Make the write right statement by avoiding these common English grammatical errors in your writing.
So, you have an idea for a story or a post – and it all sounds great in your head. But, when you start to turn the words and phrases into written words to share with the world, you realize it reads like gibberish.
Or worse, you don’t realize it is filled with grammatical mistakes and publish to an audience of critical editors who aren’t afraid to point them out.
The English language is challenging
Have you ever tried to teach someone how to write in English? You quickly realize how weird some of the rules are when trying to explain to a 5-year-old why there is an “a” in “coat” – or explaining to an adult English learner that we “buy” a ticket and sit “by” our friends while we say ”bye” at the end of a phone call.
It’s a challenge.
And sometimes, there’s that one word that is your writing nemesis. “Is it affect or effect … ugh, I’ll just go with impact.”
Identify grammatical errors before they go live.
Making grammatical errors in your messaging can lead to loss of reputation and trust in your company.
If you don’t have anyone to copy-edit for you, use a grammar checker. Many are free online or part of your word processing software. Before posting or publishing any of your messaging, quickly copy/paste the text into an electronic editor to check for grammar/spelling.
Here are a few of our favorite grammar checkers:
Here are our top grammar mistakes to avoid in your communications.
Homonyms, homophones and common misspellings
It’s is a contraction for “it is” or “it has”
It’s a common mistake.
Its is the possessive form of “it”
The tree lost its leaves.
You’re is a contraction for “you are”
You’re an excellent writer!
Your is the possessive form or “you”
Your blog is a success!
Let’s is a contraction for “let us”
Let’s learn about grammar.
Lets is the third-person singular present tense form of the verb “let”
My neighbor lets his dog out late at night.
Than is used as a conjunction and as a preposition in comparisons
He is younger than I am. He is younger than me.
Then is used as an adverb, noun and adjective to indicate time
I lived in Florida then. They’ll have to wait until then. The then mayor.
Accept is used as a verb
We accept credit cards.
Except is used as a verb or a preposition (ex- exclude)
They prohibit all animals except guide dogs. Everyone was there except me.
Loose is almost always an adjective (free from restraint; relaxed; not tightly fitted)
The cat runs loose in the backyard.
Lose is a verb (be without; fail to win)
I frequently lose my keys.
*If you lose something, it’s disappeared. If you let something loose, you set it free.
Choose is a verb (to pick something)
You need to choose which car to buy.
Chose is the simple past tense form of choose (a decision that happened in the past)
He chose to buy the blue sedan.
Affect is a verb (to act on; produce an effect; deeply impress the mind)
The cold weather may affect the crops. The music affected his mood.
*you should be able to substitute affect with another verb: The cold weather may damage the crops.
Effect is a noun (result; consequence)
His sunburn was an effect of exposure to the sun.
*you should be able to substitute effect with result: His sunburn was a result of exposure to the sun.
Bear can be a noun (the animal) or a verb (to tolerate; carry; endure)
He could not bear the thought. It was a heavy burden to bear. Bear with me. Bear in mind.
Bare can be an adjective (minimal; naked; uncovered; without supplies) or a verb (to reveal; open to view)
The cupboard was bare. It’s too cold to go outside with bare feet. Bare minimum.
*The right to bear arms (carry weapons) and the right to bare arms (wear a sleeveless shirt).
Lie is to be in a flat position on a surface
You can lie down on the couch.
Lay is to place something down in a flat position
Lay it down over there.
Capital is a noun or an adjective referring to uppercase letters, accumulated wealth, punishment involving execution, or the city seat of a government
February is spelled with a capital F. Capital punishment. Capital gains. Paris is the capital of France.
Capitol is a noun meaning a legislative building
Congress meets in the U.S. Capitol building.
*the only time it is spelled with an “o” is when referring to a building
A principle is a rule, a law, a guideline, or a fact.
A principal is the headmaster of a school or a person who's in charge of certain areas of a company.
*Principal may also be an adjective meaning original, first, or most important.
May is the present tense, expresses likelihood
We may walk to the restaurant.
Might is the past tense, expresses sense of doubt
We might have walked to the restaurant, but it was raining.
To, too, two
To is a preposition (toward, until)
We went to the store.
Too is an adverb (also, excessively)
There are too many stars to count. He wanted to go, too.
Two is a number (2)
They have two children.
There, their, they’re
There is an adverb (at that place) or a pronoun (introduce a word or clause)
The car is parked over there. There is something in the mail for you.
Their is the third-person plural possessive pronoun (belongs to them)
My parents gave their permission for me to go on the field trip.
They’re is a contraction (they are) (they were)
They’re so excited to go to the concert.
Rain, rein, reign
Rain is a noun (condensation that falls to earth) or a verb (to fall to earth)
The rain caused flooding.
