Five Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb

image of man in dunce capOne thing blogging and good copywriting share is a conversational style, and that means it’s fine to fracture the occasional rule of proper grammar in order to communicate effectively. Both bloggers and copywriters routinely end sentences with prepositions, dangle a modifier in a purely technical sense, or make liberal use of the ellipsis when an EM dash is the correct choice—all in order to write in the way people actually speak.

But there are other mistakes that can detract from your credibility. While we all hope what we have to say is more important than some silly grammatical error, the truth is some people will not subscribe or link to your blog if you make dumb mistakes when you write, and buying from you will be out of the question.

Here are five mistakes to avoid when blogging and writing web copy.

1. Your vs. You’re

This one drives me insane, and it’s become extremely common among bloggers. All it takes to avoid this error is to take a second and think about what you’re trying to say.

“Your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your car” or “your blog.” “You’re” is a contraction for “you are,” as in “you’re screwing up your writing by using your when you really mean you are.”

2. It’s vs. Its

This is another common mistake. It’s also easily avoided by thinking through what you’re trying to say.

“It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” “Its” is a possessive pronoun, as in “this blog has lost its mojo.” Here’s an easy rule of thumb—repeat your sentence out loud using “it is” instead. If that sounds goofy, “its” is likely the correct choice.

3. There vs. Their

This one seems to trip up everyone occasionally, often as a pure typo. Make sure to watch for it when you proofread.

“There” is used many ways, including as a reference to a place (“let’s go there”) or as a pronoun (“there is no hope”). “Their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their bags” or “their opinions.” Always do the “that’s ours!” test—are you talking about more than one person and something that they possess? If so, “their” will get you there.

4. Affect vs. Effect

To this day I have to pause and mentally sort this one out in order to get it right. As with any of the other common mistakes people make when writing, it’s taking that moment to get it right that makes the difference.

“Affect” is a verb, as in “Your ability to communicate clearly will affect your income immensely.” “Effect” is a noun, as in “The effect of a parent’s low income on a child’s future is well documented.” By thinking in terms of “the effect,” you can usually sort out which is which, because you can’t stick a “the” in front of a verb. While some people do use “effect” as a verb (“a strategy to effect a settlement”), they are usually lawyers, and you should therefore ignore them if you want to write like a human.

5. The Dangling Participle

The dangling participle may be the most egregious of the most common writing mistakes. Not only will this error damage the flow of your writing, it can also make it impossible for someone to understand what you’re trying to say.

Check out these two examples from Tom Sant’s book Persuasive Business Proposals:

After rotting in the cellar for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.

Uhh… keep your decomposing brother away from me!

Featuring plug-in circuit boards, we can strongly endorse this server’s flexibility and growth potential.

Hmmm… robotic copy written by people embedded with circuit boards. Makes sense.

The problem with both of the above is that the participial phrase that begins the sentence is not intended to modify what follows next in the sentence. However, readers mentally expect it to work that way, so your opening phrase should always modify what immediately follows. If it doesn’t, you’ve left the participle dangling, as well as your readers.

P.S. You may find it amusing to know that I, like David Ogilvy, have never learned the formal rules of grammar. I learned to write by reading obsessively at an early age, but when it came time to learn the “rules,” I tuned out. If you show me an incorrect sentence, I can fix it, but if I need to know the technical reason why it was wrong in the first place, I go ask my wife.

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  1. Errors 1-4 are homophone problems. The conversational nature of blogs and email causes some writers to type what they hear in their heads with less attention to correctness of meaning.

    • Exactly. I am not an English speaker, and most of the foreigners won’t do any of the four first mistakes.

      English phonetics can be very difficult for a lot of foreigners because their mother tongue can be made up of less phonemes and allophones than English: they have to learn to identify and say new sounds (German, French, Spanish, Japanese, etc.).
      (Scandinavian languages are an exception in Europe. Swedish will learn how to speak quite easily, because they use more sounds. On top of that, they use pitch accent, a notable feature not used in other European languages.)

      But English grammar is very simple, so simple!!! Therefore, reading English is not a big deal for us.
      Indeed, we may often do not know one word – and we look in a dictionary – or in quite a few cases, just guess according to the context.

      Even if our grammar is correct, we will also use a weird style, because we tend to think in our native language and translate word for word (what I am probably doing in that message). But our semantics is correct, because it is universal (in the five example above, it is not!).

      Because English phonetics is so difficult and grammar so easy, we tend to use the easiest way for us: reading. We learn the grammar and ‘record spelling’ in our mind. We will never write ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’, because we perfectly know that ‘you’re’ is used for ‘you are’. My wife and I have been very surprised, when we were living in Toronto, to realize that lots of people did not know the English grammar as well as us!

      • Hi, good point.

        Ironically, however, you make an English grammar error in the final phrase of your entry. People don’t know grammar “as well as us” should be: they don’t know it “as well as we do.” It’s a conjunctional phrase synonymous to the simple conjunction “but.” They don’t know grammer but we do.” Beware of using “as well as” in a prepositional form.

        Using “us” as you do is probably (or may be?) acceptable in the current vernacular.

      • Oh gosh, and I don’t mean to be nit picky — hmmm, well, rather . . . I do — but I believe you would like to know the correct form. So . . . “My wife and I have been very surprised, when we were living in Toronto,” uses two different verb senses. “Have been” is a present perfect, simple form and “were” is a simple past sense of the verb “to be.Here is the conjugation: “we are, we were, we will be. Ergo: My wife and I had been very surprised when we lived in Toronto. I’m not an expert and I think perhaps it is also correct to say “when we were living.” Except there’s that agreement thing, and “were living” is progressive, whereas “had been surprised is not.”

        Someone out there will know. :=}

        • oops, bad proofing!

        • I don’t think the use of the past perfect in the sentence “my wife and I had been very surprised…” is correct. I am no expert but I think the simple past is better.

        • When Yves said “as well as us” , he was only saying what many competent native speakers (including me) would say in similar circumstances. Perhaps by ‘ the current vernacular’ , you mean normal spoken English? Incidentally the most formal version would be “as well as we”, which is still a prepositional form. In any case, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage, commenters are divided on this issue.

          And are you sure ” as well as we do is synonymous with “but? Analagous perhaps, but hardly synoymous.

          As regards your next comment – “when we were living” is past continuous (or progressive), not past simple, and the appropriate tense to use with it would be past simple, rather than past perfect, as madge and Laura have pointed out.

          I also don’t mean to be nitpicky, but when people start criticising other people’s English, I think they should be careful to do it from a solid basis, not from one based on personal peeves. :)

          • People commonly say “on purpose” but when I hear someone say “on accident” instead of accidentally, I shake my head. I also have an urge to ask “did they die?” when I hear people say “I axed him If I could”. Anyone using ax for ask makes me cringe.

    • That’s true but they are still irritating and incorrect.

    • You forgot “loose” used in place of “lose.” I see it all the time now, and it irritates the crap out of me.

    • Good point, they aren’t exactly described correctly in this post.

    • TOO, TO, TWO

      This one gets TO me because, all TOO often, people write the word TO when they clearly meant the word TOO.

      My supervisor at work does this often. I cannot help but feel annoyed knowing she is being paid almost twice what I am being paid, yet she cannot properly use these TWO words.

  2. Erin, that’s exactly right. And it’s exactly these types of errors that reflect poorly on writers of any stripe.

    Here’s one I wanted to include–people who write “loose” when they mean “lose.” It’s not even a homophone! I don’t understand what drives so many people to make that mistake.

  3. What if we just abandon the use of “you’re” and “your” in blogs and replace it with “ur”? That term seems to manage to pass for real grammar in some circles which shall remain unnamed (read: MySpace).

    The apostrophe and its misuse is one of my biggest pet peeves. I travel around my town letting people know that “Orange’s $1.50″ is just plain wrong.

    • Thank you for telling them! I usually don’t bother to correct everyone’s grammar, but I am always very horrified when I see stuff like “lollipop’s” printed on bags of candy or “deodorant’s” on a sign in Rite Aid.

    • Gaaahhhhh!!! The apostrophe is my WORST PET PEEVE EVER!!! And it pops up everywhere, in the stupidest places too: for example, my mom once saw a place advertising “job’s.” AAAHHHHH!!!! You expect to hire people when you can’t even use a simple apostrophe right?! And another time, at a summer camp the supervisors had to help kids make posters for their teams for a game week. One team ended up being the “Dragon’s.” I die a little every time I see things like that.
      My second biggest pet peeve? Your/you’re. I remember I got a forward text recently from a friend that used a lot of words that should have been “you’re.” They put “your” for EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Before forwarding it (and I only did THAT because I really like that friend) I went through and corrected all the numerous grammar mistakes. It was killing me.

  4. I think you’re barking up the wrong tree with this post.

    Its really not you’re problem when your writing a blog to get the affect you want.

    In fact you can effect you’re readers quite affectively without worrying at all about gramma. And speling.

    There fantastic experience on you’re blog will not be hampered by pore writing.

    Will it?

    • Andrew,

      The only reason why I can still understand your intended poor spelling and grammar is because the ‘proper’ rules are already embedded within my mind. That is, a coherent set of rules need to be learned before slight deviations can still be understood. If I didn’t know the word ‘grammar’ (spelling- and meaning-wise), I wouldn’t know what ‘gramma’ means either. For purists, however, they may not enjoy the lack of spelling and grammar skills.

      I also dislike it when writers use ‘over’ instead of ‘more than’ when describing quantitative issues. For example, “…there are over 1000 cars” instead of “…more than 1000 cars”.

