Important Grammar and Spelling for Designers


You became a designer so you didn’t have to worry about all the nonsense subjects you endured in high school again, right? Wrong. Whether you like to write, you have to write. Sorry, not sorry. Thankfully, it’s no longer essays drawing comparisons between Clueless and the Jane Austen novel Emma, although “as if!” has remained solid vocab to express revulsion.

Writing short descriptions, bylines and blurbs is part of being a designer. More often than not, you’ll have to paraphrase for pitches and rationale entire presentations to explain your decision process. Hell, even emails can feel like you’re authoring a short story sometimes.

Just like an average project can weaken an entire folio—a spelling error or grammar hiccup can be extremely off-putting for a potential employer or client. Now I’m not claiming to be Gabby the grammar guru and I’ve never won a spelling bee—the reason I have this list is because I make all these mistakes myself. Do yourself a favour and learn to differentiate between the following oh-so-common mix ups.

Stationery vs. stationary

Designing a stationary set are you? Unless you’re inventing a new way of standing still, I think you might want to double check that hashtag. With an e you are describing paper and other writing materials, whereas with an a you are referring to a person or thing that is stationary, i.e. not moving. When annotating your lovely business cards and letterheads, make sure you get this right or you might as well just spell your name wrong too.

Effect vs. affect

This is a tough one and it’s something I still struggle with—mainly because the definitions are closer in context. An effect is something that is produced by a cause, result or consequence and an affect is to produce said effect or have an influence on something. Basically ‘effect’ is a noun and ‘affect’ is a verb.

Definitely vs. defiantly

Oh dear, this is a killer. I actually think the word ‘definitely’ is the most misspelled word ever. My Twitter feed would support this theory. People just can’t seem to get this one right, spelling it wrong a million ways and also confusing it with a completely different word. Defiantly refers to defiance—a daring or bold resistance to authority or to any opposing force. I definitely don’t think you mean defiantly. See what I did there? Sing it with me now! Def-in-it-ely.

Your vs. you’re

This one is a super easy mistake and is usually a result of universal laziness since autocorrect was invented. Most of you probably know when the right one applies, but they easily get overlooked if you aren’t careful. ‘Your’ is describing something belonging to you, e.g. was that your sweet branding project featured on AIGA last week? Then you have ‘you’re’, which is simply the contraction of ‘you are’, e.g. I saw you had a project featured on AIGA, you’re killing it dude!

Compliment vs. complement

I see this mixup in a lot of project descriptions on portfolio websites, talking about how colours compliment each other for just one example. “You look absolutely ravishing today Red!”, “Thank you Green, you’re simply too kind”. A compliment is a type of flattering remark, such as the exchange between Red and Green (I feel a sketch coming on) whereas complement is when things go well together, such as the colours red and green.

That’s enough grammar for me today I think! Now for the love of pizza I hope I haven’t made a spelling mistake in this post or I might have to go for a long walk, take a deep breath, and throw my laptop in the river.

This post was definitely written with help from


ResourcesGabby Lord