Rein is a noun (referring to the leather strip on a horse bridle) or a verb (to guide or control)
Congressed passed a bill that will rein in spending.
Reign is a noun (royal power) or a verb (to rule)
The mayor will reign over the proceedings.
A lot (not alot), allot
A lot describes great quantity or frequency
There were a lot of people at the concert.
Alot is a misspelling of a lot
Allot is a verb meaning to assign a portion
We made sure to allot enough time to see the whole museum.
See, saw, seen
See is a verb referring to sight
I see the food on the shelf.
Saw is the past tense of the verb see
I saw the movie yesterday.
Seen is the past participle of the verb see to form perfect tenses; it must have a helping verb alongside it in the sentence
I have seen that movie.
Everyday, every day
Everyday is an adjective to describe something ordinary or typical
Brushing my teeth is an everyday routine.
Every day is a phrase that means each day
I brush my teeth every day.
Alright, all right
Alright is a variant spelling of the phrase all right and not considered grammatically correct
It is not all right to use alright in written English
That refers to animals, groups, things, and sometimes people - but “who” is preferred when referring to people
Sam is on the team that won first place.
Who refers to people
Sam is the one who entered the contest.
Who, whom, whoever, whomever
Who (or whoever) is used whenever he, she, they, I or we would be substituted in the who clause
Sam is the one who we expect will win the game. I will speak to whoever answers the phone.
Whom (or whomever) is used whenever him, her, them, me or us can be substituted as the object in the whom clause
Whom did you see today? I will hire whomever I can find.
Espresso, not expresso
Expresso is the common misspelling (and mispronunciation) of the popular coffee drink, espresso.
Literally… or not?
Literally: in a literal sense or manner; OR in effect: virtually
Using the word “literally” to mean virtually, or to emphasize a statement that is literally not possible or true can be objectionable to those who believe the word should only be used with its primary meaning. Merriam-Webster defines it both ways to be accurate if you need to defend your usage to the grammar police!
Sleight of hand, not slight of hand
Whet my appetite, not wet my appetite
Worse come to worst, not worse comes to worse
Couldn’t care less, not could care less
Nip it in the bud, not nip it in the butt
Beside the point not besides the point
P.P.S.(post, post script), not P.S.S.(post script script)
Time: 1 p.m. or 1 in the afternoon NOT 1 p.m. in the afternoon
Money: $100 or 100 dollars NOT $100 dollars
Pleonasms to avoid:
**-year anniversary (anniversary means year)
ATM machine (Automated Teller Machine machine)
PIN number (Personal Identification Number number)
true fact (have the same meaning)
cash money (have the same meaning)
Do you need to say “that?”
Search your work and find all the instances of the word “that” – you may be surprised to find how often you use it unnecessarily. If it can be removed and the sentence still makes sense, remove it!
Me and I placement
Me refers to the person an action of a verb is being done to, or to whom a preposition refers
My mom gave me ten dollars. She needs to talk to Sam or me. She told him and me the truth.
I refers to the person performing the action of a verb
You and I need to go to the store. He and I are going to the store. If Sam and I go to the store, we’ll buy fruit.
*tip/trick: try the sentence with just the I (or we) or Me (or us) to see if it makes sense
You and (I or me) need to go to the store.
I need to go … YES
Me need to go … NO
She told him and (I or me) the truth.
She told I the truth … NO
She told me the truth … YES
*do not use a subject pronoun and object pronoun together!
Correct: He and I; Him and me
Incorrect: Him and I; He and me
Punctuation (in the U.S.) ALWAYS goes inside quotation marks but outside parentheses (don’t leave it hanging!).
The difference between an en dash, em dash, and hyphens
A hyphen is used to connect two or more related words and in compound modifiers
We need to find a dog-friendly hotel. Fast-acting medication is the most useful.
Dashes connect two or more related thoughts
An en dash (the width of an “N”)is meant to show a range
1 – 100
An em dash (the width of an “M”) can replace commas, parentheses or colons or be used to create emphasis
Most newspapers — and all that follow AP style — insert a space before and after the em dash.
War on the oxford comma (AP style vs literary)
Oxford commas are used before the conjunction at the end of a list. However, not everyone agrees on the usage of the oxford comma in their writing styles – the oxford comma is at war!
Journalists in the U.S. write in Associated Press (AP) style, which states:
“ … do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series: The flag is read, white and blue.”
“ … Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction: I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.”
Using an oxford comma in many cases depends on who you are writing for and what style they adhere to. But – make sure that your sentence structure uses commas when they’re essential to ward off confusion.
There’s a big difference between:
I like cooking, my family and my pets.
I like cooking, my family, and my pets.
My heroes are my parents, Superman and Wonder Woman.
My heroes are my parents, Superman, and Wonder Woman.
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