  5. And yes Brian there are too many ‘homophones’ on blogs too!!!

  6. This is the best basic intro to grammar I have seen in a long time, and will definitely be recommending this to quite a few bloggers! If they take this to heart, it might not be so painful to read them!

    • Do be cautious. Even here among gramma-philiacs — lexicologists — you may find some errors in usage, structure, or the more subtle art of writing compact, efficient sentences. We all have favorite phrases we are reluctant to abandon, but should, even though these may not be precisely incorrect.

      The following is not well-phrased: “The only reason why I can still understand your intended poor spelling and grammar is because the ‘proper’ rules are already embedded within my mind. That is, a coherent set of rules need to be learned before slight deviations can still be understood.”

      1) the only reason why . . . shudder. drop the “why” please.
      2) I can still . . . not exactly concise; preferably drop one word or the other, or substitute a different phrasing. Or, offer the “because” part first. This establishes a condition which can be followed with, “I can still understand.” It’s just a matter of clarity really.

      If you do this, you’ll have a more pleasing-to-the-ear phrasing: the only reason that I still understand or the
      only reason that I can understand.

      As for ” rules need to be learned before slight deviations can still be understood,” my belief is that the audience will react with confusion as its/his/her mind struggles to figure out what can still be understood, when this understanding has just been introduced. Its just a matter of clarity and parallels or correlations.

      Hope noone takes offense, Clare (as in clarity! heh heh)

  7. Actually, Andrew – if you keep writing like that at your blog it will give me a headache and I’ll eventually unsubscribe. :-)

    Brian – #1 drives me crazy as hell as well. And the thing is it’s so easy to get it right, yet I see the mistake on so many posts.

  8. Another example:

    should of / could of / would of

    Drives my nuts.

  9. Well put Brian. I will confess that I am guilty of the your and you’re. Normally it doesn’t happen but an occasional mistake does slip through.

  10. Great post. As a former English high school teacher I sometimes wonder if I’m being too pedantic. Then I decide I’m not. It’s about clarity of communication. Some bloggers would have written “to pedantic” which a misuse of the language that drives me batty! That’s one that regularly stops me and that I’d add to your list – too and to.

    I can’t go with your insouciance regarding “effect” and “affect”: “it affected the result” has a quite different meaning from “it effected the result” – I use both and I am not a lawyer.

    And Brian, “egregious”? I love the word and use it occasionally, although I doubt I’ve ever used it in a blog (ref your para before that about writing like a human).

    But top job – I pray it will be read widely and applied!

  11. Great stuff Brian!

    The first four are very frustrating and such basic errors.

    The fifth I haven’t really noticed much which probably means I’m doing it all the time.

  12. I have been pulled up for bad grammar by readers in the past, and continue to be pulled up about it. Personally, perhaps because I have bad grammar myself, reading bad grammar doesn’t bother me so much with blogs. In my mind it is like going to a party and stopping another guest mid-conversation to pull them up on their speech. I would rather have root canal than sit down and learn all these grammar rules, yuk.

    Having said that, anything that can help attract and retain subscribers has to be a good thing.

    In the magazine world I would usually submit the best work I could produce knowing there was a person whos job it is to tidy up these kinds of mistakes. Perhaps there is a role for a blog editor :)

  13. I would agree with Erin, I commit this mistake several times, but luckily Word highlights such erros.

  14. Easiest way to remember the “affect vs. effect” distinction:

    “Parental behavior affects children” = If you’re a lax disciplinarian, you’ll raise a brat.

    “Parental behavior effects children’ = Sexual intercourse causes pregnancy.

  15. My favourite:

    Yourself / Myself instead of You / Me, eg “If anyone has any questions, please address them to myself.”

    Hmm. Was that the correct use of a colon?

    • The correct use of a colon may be understood as to happen in two somewhat different applications. One is to indicate that an example will follow; the other is to be used for effluent. Oh heck, sorry for the bad pun. Actually, I didn’t see a colon: but it shoulda been, IMHO (doncha love it), after the “eg.”

      Also, I disagree on the distinction between myself and me. I think it is perfectly acceptable to use me. Just as it is acceptable in the vernacular to say it’s me, rather than it is I. Given the development of our informal spoken language (often translated into the written), we can be a bit less pedantic, and some most correct phrases are simply awkward, not sophisticated.

  16. It’s the incorrect use of apostrophes that spins me up – it’s, its, your, you’re – especially by professionals (like ad copywriters) who 1. ought to know better, and 2. should be using proofreaders.

    I learned as you did—through reading (my husband is the technical expert in our house). But that was back in a time when you could count on most of what you read as being grammatically correct.

    Great post, excellent points.

  17. Thank you for this; I am former English major and find these mistakes showing themselves all-too-frequently in my daughter’s writing. It appears that the IM vernacular is finding its way into her writing, and that of her teachers’ as well unfortunately. Naturally, I have emailed her this post.

  18. Spot-on post, Brian. You’ve noted most of my pet spelling/grammar ( or is that grammer?) peeves. I’d add “desert” when you mean “dessert” and “to” when you should use “too” … and please don’t get me started on the use of commas!

  19. Excellent list! The one I hear and read most often is, “Between you and I …” That one crops up in business letters, Web sites, press releases, prime time TV–you name it.

    • It’s really embarrassing when you hear this from newscasters or sportscasters. And this happens so often.

  20. Great post… just don’t get me going on the misuse of apostrophes.

  21. When in doubt, check this site:

    http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html

  22. You can paint over stoopid, but you can’t hide it. It always show thru. Believe me, I know !

    BTW – what’s hormones got to do with grammar ?

  23. Brian;

    The effect vs affect one gets me sometimes.

    This is why I hire an editor.

    She is my sanity and QA step.

    Mike

  24. And Brian, “egregious”?

    I’ll admit… I’m a sucker for that two dollar word. I like the way it sounds.

    Since this is a blog about writing, I let myself break the general one-and-two syllable rule occasionally. If someone has to look a word up, I think I’ve added some value.

    And Des, “insouciance”? :)

  25. Brian, I absolutely love grammar posts. There is even a little test you can take over a Newsroom 101.

    Tangentially–ever notice how broadcast journalists emphasize the preposition in their speech?

    “The two robbers drove TO the beach, and dumped the loot. Investigators are combing the area FOR the cash.”

    Go ahead, watch your local news. I think they’re actually trained TO do this. Also, they are big perpetrators of the me/myself dilemma.

  26. Nice article.
    As an Arabic guy who start to learn English language in my 7th grade! I have a lot of grammar mistakes!

    Till now I don’t know when to use, “I`ve been” ..etc. And the biggest problem is that I don’t have time(right now) to do a quick revision for English grammar.

    Also I don’t know when to use comma, full stop…etc :s
    Anyway, anyone of you guys know an easy and free resource to learn English? :)
    As I`ll not open a book to learn English, the best way is to learn it online. :D

  27. Thought you might enjoy this post about the use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun:

    http://misterthorne.org/set_in_style/2007/02/23/thay-is-coming/

    Also, this one about the origins of ‘women attorneys:’

    http://misterthorne.org/set_in_style/2007/02/26/women-v-females-part-i/

  28. Brian,

    Thank you for this post. Your examples represent a few of the common errors that all types of writers–not just copywriters–make. You can add the misuse of commas to this list; run-on or disjointed sentences due to faulty use of the comma immediately erode my confidence in an author. This brings me to my point.

    I disagree with your terminology and logic regarding the word: mistake. Grammatical rules are tools of the writing trade. If one assumes the position of writer in a professional capacity, he is implying to his audience that he knows how to employ such tools. He is implying that he possesses an acceptable command of the English language. It is no different than when you call an electrician to your house; if he tries to cut a wire with a toilet plunger, you will reach for the Yellow Pages again. The electrician has demonstrated ignorance of his tools.

    But ignorance is not what you blogged about today. Rarely do I read the work of someone, assuming the position of writer, who doesn’t “have an ear” or intuition for proper grammar. Such people invariably have had education in this area. When these people write a sentence that is not syntactically correct, or venture onto ground that for them is shaky, they can usually feel it. We all know our shortcomings. That is when the writer, feeling his uneasiness, must reach for The Elements of Style or The Chicago Manual, or just google. But many don’t, and therein lies one problem.

    The other is that people don’t re-read and edit their work. If they did, they would catch many problems, such as omitted words or homonyms spell checker let slip—others for your list.

    I can accept a mistake without losing confidence in an earnest author, but I can’t trust one that displays laziness or disregard for the rules of his trade. To paraphrase Papa, “You can’t bring a pool cue onto a putting green.” If a writer doesn’t have respect for one aspect of writing, such as proper grammar, how can I trust his advice in another, such as the best way to write a headline? When I see a writer/blogger with multiple errors in his work, I don’t feel he has made grammatical mistakes, but professionally ethical ones: he has shown he doesn’t respect me, the reader, and loses my trust that moment.

    P.S. I have an Accounting Degree. I hated English in grade school. I did not read obsessively at a young age. I simply learned the hard way that effective written communication skills are required in the business world, and that the primary obstacle to effective writing is carelessness.

  29. Thank you for this post. It was really helpful. Now I need to go back and look at my posts to see how many I screwed up.

  30. A fellow grammar nazi! I am constantly correcting my friends, they hate it.

  31. Affect vs. Effect is the one that trips me up sometimes, arrgghh!

  32. Great Article…. very helpful indeed.

  33. Good job, your really sorting out the loosers who make there mistakes known to ppl all over the web. Its to annoying to reed mistakes and I would sertenly stop reading a blog if the idiot’s maked similar gramatical and speling mistakes too the ones you listed above.

