him. If he works, use who. If it’s him, use whom. So in “He is someone whom I once thought would go to prison,” the whom should be who: “I thought he would go to prison,” not “I thought him would go to prison.”

  1. Tense-sequence errors in a sentence or provision

Tip: Stick to the present tense when possible. In condition-consequence constructions, use present tense for the condition clause and “will” for the consequence clause: “If employment terminates, all benefits will terminate.”

  1. Since vs. because

Tip: Use since only for time. For cause and effect, use because: “I haven’t heard from her since Friday. Because I haven’t heard from her, I assume she will reject the proposal.”

  1. Fewer vs. less

Tip: If you can count it, use fewer: “Our client has received fewer complaints than usual this year.”

  1. Using their with a singular collective noun such as a client, party, or law firm

Tip: In American English, unlike in British English, these words take it or its, not their: “The Bank has been known to underreport its liabilities.”

  1. Errors with possessive apostrophes

Tip: Watch for common typos with words like Debtors’, Debtor’s, and Debtors. Also decide how you’re going to make the possessive form of a word ending in –s like Ross.

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