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Writing the report: When your grammar knowledge doesn't match your editor's

While mystery shopping is a fun endeavor, you also know that it entails some work. You probably take a lot of pride in a job well done. When it comes to writing the report, you might spend a good few hours meticulously crafting your responses.

Even if you're the most diligent of proofreaders, you're bound to face an editor's corrections at some point. But what happens, asked Mystery Shopper Magazine, when you don't agree with the corrections? What if those arguable grammatical errors cost you points on your report?

Is it really that important to be right?
First, it's important to remember that a point or two for grammatical errors is not going to keep your paycheck away from  you. If you're concerned about your standing because you hope for prime mystery shopping jobs, then you can politely ask your editor to clarify the corrections. This way, you can avoid making the same mistake in the future.

If your editor doesn't answer your request for clarification, don't take it to heart - it might simply be that he or she doesn't have the time to answer emails while editing dozens of daily reports.

When all else fails, read the instructions
While Mystery Shopper Magazine deemed the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook a go-to resource, it doesn't hurt to re-read the instructions for the assignment to see if your editor wants a different writing style this time around.

It's not recommended that you argue with your editor. If you're sure you've submitted a sound report, free of all errors in spelling, punctuation and syntax, it can be a minor blow to pride when you're told otherwise.

Even if you can prove your correctness, protesting an editor's notes is bound to get you nowhere. After all, editors and schedulers speak to each other. It's a far better strategy to demonstrate your willingness to improve upon your writing skills.

Learn something new
So, take some time to brush up on your knowledge of Standard American English. It's possible that a rule you once learned has now gone out of fashion, as style guidelines are ever-changing.

The most current versions of style guides, such as the AP Stylebook or Chicago Manual of Style, should be available for reference at your local library.

If your schedule is too tight for a trip to the library, take a look at grammar blogs for some suggestions. Be sure to check the date of the blog post, and match the information with a few other online grammar guides - this will tell you whether the blog is reliable enough for future use.

Some important tips
Here are some of the most common errors to watch out for, according to Mental Floss:

  • When using AP style, capitalize Internet, even if it seems too generic to be a proper noun.
  • AP rules for abbreviating state names are a tricky bunch. Rather than memorize each abbreviation, a quick online search should do the trick.
  • You would think formal would be the way to go, but the AP much prefers "OK" to "okay."
  • "Towards" won't set off any alarm bells for your spell checker, but the proper word is "toward."

Here's an even stickier one: There should be only one space after a period, though most of us were taught to hit the "Enter" key twice. If your assignment guidelines specify a strict AP style, then resist that second space. If your editor dings you a point for not using two spaces, consider it a lesson learned for the future.

Don't forget - when faced with questionable editor's marks, it's possible you're both correct. For instance, "judgment" and "judgement" are both acceptable spellings, though the latter didn't used to be. If you're a stickler for the old school but your editor relies on the newest evolution of language, your best bet is to simply learn your editor's preferences.

Don't get too hung up on the difference between preventive and preventative. More than anything, developing a rapport with your editor will serve you well.