  34. I know I’ve violated number four, even when I think I’m doing a careful editing job.

    And number five, since to this day I don’t understand dangling participles, I probably violate it all the time.

    In fact, I once had a former English teacher edit a business plan I wrote for a client and she nailed me on dangling participles (heck, it’s even hard to write the phrase) three times in the executive summary alone.

    A pet peeve of mine is people who call “prostate cancer,” “prostrate cancer.” I know it’s sarcastic, but I always tell them, “I’ve never heard of ‘lying down’ cancer.”

  35. Thanks for the list, and you might want to tone down #4 a bit. As some of the folks above have noted, treating “affect” as a verb and “effect” as a noun is generally a good rule of thumb.

    As already noted, “effect” can be used as a verb in limited cases (“to effect a change” means to cause it to occur completely).

    Likewise “affect” can be used as a noun in certain circumstances: e.g., “He handed me the bill without trace of affect” (that is, without any emotions).

    Treating “effect” as a noun and “affect” as a verb will keep you from looking really dumb, but be aware that it isn’t an entirely foolproof rule of thumb.

    • “Likewise “affect” can be used as a noun in certain circumstances: e.g., “He handed me the bill without trace of affect” (that is, without any emotions).”

      No, affect does not equate to emotion – you’re misusing a psychiatrist’s term. See Common English Erros for this and more …

  36. I learn those little things on my English class. When English is not your native language, I think you are paying more attention when writing than if you were writing in your own language.

  37. its they’re affect your worries about, huh?

    also ppl mess up subject verb agreements

  38. “Its to annoying to reed mistakes”
    Was that a mistake?

    “anyone of you guys know an easy and free resource to learn English?”
    Yup… A wife. I agree with Brian.
    If it wasn’t for the wife, I’d be lost.
    I got math covered,
    and she has the English.
    So between the two of us,
    we have the homework covered! ;-)

    one more…

    “just abandon the use of “you’re” and “your” in blogs and replace it with “ur”? That term seems to manage to pass for real grammar in some circles which shall remain unnamed (read: MySpace).”

    You probably can’t handle the baggy pants either, hu.

    I text message with the best.
    And if it wasn’t for the “new words”
    our teens are introducing,
    I’d be left in the dust.
    The point is “different circles”.
    If your marketing to the right “ppl”,
    you’d look bad NOT using ‘slang’.

    Now… my wife is still sleeping.
    How many screw ups can you find?
    LOL!!

    Thanks Brian, for a fun article.
    And for reminding us about something
    we are all victim to once in a while.
    Our own haste!

    Brad.

  39. Great article. I enjoyed it. Loved the affect vs. effect. I normally try my hardest to use the best possible grammar that I can. I also type my blog posts out in Word prior to the posts going live lol.

    • Dr. Naquib :

      Was it a case of grammar lapse or of impropriety in the use of words ? I assume, it is a case more of lexical deficiency than of grammatical fault.

  40. I can’t believe you didn’t mention one of my biggest pet peeves and that’s the “to and too” grammatical error. I think that one makes me the craziest.

    Examples:

    “I gave that orange to my brother.”
    “He said, “Do you want one too?”

    I learned my grammatical skills (and am still learning them) from reading as well. Working at a job the last 3 years with proofers really helped to increase my knowledge as well.

  41. You should add a part 6 to discuss Lie versus Lay. This one bugs the hell out of me and I even have a professor who takes 20 points off a writing assignment for all the mistakes you listed and Lie/Lay mix-ups.

  42. I think these are great, but the real sign of ignorance…

    – Spelling a lot as one word (alot)

    – Spelling lose with two o’s (loose)

    These drive me nuts!!!

  43. If you show me an incorrect sentence, I can fix it, but if I need to know the technical reason why it was wrong in the first place, I go ask my wife.

    Further evidence that I am not the unique little snowflake my id would have me believe.

  44. Let’s not forget spaces before exclamation and question marks. Drives me nuts as well.

  45. The fact that something is a homophone doesn’t excuse the user. That simply implies that they didn’t _care_ to find out the true spelling, and don’t care if their user has to do the extra work to “translate”. I think it’s as much laziness/lack of education as it is ‘just one of those things’.

  46. You left one out:

    There – a place
    Their – belongs to them
    They’re – they are

  47. Besides the ones you point out, there are 2 more that always seem to annoy me when I read them….

    First, it’s better (faster, bigger, etc.) THAN not THEN.
    Second, why can no one spell DEFINITELY correctly?

  48. I recently purchased a course from a very successful Adwords marketer.

    Throughout the material, he says “more then” instead of “more than.” I even sent him email point out that “more then” for “more than” is never correct. I explained the difference.

    He responded, thanking me for my email. He explained that his primary interest was in speaking “one-on-one” to his people so that he could share his expertise as a marketer, not getting the grammar right.

    He continues to use “more then” when he should use “more than.”

    Never mind the “your” and “you’re” mess — I wager you’ll find far more “more then” when it should be “more than” on most blogs, in ebooks, sales and pre-sales marketing copy, whatever.

    I spent 7 years as a newspaper copy editor, more than 30 years writing for publication and editing various publications, and I still make mistakes. But I make an effort to correct them when I find them.

    Good post, great discussion. I hope we see more of this on blogs. Can’t hurt.

  49. It’s rarely wrong to end a sentence with a preposition. Have a look at http://www.cbc.ca/news/indepth/words/prepositions.html

    • I discovered this not too long ago too. Now I want to go back 17-20 years and have my over-zealous university professors grade my papers again. I may have been a straight A student and didn’t even know it. Ha ha ha.

  50. According to dictionary.com,* “effect” and “affect” are each both verb and noun. To further complicate matters, “affect” has two very different uses:

    “His words affected the crowd so deeply they wept.”

    “The new students affected a nonchalance they didn’t feel.”

    Perhaps this is why lawyers, wanting to affect a skill in writing they don’t actually have, often use “effect” instead of affect.

    *Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/affect (accessed: March 05, 2007)

  51. Thank you Brian!

    There’s nothing that annoys me more than a simple spelling/grammar mistake that could be easily avoided if the writer took one more minute to go through his article before he posted it.

  52. two common mistakes that bother me to no end are the use of the word “irregardless” (it’s either “regardless” or “irrespective”), and the phrase “I could care less” which makes no sense at all…you could *not* care less….

    really drives me nuts…

  53. As a former journalism major, I rely on the Associated Press Style Manual to get me through a lot of the weird stuff.

    Affect vs. effect; insure vs ensure, all the “stop and think” nightmares.

    • I really like the AP Style Book online (http://www.apstylebook.com/) Here’s what it says about affect, effect:

      affect, effect Affect, as a verb, means to influence: The game will affect the standings.

      Affect, as a noun, is best avoided. It occasionally is used in psychology to describe an emotion, but there is no need for it in everyday language.
      Effect, as a verb, means to cause: He will effect many changes in the company.
      Effect, as a noun, means result: The effect was overwhelming. He miscalculated the effect of his actions. It was a law of little effect.

  54. One of the most misspelled words on the net seems to be “ridiculous”. Many (seemingly intelligent) people tend to spell it “rediculous” and it drives me insane!

  55. Snatchertas :

    My native language is not english but I stumble upon such mistakes with an increasing frequency… it must be a native speaker only problem. Most non-native post and blogs have other types of mistakes

  56. Brian:

    “Erin, that’s exactly right. And it’s exactly these types of errors that reflect poorly on writers of any stripe.”

    …AND starting sentences with, “And”. :)

    The, “And” in your second sentence is typed as though it’s continuing the prior sentence, yet that first sentence has ended due to the period. Either connect the two sentences or remove the, “And”.

    “It’s exactly these types of errors that reflect poorly on writers of any stripe.”

    :)

  57. …AND starting sentences with, “And”.

    I routinely break this one on purpose, just about in every post. It’s a very conversational element.

    • I agree here. There are times when poetic license replaces true form yet is just as legititmate. As long as the clarity of the writing — the integrity of the message — remains, the use of the vernacular and breaking of some rules is quite alright. But . . . it is imperative that the writer has a comprehensive knowledge of the correct grammar before breaking those rules. Writing is an ART. Real art is achieved not with schoolbook learning, but with regular usage, acceptance of criticism, and ruthless self-edits. Only experience can truly teach.

  58. Perhaps it goes to show what we already know — every writer needs an editor!

  59. I have one problem with this list.

    There vs. Their

    I actively disobey this rule because it is a stupid rule. There is no reason to have both There and Their. The difference is not relevant because the words are not, NEVER were, and never will be defined by spelling. They are defined by CONTEXT.

    This is easily proven. Try speaking the words improperly. You can not do it. They are always defined by context. ONE should be selected and the other deleted since context and only context defines them. They are phonetically identical and contextually defined. The difference is spelling is technical and semantic with no logical relevance. You can NOT mis read a sentence because one over the other is used. The CONTEXT defines them not the spelling.

    I purposely misuse these words as an act of defiance against there separated existence.

    Pick one There or Their not both. Its a stupid rule and a stupid difference.

  60. In high school, my English teacher referred to me as the ‘grammar guru’. I would have preferred that she refer to me as the ‘grammar erection’. Because that’s usually what I had when I was thinking about grammar.

  61. Thank you. These constantly drive me insane. Hopefully more people will understand how uneducated these common mistakes make them look.

  62. Great—albeit short—-list.

    During the recent execution of a notorious Iraqi dictator, a lot of writers seemed to be confused about the difference between hung and hanged.

