Writing is something that most people do in some form every single day. Whether you’re sending a text or email, writing a report, or creating a blog post, your words matter. The words you choose and how you string them together plays an integral role in the message you convey. Your spelling and grammar skills can influence others’ impression of you for better or for worse.
Yet even the smartest people can get tripped up by grammar from time to time. Spell check and grammar check aren’t always 100% accurate. Here are a some common – and uncommon – grammar mistakes you should be aware of in your writing.
- Your vs. You’re
This is a big one for a lot of people. “Your” is possessive, while “you’re” is a contraction. When this word pops up, consider whether you can replace it with “you are.” If you can, use you’re. If you can’t, stick with your. For example, you wouldn’t say, “Here is you are jacket.”
- They’re vs. There vs. Their
This one is a little trickier, but there are some simple tips for keeping these three words straight. “There” refers to a place and has the word “here” in it. “Their” refers to a person, and you can think of the i as a little person. For “they’re,” just replace it with the full phrase “they are.”
- Unnecessary Apostrophes
Apostrophes are used to show possession, not to make a word plural. Two of the biggest offenders are last names and decades. It should be The Smiths, not The Smith’s, and the 1950s, not the 1950’s.
This word is regularly overused – and misused – in conversation. If something literally happened, it means it actually occurred. If you say, “I literally cried when I read that,” there should have been tears running down your face.
- I Could Care Less
Many people misuse this phrase. Saying you could care less means you still have less care to give. The correct phrase is “I couldn’t care less,” meaning you’ve reached the end of your caring and have nothing left.
- Of vs. Have
This common error could be a mistake in how the phrase is heard. Oftentimes people will write that they could of done something or should of done something. The correct way to state it is actually “could have” or “should have,” which tends to be abbreviated in conversation as “could’ve” or “would’ve.” The “ve” can sound like “of” and contribute to this grammar mistake.
- Comprise vs. Compose
The word “of” should never follow comprise. A house is not comprised of five rooms, it comprises five rooms. However, the alphabet is composed of 26 letters. The whole comprises the parts or the parts compose the whole. Which word you use depends on how you phrase the sentence.
- Then vs. Than
“Then” is used in reference to time or sequence. You did X, then did Y. “Than” is used for comparisons. The dog is larger than the cat.
- Mute Point
If something is mute, it is silent. You’re not making a point that says nothing. You’re making a moot point. Moot means that something is doubtful or debatable.
- i.e. vs. e.g.
A simple way to remember the difference between these two terms is to think of i.e. as “in essence” and e.g. as “example given.” If you are clarifying what you’ve said, you can use i.e., whereas if you’re giving an example, use e.g.
There, their, they’re – it happens to the best of us. What is important is catching mistakes before you send that email or submit that document. Working with a professional editor can help you polish your writing and avoid spelling or grammatical errors that change the entire meaning of what you want to say or make people question your credibility.
Worried that an embarrassing grammatical error may slip past you and show up in an important document? Reach out to Grammar Chic at www.grammarchic.net or (803) 831-7444 to have a professional editor save you from potential embarrassment.