  63. I have to object to your rule about the usage of “effect” versus the usage of “affect.” Even though sticking to your rule will prevent all occurances of incorrect usage, it also prevents some correct usages of “effect” as a verb and “affect” as a noun. When used as a verb, “effect” simply means “to bring about,” and has a meaning akin to “effect” when used as a noun. As far as I’m aware, “effect” is always a transitory verb, and its object is always the thing that the subject has brought about. The object of “affect” is the thing that the subject has influenced.

    On the other hand, “affect” when used as a noun has a meaning quite distant from its usage as a verb- it typically means a roughly an emotion or an outward expression of feeling.

  64. when do you use “specially” versu “especially” in a sentence.. Is there a diffrence in its use.

    Thanks

  65. let’s not forget than & then…that one kills me!

  66. The mistakes I hate aren’t grammatical. My pet peeves are malapropisms.

    “flush” vs. “flesh” as in, “This needs more detail. Let’s get together to flush this out.”

    Irregardless vs. irrespective or regardless. ’nuff said.

  67. What about over-zealous punctuation???

    Exclamation marks especially!!!

    I once worked with a guy who had the task of writing a four line blog post on the company site! The post consisted of four sentences, three of which had exclamation marks! Of course the last sentence had multiple exclamation marks!!!

    Yes, this person had a college degree!

  68. I love the title. I saw it in my Live Bookmarks and had to read it, because I certainly don’t want to look dumb. :)

  69. may I suggest adding this to the daily reading (listening) list:

    http://grammar.qdnow.com/

  70. “it’s it is when it’s it’s and it’s its when it’s not”

    -unknown

  71. Thanks for the interesting article.

    You omitted (as opposed to “left out”) my pet peeve: The misusage of the adjective this (This hat is mine.) as a demonstrative pronoun. (This is my hat.). Without regard to its strictly grammatical propriety, it can be confusing and is unappealing as a matter of style. Better alternatives are available.

    This adjective is also misused for as a substitute for indefinite articles, for the purpose placing greater emphasis on the subject. (You need to evaluate the motives of this person who gave the advice.) This usage is inappropriate but not as egregious an error as its misusage as a pronoun.

    Ending a sentence with a preposition may not be a grammatical error, speaking strictly, but good style requires alternatives be found in most cases.

    The usage of correct grammar and good style is the hallmark of an educated mind and disciplined thought. As such it should recognized and encouraged. Its absence should serve as a warning to readers and listeners of a concomitant lack of rigor in development of any underlying premise.

  72. Thanks for you’re post, its very informative. Bloggers should pay serious attention to grammar and how it negatively effects there message.

  73. I don’t get too riled up over spelling and grammar mistakes unless they affect my ability to actually comprehend what the person is trying to say. In IMs or quick e-mails I will often type “you’re” in place of “your” or make some other homophone-related error. It’s just a subconscious thing.

    One thing that bothers me just a little is when people say “different than” instead of “different from” (but only in articles that were supposed to have been proof-read).

    One thing that bothers me greatly is when people say “literally” when they are being figurative. For example: “Man, I ate so much I literally exploded.”

  74. Nobody likes a language maven.

  75. If you’re having problems with the it’s vs. its problem just remember:

    his / hers/ its

  76. Imagine my embarassment when I dicscovered I had cut and pasted a draft into the comments box instead of the final version! I submit the final version belos; please feel free to make humorous comments at my expense!

    Final draft:

    Thanks for the interesting article.
    You omitted (as opposed to “left out”) my pet peeve, the misusage of the adjective “this” as a demonstrative pronoun (“This hat is mine.” “This is my hat.”). Without regard to its strictly grammatical propriety, it can be confusing and is unappealing as a matter of style. Better alternatives are available.
    This adjective is also misused for as a substitute for indefinite articles, for the purpose placing greater emphasis on the subject. (You need to evaluate the motives of this person who gave the advice.) This usage is inappropriate but not as egregious an error as its misusage as a pronoun.
    Ending a sentence with a preposition may not be a grammatical error, speaking strictly, but good style requires alternatives be found in most cases.
    The usage of correct grammar and good style is the hallmark of an educated mind and disciplined thought. As such it should be recognized and encouraged. Its absence should serve as a warning to readers and listeners of a concomitant lack of rigor in development of any underlying premise.

  77. Ahhh….

    Yakyakyak grabbed mine…

    There – a place
    Their – belongs to them
    They’re – they are

    I see they’re/their misused often – I even catch myself from time to time.

  78. And I broke the rules again by not reviewing my spelling on the comments added to the final draft. This here English grammar stuff is harder too figgur then I thawt!

  79. Grammar is important to writers because our currency is credibility, which we earn through accuracy.

  80. I was also going to mention the alot vs. a lot thing, but I see Jim L mentioned it already.

    And Justin, it really bugs me too that no one seems to know how to spell “definitely” OR “separately”!

    Even when I’m instant messaging, I can’t bring myself to spell words incorrectly or use the slang like “ur”. I even capitalize and use proper punctuation which is almost unheard of on MSN Messenger.

    The one that bugs me to no end is “I seen” instead of “I saw”. My ex was bad for that and he used to get really mad when I corrected him all the time.

    I’m not an English major, but it’s nice to see that others still care about what they write too.

  81. The two that drive me crazy are:

    1) Substituting an ampersand (“&”) for “and” (lazy ***kers)

    and,

    2) Using numerals instead of letters for the first nine (not 9!) numbers (as the author of this article did).

  82. Can someone wigh in on my grammar-taught assertion that “impact” is not a verb?

  83. http://www.d-e-f-i-n-i-t-e-l-y.com/ should be in your list. I think everyone has trouble with that word.

  84. >And Des, “insouciance”?

    I’d have been disappointed if you hadn’t caught it :)

  85. Dark Territory :

    Thanks for the list, these are also my pet peeves when reading websites and blogs.

    The one that really gets my panties in a bunch is when people switch “lose” and “loose”. This problem is two-fold, they often pick the wrong one no matter which they meant to use! It’s infuriating. The meanings aren’t even remotely the same!

  86. The one that really gets my panties in a bunch is when people switch “lose” and “loose”.

    I’m so glad so many people have pointed this one out–seeing this mistake never fails to mystify me. The meanings are not the same, and the two words do not sound alike. Truly puzzling.

  87. Bravo! Now teach, people, the proper use of commas, so their sentences, don’t look like, this.

  88. It’s not only “their” and “there” but also “they’re”. I see these three words used in the wrong context all the time.

    Great article

  89. mike raphone :

    ok grammar ill give you
    but i find little need to punctuate anymore
    and to be honest no one seems to care about my grammar anymore either even in the business world
    and i make plenty of money in IT
    so i dont know
    seems kind of 90s to memorize all these rules to “not look dumb” to anal people i dont want to know anyway
    if youre a writer fine
    but if you dont engage in formal writing often spell check will get you from 5th grade to 50 just fine

  90. I have grown tired of using the apostrophe key at all, so I just avoid conjunctions as much as possible. It will not ruin your whole sentence structure to say “will not” instead of “won’t” or “you are” instead of “you’re”. At times, I find that it can even make sentences more clear. On the other hand, I hate it when other people make apostrophe mistakes.

    Regardless, great job on the article. I hope this makes it to the computers of the loads of people who did not “lern 2 spel” in school.

  91. Great post (and very popular)!

    I see this pet peeve of mine so often I’m beginning to think I’m wrong: writers who use “that” instead of “who” when referring to people. (That was the right way to do it, right? ;-) Here’s the wrong way: “There are many bloggers that don’t worry about bad grammar.”

  92. You got it.

    I’m one of those people who has to catch themselves on that one from time to time. ;)

  93. “The usage of correct grammar and good style is the hallmark of an educated (in grammar and writing) mind and disciplined (in grammar and writing) thought. As such it should recognized and encouraged. Its absence should serve as a warning to readers and listeners of a concomitant lack of rigor in development of any underlying premise.”

    The Human mind is an amaizng thing. If can make some of the most intresting corrcetions all by itself without you even knowing it. (how many of you noticed the spelling errors above?)

    The only people who really notice these simple things are people who actively look for them.

    Gross grammar errors are tacky. They really should be corrected. The minor errors though especially spelling errors are quite irrelevant. We all know this even if we refuse to admit it. This irrelevance is why its so hard to proof read your own content. Your brain just “fixes” the mistakes it finds and moves along. It takes another person with the intent to find errors to find them.

    This is also why proof reading hard copy is easier than proofreading on screen. You pay more attention to detail when its in hard copy.

    I will admit I am a bit lax when it comes to grammar. I am am very good at spelling but not very good at typing. I am fast but sloppy, often tapping the wrong key or having my left hand jump the gun on the right etc..

    I tend to type the way I think and it shows in my web pages (Note my webpage is about 10 years out of date and it need of a major overhaul)

    I can go through and correct these errors but I am usually to lazy. I make so many and have so little time that it just gets put in the, when I have time, stack of things to do.

    I noticed just how badly I use this type as you think method in my latest project. I am writing or more properly putting together a 400page Photo Book of Naram 48. The amount of actual text is low in something like this. As I was reviewing it I was astonished at how many errors I made. I also discovered I tended to overuse words a lot. While this is not an error exactly it is bad taste so I am fixing that too.

    The only major problem I have is when people nitpick on otherwise irrelevant errors and mistakes. The only person who cares is the one complaining. If this is a book or a professional paper or work or some kind then fine nitpick away otherwise just let it go. It just does not matter enough to be worth even your time to make the post or reply to complain about it.

    • AHA. Now that is an interesting remark: “the only person who cares is the one complaining.” Such as egregious assumption (ASSUME; make an ass out of you and me). Did you ever study logic? Or have you ever written for an audience of more than one, or of more than one persuasion / profession / socio-economic background? You MUST assume that your audience will care. If you don’t, then you are guilty of the very sins this article addresses. If you don’t care, then like the above IT guy, you will be allowing big brother and all the other ignorami (who are too lazy to learn and too arrogant to admit their limitations) to introduce a dumming down of our society. Language changes happen over time and many of those referred to will find their way into our dictionaries and will be given the assignation of legitimacy. In the meantime, I believe we owe it to our readers to assume their intelligence and education, and produce quality writing. Go to a chat room or limit it to your blog. You can bet you won’t find me in either. Aren’t you relieved?

  94. You named all of my grammatical top pet peeves. But grammar is a constantly evolving idea… who’s to say that 50 years from now these rules won’t be considered archaic? I remember my English teacher years ago telling us that linguists predict that “ought” and “shall” are facing their way out.
    As long as there are people fighting the good fight, I will keep this hope alive that people will NOT keep on interchanging ‘it’s’ with ‘its.’ If only people had a remote idea how stupid it makes them look!

  95. I have two more for you.

    Quotation marks do “not” add emphasis! It looks “stupid” (or like you want to write for the Zagat guide). Use *asterisks* – if you must – for emphasis when you can’t apply special (rich) formatting.

    And,,, never use more than one comma in a row.

  96. What about “ad vs add”? :)

  97. The Chicago Manual of Style (“Fifteenth Edition”) is now online (Note that, in the field of publishing, style means punctuation, italicizing, bolding, capitalization, tables, and so forth; not prose style.)

    So if you’re serious about writing, and have the smallest amount of compassion for people who truly enjoy reading. Then I highly recommend that you take the time to become familiar with this publication. I also highly recommend tattooing http://www.CopyBlogger.com, and http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org on the backs of your hand. For no reason other than to remind you that it’s not about the reader being anal “it is” about the writer being lazy and inconsiderate . . .

    And yes (“lazy and inconsiderate”) go together like (“macaroni and cheese”) therefore omitting the use of a serial comma—at least in the context I was referring to. It was my choice to do so, and above all not because I chose to be lazy.

  98. effect, affect are both verbs
    affect = change
    effect = make

  99. Anyone else getting violent eye-twitches from reading grammatical errors in comments responding to an article about grammatical errors?

  100. effect = make

    Yes, but it’s not nearly as common, and therefore people screw it up when they deal with “effect” as a noun.

  101. Mamasan, at the very least the point I was trying to make is don’t be lazy. I got as grammatical as I could get without spending five hours going over my copy, and asking 10 people to proof read it before I hit send ;)

  102. How about “ensure” and “insure”?

  103. I haven’t taken the time to read all the posts but you forgot the “Bush” mistake. “We got to” rather than “We have got to” or simply “We have to”.

  104. I thank Mrs. Stokes and seventh grade English for all the grammar I ever learned. Even fifty years later, I cannot hear or read grammatical errors without wincing.

    Writing well requires a bit more than proper grammar, spelling or choice of words, eg., there/their, &c.; it requires style, too. I cannot recommend any source above “The Elements of Style”, William Strunk, jr. and E.B. White.

  105. Brian,

    I disagree on the effect/affect issue/. “Effect” is commonly used as a verb.

    Since I disagreed, naturally I scouted around the web. This is the most concise explanation of the two terms I could find:
    http://www.grammarbook.com/grammar/effVaff.asp

    In short, when each is used as a verb you should be able to substitute cause/caused for effect/effected and influence/influenced for affect/affected and retain the same meaning.

  106. Quite an interesting post. It makes one proof read their comment for the “5 Common Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb”. Great job on pointing them out.

  107. Far better way to distinguish “it’s” and “its”:

    I could never remember if “it’s” was a contraction for “it is,” or a possessive for “it.” If I could remember to try to repeat “it is” out loud, then I could just remember that “it’s” is a contraction. So the mnemonic in this post doesn’t help me.

    However, I can remember this rule: possessive pronouns do not have apostrophes. The possessive form of “he” is “his,” and it doesn’t have an apostrophe. Likewise for “hers.” Likewise for “its.” It’s a possessive pronoun. So therefore the possessive pronoun “its” does not have an apostrophe, and “it’s” is a contraction, not a possessive.

  108. You forgot “split infinitives” on your list.
    Oh wait, you know what? Scratch that because it’s a stupid rule.
    You know why it exists? Because some scholars who got together to have a pow-wow about English grammar and set down rules decided that they would base those rules on Latin. And for those of you who know anything about Latin, you’ll recall that you can’t split an infinitive because infinitive verbs in Latin are SINGLE WORDS, like in French.

    I find it funny that most of these self-appointed defenders of the English language have absolutely no background in linguistics.

    Yes, there is a place and a time for “correct” grammar (although, the things that people here are talking about are spelling and punctuation mistakes–not grammatical ones), such as national newspapers and the like, but for someone writing a personal blog? Give me a break.

    And for those people (I can’t remember specific names) who say, “I’m always correcting my friends’ grammar and they hate it,” well stop being an ass.
    Even as a linguistics major, I know that it’s just plain rude to stop someone mid-sentence to correct them. (It is, however, effective for losing friends or having them talk crap to you behind your back.)

    Language is always changing and it is the nature of human language to simplify itself (i.e.: it is natural for people to want to use one form for “there,” “they’re,” and “their”–after all, written language is simply an arbitrary method at conveying what we SAY through symbols, and in speech, all three of those are the same).
    For those of you who don’t believe me, well, take a linguistics course or read a book.

    Descriptive grammar, FTW!

  109. Great topic and very timely!
    These errors mostly tell me that the writer is not a “reader”. Anyone who does any amount of reading of high-quality text, such as books, newspapers, and magazines, then that person should not be making “stupid” mistakes like confusing “it’s” with “its”.

  110. but for someone writing a personal blog? Give me a break.

    Ahh… but this is a blog about marketing, not personal journaling. See, it says so right up at the top?

  111. Wow, thanks for addressing the main point(s) in my post.

    The bottom line is that a blog is a blog, be it about marketing or nuclear physics.

    Although, I suppose my little tirade to convert grammar-nazis into descriptive grammarians will likely fall on deaf ears.

    It may just be me, but I find it WAY more interesting to study how language changes than it is to attempt something as futile as language standardization.

  112. Did a few individuals commenting on this post forget the name of this blog? Let me refresh your memory it’s called “CopyBlogger” (copy writing tips for online MARKETING success.)

    Far be it from me to throw a wet blanket over a few of these soap boxes, but we need to stay on track here.

    Furthermore I think the follow up to this post should focus specifically on the difference between casual writing for “diary blogs” and ad copy writing for “commercial blogs.”

  113. Gah! Brian you beat me to the punch :P

  114. Well, JP, if you want comments from only those in MARKETING, then maybe there shouldn’t be a link to DIGG on the site, hmm?

  115. Well, JP, if you want comments from only those in MARKETING, then maybe there shouldn’t be a link to DIGG on the site, hmm?

    I think this post has finally jumped the shark . . .

  116. If you haven’t read the book Eat, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss you should take a quick look. You raise some of the same issues.

  117. And site vs. sight? As in “lose sight”?

    “Building Traffic with Article Marketing” (your pdf write up), page 8, 4th word in the first paragraph.

  118. Good catch Fred, thanks!

    What’s your URL? I’ll be glad to return the favor.

  119. That’s a good list. The way people commonly mix up singular and plural always annoys me: “Is there any questions,” “There’s two people there,” etc. And knowing when to use “less” and “fewer” is a small thing, I think (though I realize there are common phrases like “fifty words or less” that are acceptable).

  120. I am french and I find English so easy, compared to my native tongue. I agree with you that bad spelling is common, and challenges the credibility of the writer.

  121. I’m sorry, but it’s in Spanish (that’s my native language). Thanks anyway! Glad to be useful somehow.

  122. How horrid that blog writing is in such a lowly state; I hope bloggers eventually take some pride in their craft. These mistakes that you call common are basic grammar that all of us should have learned in grade school. A copy of Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style” should be mandatory with every laptop sold. And we need a universal grammar checker on the Internet. Anybody who writes “it’s” instead of “its” or “there” instead of “their” should be squirted out of the universe like a watermelon seed.

  123. I always make the it’s & its mistake ….

  124. Ha. You think thats bad, you should try reading university papers (as I do on my site). You’ll find all sorts of awful mistakes. Then/Than is one, but there are far bigger issues than poor word choice.

  125. @JP >> “So if you’re serious about writing, and have the smallest amount of compassion for people who truly enjoy reading. Then I highly recommend that you take the time to become familiar with this publication.”

    Yes, if you are serious about writing. I suggest you not be. Lazy and inconsiderate to your readers. And that you should. Complete your thoughts. In your sentences. Especially if you are going to pendantically. Call out others. For their foibles. ;-)

    BTW, I read the comments to see if anyone else mentioned “THEN vs. THAN”, which someone did, but I still thought I’d add my voice to the list!

  126. I enjoyed the blog post thoroughly! There are certainly many more common errors.

    One of my favorites (already mentioned) was “irregardless” – my dad used that word constantly. Having looked it up in the dictionary, I like to ask people: What’s the difference between the word “irregardless” and “regardless”? Brings them to the point rather quickly after they receive the answer: they’re synonyms!

    A couple of my pet peeves (inherited from my school teacher grandmother): the phrase “so true” or “very true” or “so right” – either you are right, or you are not: you *can’t* be VERY right. Either it is true or it is false: it *cannot* be VERY true.

    Same holds for “very black” or “extremely black” or “sort of black” – either it is black or it isn’t.

    As for French and Spanish (I can converse in the former, and muddle my way in small talk – VERY small – in the latter) – I find both to be easier in grammar and spelling than English (my mother tongue) – in spite of words like ratatouille (“rat-a-too-ee”) or Marseille (“mar-say”). Still seems to make sense somehow; sometimes English just doesn’t make any sense….

  127. Chris Taylor said:

    “The Human mind is an amaizng thing. If can make some of the most intresting corrcetions all by itself without you even knowing it.
    (how many of you noticed the spelling errors above?)

    The only people who really notice these simple things are people who actively look for them.”

    Well, I noticed the spelling errors and I wasn’t looking, actively or otherwise. I wasn’t reading carefully either, I was just zipping through and the errors jumped out at me.

    For me it’s a pattern thing – words either look right or they don’t.

  128. Love this post. Just love it.

    And I hate it when people write ect.

    It’s etc.

    Please!!!

  129. These kinds of simple errors make it easier than it should be to compete for attention.

    Why does MSN seem more authoritative than joeblog.com (if it does?) Proofed copy, and higher-octane interviewees, and that’s about it.

    That said, some of the most valuable stuff I read online is written by bad spellers, and even as a former english major I could care less. If readers won’t sift killer information because the presentation’s not perfect — their loss.

    If you’re writing average stuff, though, just having a reasonable grasp on grammar and spelling will boost your aura of authority.

  130. Spellchecking is something everyone should when writing professionally. Sadly it’s something that often gets overlooked.

  131. Charlie Ahern :

    The style proposed by Strunk & White may be a bit too stodgy for most bloggers. Consider “Do not affect a breezy manner.” or “Do not inject opinion.”

    For a basic grammar refresher, including practices, I recommend the book “Essential English Grammar” by Phillip Gucker.

  132. Here’s another for you — companies, organizations, teams etc are SINGULAR entities.

    For example, the following is wrong: “Microsoft have released details of their new operating system”.

    This is correct: “Microsoft has released details of its new operating system”.

    Another that’s wrong: “Manchester United have climbed up the league table”. Correct: “Manchester United has climbed up the league table”.

  133. I’d like to add another comment to your “There vs Their” and make it “There vs Their vs They’re” because that is also mixed in with the other two quite often.

    They are is much different than the other two words.

  134. A good article about writting is an “ancient” one by George Orwell: http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit

  135. Here is another really good one I see people misuse all of the time, including myself on some occasions. Luckily, I saved one of the best books I ever purchased in college, “Writer’s Pocket Pal 2″ by Beulah G. Underwood.

    WHO, WHOM, and WHOSE

    Use who to refer to persons when used as the subject of a verb or subject complement. Use who when he, she, they, I, or we can be substituted for who.

    Use whom to refer to persons when used as the object of a verb or object of a preposition, object of an infinitive, or the subject of an infinitive. If the object of a preposition is the subject of a verb, use the subjective case who or whoever. Use whom when him, her, them, me, or us can be substituted.

    Use whose to show possession. Do not confuse whose with the contraction who’s meaning who is.

  136. Moron Newscaster :

    “Affect” and “effect?” Screw it, just use “impact.”

  137. @John >> “Here’s another for you — companies, organizations, teams etc are SINGULAR entities. …”

    I hear what you are saying, but I think using plural is a UK-ism and from reading their a lot of professional publications (The Economist, for example), I think it is culturally appropriate for them to think of companies, organizations, teams, etc. as collections of people, not as entities. As such, I don’t think it is necessarily right or wrong, I think it is cultural.

    But I’d love to hear what others have to say on that…

  138. I know exactly what you mean. I read maybe 200 books of my own free will (not required) before I was a teenager. I learned from reading how to write, which meant that when it came time to explain the rules or to follow the finer points of grammar, I occasionally fall short.

    The truth is, there are only a few places where the details I miss really matter – like legal documents and college papers. I’m through with college and I rarely have to deal with the other.

    The kind of mistakes you’ve mentioned belong to a larger group of people, and they are lazy mistakes which we can correct easily.

    I’d like to hear your thoughts about the 5 most common mistakes made regarding structure (theme, continuity, etc).

  139. It’s late and I can barely read, so I probably made a few mistakes of my own on that last comment…. ;)

  140. I was taught these things in 6th standard if I try to remember.

  141. As Icheb wrote:
    “Another example:
    should of / could of / would of
    Drives my nuts.”

  142. Fantastic . . . I love to see someone get stuck into one of my pet peeves. Sadly not even reading books these days is a guarantee of exposure to good English. Today I encountered a character who went to the library and poured over the books (sounds messy). And I’ve seen even worse howlers in the newspaper.

  143. How about this grammar rule that is frequently broken: starting a sentence with a number that’s not spelled out?

    I thought this was only true in French, but it seems, after verification, that in English, it’s also incorrect to start sentences with a number, like: “5 Common Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb”

    :-P

  144. That’s true… numbers less than 10 should not be represented numerically at the beginning of a sentence.

    BUT… from a copywriting standpoint, it works great in headlines. So I happily break that rule from time to time. ;)

  145. This podcast helped me out a lot with the effect vs affect
    http://grammar.qdnow.com/2006/10/07/affect-versus-effect.aspx

  146. This was an amazingly useful post for the bloggers out there.. I read it yesterday in the RSS but wanted to come and say thanks for sharing it with the world! =)

  147. Hooray! Someone finnaly addressed this issue! May I also add to your homophonic commentary, a sentence that will show you the rule of yours I’m ammending.

    “They’re walking to their car in the parking lot over there.”

  148. Cheers for this, I’m always getting these mixed up.

  149. I struggle with each of these. Often, I review my blog posts after I write them and find one or more of these errors. I often feel like my brain is playing tricks on me – I simply do not see the mistakes as I’m writing. It’s very frustrating.

    Do you have any tips on being able to focus on these errors?

  150. After reading your post, your right on point. Its amazing how the popularity of blogs has not had a great affect on improved writing. But that’s not a problem for me – that’s there problem.

  151. Thanks for the help mate.

  152. Being an educator I would be happy for this stuff just to stay online. I’ve received papers using “ur” and “b4″ and it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.

  153. if we are on pet-peeves, here’s my two pen’orth

    Misuse of reflexive pronouns. It always crops up in business letters and from silly call centre staff who think they are being really posh and business like when they say ‘I sent it on to yourself’.

    Reflexive pronouns such as ‘myself’, ‘yourself’ and ‘himself’ are used in circumstances where the subject of the verb is also the object (either direct or indirect).

    Or in other words, the actor is the one having the action done to them. If that makes sense!

    It seems to be a favourite phrase among middle-management types also!! Gets my goat, and just confirms to me that the person on the other end of the phone is stupid.

    Yes, I am a grammar nazi, but I took a degree in it, so I think I’m allowed to be!

    That said, I still can’t work out the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’!

    Rant over!

  154. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for this. I’m a little surprised that you didn’t include the “plural apostrophe” error so popular with greengrocer’s (sic.). I didn’t read all the comments, but I didn’t see anyone mention it there either. Perhaps it’s just a British problem?

    Matt

  155. I have trouble with split infinitives. I think it’s because, growing up, I heard so many different languages (I can identify the words of about 22) and because the grammar varies in each. I sometimes think in my mother tongue (or other languages) and write in English.

  156. Allright, here’s a pretty good example of everything we’re talking about here. My son, who’s 14 years old wrote me this email.

    Mind you, he typically doesn’t write like this and he doesn’t speak like this either. When it comes to email though, kids seem to lose their minds.

    Here it is: “hey im at home cuz we had early out 2day and i tired to call u but my service said it was temporarily disconectd then i tried to call from my frnds phone but it said ur phone wasnt takin ny calls nyway so this is wierd last night i woke up cuz i had a dream that we had early out 2day so i chekd my calndr nd it said we dnt but just in case i put 3 $$$ in my backpack so lucky or wat? nyva msg me bac k”

  157. Does anyone have a mnemonic for when to use “which” vs “that”

  158. I always forget punctuation!

  159. …and can we talk about DVD’s, CD’s? Just because the acronyms are capitalised (or capitalized for those in the US), why do they need an apostrophe? PS My girlfriend has a T-shirt that says YOUR RETARDED, with the deliberate grammatical error. Brilliant.

  160. Those aren’t all that bad. What annoys me more than anything, is when someone uses “could of” in the place of “could’ve” or “could have”.

    Seriously, did you people not pay attention in middle school English class?

  161. I would add the following pairs:

    principal / principle
    collocated / colocated

  162. No matter where I go on the WWW this topic always breeds a debate with strong opinions on both sides. I prefer to do my best to communicate my ideas in a concise and correct manner. That’s not to say I’m perfect. I make my share of mistakes, but they are usually typos and not because I don’t understand the rules.

    I have a problem giving the benefit of the doubt to someone who’s grammar and usage is of consistently bad quality. If they weren’t able or bothered to learn grammatical rules in order to facilitate better communication then what other areas are lacking? Research? Reading comprehension? For me, it brings into question the message they’re trying to communicate.

  163. Dear cooking4two:

    “someone who’s grammar”?

    I agree you aren’t perfect, and I am sure that was a typo. :-)

    (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

  164. Although English is not my first language, this stuff is so basic that I’m shocked it made it on top of the “popular articles.” I’m sorry if what I’m about to say sounds harsh but… it just shows how pathetic the American educational system really is (notice I didn’t say “how dumb American people are,” so you don’t have to feel obligated to crucify me for saying that).

  165. I frequently write about grammar, pronunciation, and other pet peeves related to public speaking. My most recent grammar post was about the confusion surrounding the subject and object of a sentence – aka “me and him,” or “he and I”. This one is SO annoying to me.

    http://coachlisab.blogspot.com/2007/02/me-and-him-him-and-i.html

  166. My biggest pet peeve is ALOT.

    I see this one alot.

    It is two words people!!!!!!

    “A” “LOT”

  167. I believe that I make the dangling participle error more times than I’d like to admit to.

  168. I believe the comma is one of the most improperly used parts of grammar as well.

    It bothers me when people not understanding the correct places to put them either leave out their commas as I have here. (Comma Constipation.)

    Or, more commonly, they start putting commas where they don’t belong, which is a much harder thing for me to imitate. (Comma Diarrhea.)

  169. Affect / effect

    Although you are right, affect can be a noun and effect can be a verb. The reverse is also true.

    He affects her with his floral praise.
    The effect is profound.

    are correct, but:

    He effects her praise with flowers.
    The affect is felt by both equally.

    are also. “Affect” as a noun means emotive value. Effect as a verb means to bring about. Uncommon, but nevertheless, not incorrect uses.

  170. Does anyone have a mnemonic for when to use “which” vs “that”

    Answer: which implies a choice between two things, one of which is implied is to be selected.

    Compare:

    It is a problem that is faced by many.

    with

    It is a problem which many choose to face.

    Here is a mnemonic

    That is it (a singular result).
    Which is whatever (a choice)

  171. Yes. Agreed. Those are common mistakes that usually happen without us realizing it sometimes.

    For me, I usually asked my wife to proof read my post before publishing them (if she is free).

    • Sorry, I must point out one of my pet peeves — not using the possessive before a gerund.

      Zaki, your sentence should read: “Those are common mistakes that usually happen without our realizing it sometimes.”

  172. 5 Minor Tips no doubt, but definitely 5 tips which can highly effect you’re …ooops your blogging.; ) Well Written.

  173. Chris Taylor: you are a crank, and quite plainly wrong.

    Kokuou: or whatever your name is – Before you can learn linguistics you have to learn to speak, read and write at least one language. I suggest you go and learn English.

  174. I love this article as I too read tons when I was a kid and have difficulty quoting the rules – there are two great books for this: Writing the Right Word and The Wrong Word Dictionary – both by Dave Dowling (no, I don’t get profits from sales…). He many incorrect word choices with great examples you can remember – I just was told I should have used “health conscience” instead of “health conscious” – I was correct as conscience is “having to do with right and wrong” and conscious is “having an awareness of”, so I got an apology from someone I consider very bright who just didn’t know which word to use – it was great to have the book examples to refer to.
    Great blog – now bookmarked!
    V-

  175. Frankly i think many of you should lighten up. Personally i pretty much learned everything from the internet, and i try to write my messages the best i can, but the fact remains that i make mistakes, and it honestly doesn’t bother me.

    Yes those errors listed in this blog post are pretty easy to notice and fix, and i don’t disagree with them, but you have to understand that it’s not always easy for everyone, even though it seems easy to you, and quite a few others that replied on your message.

    Anyway there are 2 kinds of people that annoy me, people that just disregard how it’s spelled, and spell “words” like this “u r” instead of you are, and people who complain to much about simple faults, yes i’m sure i made a whole bunch of faults in this message, but be honest with me, did you have a hard time reading it, did you missed my point?

    In the end i think the most important thing is that people try their best, that they do their best to make you understand what they’re saying, and that they’re open to learn to fix their mistakes, but not many people will be able to write a perfect long message, and it’s not just people who’s main language isn’t English, or people who are dyslexic, but also people who are just average, which the majority of the people on this planet is, average.

    So lighten up, and don’t crap on the people who made an effort, you can always try to help them, but don’t expect them to succeed.

  176. Having once been both an editor and a copyeditor, I used to be pretty hard-ass about typos. In some cases, there is no justification for terrible grammar and spelling. (Typos are different.)

    On the other, what’s completely frightening is that after reading this post, I started making all kinds of typos in my blogging that I have NEVER, EVER made before. Yikes. But the lesson I’ve learned is that with our busy lives, typos are easy to make.

    Yet there is an obvious difference between those who don’t try and those who’ve made a typo.

  177. Correct, I make profits from sales, but not on sales of Dave’s book!
    Benjamin – I don’t think anyone is crapping on anyone here – seems like a healthy discussion of the language. It doesn’t frustrate me, though, when people don’t capitalize “i” as I tend to see it as lazy and not a reference to e.e. cummings.
    I tend to think that “the majority of the people on this planet” ARE not average; and I don’t expect them to fail – I believe they can succeed if it is important for them to do so… apparently grammar isn’t something at which you care to be great (can’t I say “isn’t something you care to be great at.” It sounds so much more natural.) I don’t care to be great at rocket science so I would go on a science website and say people shouldn’t be so serious about science.
    You have a “style” that is probably working for your audience; but, not everyone is your audience and proper grammar IS important to people who make a living communicating. We just like trying to make the world a safe place for our native language; and fluctuate between humor and frustration when people brutalize words and phrases – hell, we’re nerds alright? So give us a break…

  178. Hah – look, I screwed up – “it does frustrate me”! I am not perfect!!!

  179. another is too and to, I need to go to the store, and the bathroom too.

  180. What gets me is when some of you grammar freaks believe that you can run around telling others how poor their grammar is and in general insult there intelligence.

    For some of us grammar is not as important as something that is useful such as mathematics, electronics, physics, etc.

    MEANING WILL ALWAYS BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN GRAMMAR. If you get pissed because someone makes common mistakes(I do it all the time and I should know better) and then accuse them of being stupid, you might want to take a look in the mirror. I have a degree in applied math and I’ll bet that I know more about mathematics than most of you do about English(Although it would be hard to compare).

    I do realize that for clear communication one has to have proper grammar but some “homophonic” mistakes should easily be reconciled. If you have a cow cause someone keeps using there instead of their then maybe its your problem and not theres. That is, if you can’t make the mental adjustment and realize the intention from the context then maybe your brain is not as big as you think. If you really want to bitch about it then take it up with the schools and not try to convert someone to your religion.

    I wish I could write well but I can’t. Maybe if I would have paid attention more in HS English class I would be better but at this point in my life I rather learn something more important(like science). Language will come and go but science is here to stay. (And chances are in a few decades we’ll all be speaking Chinese anyways.)

  181. I don’t believe anyone should be insulted for their poor grammar – just as I hope no one ever insults me for my inability to do math in my head :>)
    I hope we stick with English as Chinese is just too hard!

  182. in response to Jo…

    Mathematics is a precise language with clear rules. Its strength is precision. There is only a written form of the Mathematical language, requiring symbols, stability and accuracy.

    English (or any spoken language) is a living language with rules that are broken because of subjective differences between people and variant expression.

    The written form follows different rules entirely to the spoken form. In spoken form “there” and “their” are not different, therefore those who use speech as their primary form of English are driven a little crazy by an insistence on written correctness.

    What is interesting is the emotional expectation that we will be accepted or rejected based on our display of knowledge. If you use an imprecise mathematical formula it will also cause rejection (low marks in an exam is one form, getting a large bill from your bank could be another).

    On the web, writing is generally a mix of spoken word form and formal writing – sometimes it is hard to determine which voice is correct. People feel bad when one gets it wrong. There is nothing good about a formal written statement in a comment where “LOL” fits the environment where it is used.

    Spelling and grammar, in written English become important as mixing up words like “there” and “their” confuses the reader’s mind and slows the imparting of meaning.

    Get over it? I do not think that would be progressive. It is like saying Mathematicians should get over fractions as who really can be bothered with them…

    Yes, we could get over it, but writing will not get read by many if it don’t make no sense. Copyblogger is not dictating that you follow rules, but advising how to communicate clearly in the written form.

    And if you publish on the web, his handful of simple rules will see you right 95% of the time without too much effort.

  183. Excellent response Nicholas! It does slow us down… we live in such a fast paced world that many of us need things easily read and understood. There are “rules” to everything: I keep telling people not to just all caps for large blocks of text (as the mind reads words partially by shape and all caps makes every word a rectangle with no distinguishing features) or not to center large blocks of text (as it is harder for the reader to follow between lines) but if they choose not to listen there’s nothing I can do – apparently they have chosen to communicate less effectively for their own reasons.
    People that don’t write well can either choose to become better at it or not (there is grammar check in Word, which will catch “their” and “there” – and if one takes a moment to remember the Beatles song “Here, There and Everywhere” and try to substitute in the other words and see if they fit the problem can be resolved pretty quickly). Fortunately, my lack of math finesse largely goes unnoticed… but communication skills are prized in any field and hard to ignore.

  184. Another checklist to consider before clicking the ‘Publish’ button. Proofread .. proofread .. proofread. Thanks for the great article.

  185. I’m a former university writing instructor. One of the first things I told every new group of students was that to be good writers they also had to be good readers.

    You have to read to become fully familiar with the appearance of language on the page as well as with its sound and the mental perceptions of meaning that it creates. This is especially true of English because of the complexities of its orthography and the number of homophones in its vocabulary.

  186. would like to add a couple more:

    he’s litterally driving me up the wall! (nice car he must have)

    i got to go (you have to or were allowed to?)

  187. oh and also:

    shooting guns (why would u shoot at another gun?)

    and addicting games (addicting them to what substance?)

  188. I just want to say thank you for such a fantastic post!

    I am in the process of becoming a teacher and find it disturbing how many students and teachers do not write properly. My biggest concern though, is that I learned the rules through reading, and I have no idea how to actually teach them! I was relieved to read that there are others that never actually learned the rules, but know them instinctually through reading.

    Laura

  189. Thank you!

    I can’t tell you how often the improper use of “your” drives me crazy as well!

    I too learned from reading a lot at a very young age and actually keep an old copy of the “Holt Handbook” around just in case I need to make reference to something grammatical that is in question.

    However, if I’m too lazy to look it up, I just ask my husband :-) – it’s great that we have these instant handbooks in our lives.

    – Kristine

  190. Unfortunately, these examples are extremely basic and if you don’t know them, you probably shouldn’t be blogging.

  191. “Mathematics is a precise language with clear rules. Its strength is precision. There is only a written form of the Mathematical language, requiring symbols, stability and accuracy.

    English (or any spoken language) is a living language with rules that are broken because of subjective differences between people and variant expression. ”

    You have to understand how this works. Basicly everyone learns things a different way, and uses them a different way, personally i hardly ever need to use a calculator, i can just do the maths straight from my head, i even became third on a math test (no calculators were allowed) that was done here in the Netherlands which was taken by about 10000 students and won a price with it, so i can honestly say i’m good at maths.
    Now i’m not just good at maths, but i’m also good at anything that has simple rules so to speak, you explained it pretty well yourself, math has strict rules, and there are no exceptions, there is only 1 outcome, anything logical so to speak, is really easy for me, but languages aren’t.
    Before i went to highschool we had to do a test that took 5×3 hours to see where you would fit best, and except for Dutch (we didn’t get English yet) i had only like 5 mistakes of roughly 500 hundred, but i made about 10 mistakes with the language test.

    It just works that way in my head, my brother is the opposit, he’s great with languages, but maths is a lot harder for him, and that’s with many people, in my class i saw people failing classes like Dutch, English, French etc, while others failed for Math, Economy etc.

    It’s just how peoples brain work.

    Anyway this message probably wasn’t to easy to read, and that’s because it was hard to formulate a message like this in which i try to explain something. And having learned pretty much everything i know from this language, from TV and the Internet, doesn’t help to much.

    @Veronika, i know most weren’t crapping at people, but i saw a few people who were acting like whenever someone makes a mistake a person dies… Each person has different qualities, that combined with the fact that languages are pretty hard, and a lot of people on the internet had to learn English the hard way, i’d say those people need to cut others some slack. Unless they obviously don’t even try to spell properly.

    As for the “I” thing, i get your point, it always takes me time to learn such things, took me ages to learn things as your/you’re etc, not because it’s so hard, but because you need to translate it in your head like that, both sound the same, and until it becomes second nature to you, you keep making the same mistake.
    The “I” thing is something i never learned (

  192. Dear Benjamin,
    Wish I had known you were from the Netherlands – of course it’s much harder! My dad was born in Germany and we’ve had pen pals from all over the world visit us; I know how difficult language can be.
    I think many of us were assuming that natives to the language should/could be better at it… I’m sure you’d like to continue getting “better” (more accustomed, more comfortable) with English but that takes a lot of interaction with the language (whether by reading/writing or speaking/listening).
    Congratulations on what you already know! I cannot converse in any other language so I admire your efforts.
    If it is important to you then consider getting the two books I referenced in an earlier post; they are very useful and actually an interesting read. They may have some good tips that will stick with you (I say this because they have helped me and I was born in the US!).
    Sincerely, V-

  193. It’s only when you learn another language you realise how difficult English really is.

  194. Don’t forget “loser” vs. “looser”… Drives me bananas!

  195. Kendall Hanson :

    Last time I looked, it has been acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition since roughly the end of the 12th Century. The error first appeared, I believe, in a 1940s MacMillan grammar book and was then passed along by countless teachers with more Education courses than English under their belt.

    Speaking of errors, wasn’t it a clerk to the Supreme court whose headnote to a 14th Amendment ruling triggered the precedent to allow corporations to be treated as equal to humans under the law? Never underestimate the power of a really nasty error. Without that, B&N would never have been able to shut down independent booksellers–and let’s not even talk about Wal-Mart! But then, whom can you appeal to? Oops, another darn prepositional ending.

  196. Another that gets me is correct spellings from two different countries, by the same author, in the same article, story, etc.

    My favourite house in the neighborhood.

    Stick with one country’s correct spelling, in the same article.

    I can never decipher what country the author is from.

  197. “Affect” and “effect” can both be a noun or a verb, according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary.

  198. Yes Donna, they can.. as I noted. But only if you use them correctly, which many people do not. ;)

  199. Brian,

    Thanks for the reminders and for your honesty (“I go ask my wife”). One of my disappointments in the internet age is the loss of attention to detail in communications. Clear writing using the King’s English will never go out of style. It just takes effort.

  200. I’m very happy to hear that I am not the only person who is annoyed by poorly written web posts.

    The tiny thing that bothers me the most is when people use cell-phone-spelling, such as “ur”, “me 2″, etc.

  201. “The minor errors though especially spelling errors are quite irrelevant. We all know this even if we refuse to admit it. This irrelevance is why its so hard to proof read your own content. Your brain just “fixes” the mistakes it finds and moves along. It takes another person with the intent to find errors to find them.”

    Balderdash! Honest people will admit that the primary reason they have any mistakes at all in submitted writing is that they simply don’t bother to proofread in the first place.

    The humble writer who respects his readers will proofread. Although proofreading is not a panacea for ignorance, it will catch most errors.

    The one who does not proofread is either lazy as hell, or an arrogant jackass who shrugs off the admonishments of those who know better.

    The one looking for mistakes in this post is the biggest jackass of all, because he is missing the point, and frittering away his own precious time in the vain hope of finding something about which to gloat.

    May 10,000 rabid unicorns make a nest in your inner ear if you don’t proofread your next post on the Internet.

  202. I recently watched a television show which showed a sentence printed on the screen as follows:

    The animal was in eminent danger of….

    Once passed a building in which the word ‘construction’ was misspelled in four foot letters.

    It’s everywhere.

  203. I have no problem with people who can’t write. Just because I was a total bookworm since I was two, I don’t expect that of others.

    Some of the best blogs I read are full of spelling and grammar errors, and while I have to think that those bloggers would be taken more seriously if they hired (or married :) ) a good proofreader, I still appreciate their brilliance. AND things like starting a sentence with “and,” or placing commas where pauses occur in natural conversation, definitely contribute to the up-close-and-personal tone of successful blogs.

    On the other hand, we have those who choose to criticize the spelling- and grammar-challenged while failing to proofread their own comments (or are comments exempt from all the blog-language-preaching above?).

    Here’s a little proofreading game for you: The former high school teacher missed a word and at least one comma. Can you pick it out? Did it affect your understanding of the comment?

    The former English major (the first one) is another story – I won’t even go there.

    Read through the comments and you will find that some of the most vehement “grammarians” failed to get a proofreader of their own. On a constructive note, this is the lesson for everyone: Even the best copywriters should have someone proofread their work, because a second set of eyes can catch what our brain has chosen to ignore.

    Just for fun, here is one of my favorite examples of when proofreading should definitely have been employed: I came across a “professional” freelance PROOFREADER’s website (not a personal blog, but a website promoting her services) and got to read about her flawless GRAMMER …

    When we criticize others we should always remember a certain biblical quote about casting stones …

    … and I bet you all love ellipses too …

  204. This was a very nice refresher to keep us on our toes. Unfortunately, word editors do not catch many of these types of grammatical errors. But reinforcement from good articles like this one can always help. Based on the comments, I think many of us will still get affect vs. effect wrong.

  205. My pet peeve is farther and further and I find myself talking back to just about every weatherman I’ve ever listened to. Simple rule: if you can measure it, it’s farther. No further discussion is needed.

  206. @ Michael Schinker

    You are correct in your conclusion and thankyou for pointing out the differences.

    I am from the UK and have lived in the USA, which made me acutely aware of the cultural differences you mention.

    A few minutes ago I tried an American grammar test which gave me a score of 35 out of 50 questions. Had this same test been conducted by UK rules, the result would have been closer to 45.

    The rules of grammar seem to be changing recently and I’ve noticed a melding between the UK and USA versions of the English language. Consequently, I try to adhere to rules common to both sides of the Atlantic, these days, to make communication an easier process (and to keep the pedants quiet).

  207. Hi Brian,

    Just for the record, your point no 4 isn’t quite correct!

    You say that ‘affect’ is a verb and that ‘effect’ is a noun. But ‘effect’ is both a noun and a transitive verb.

    As a verb it means ‘to cause to occur’, and derives from ‘efficere’, a Latin verb meaning ‘to accomplish’.

    One ‘effect’ (n) of my commenting on this could be that you’ll ‘effect’ (vb) the changes necessary to avoid providing a misleading source.

  208. sometimes it happens with me also the “there” and “their” thing ..but when i again review the posts it quickly strikes to me that there is mistake which needs to be fixed.

  209. I don’t think that a prepostion is a bad thing to end a sentence with.

  210. The preposition business is a daily thorn to me! I grew up with all the traditional grammatical rigour that says that a sentence should not end in a preposition.

    But it’s one that contemporary usage makes it ridiculous to adhere to. As you can see :)

  211. Your vs. You’re is the most common mistake I see these days. Not just blogger, but I have witnessed professional writers doing the same.

  212. There have been so many comments on this post already, but I have to add my 100% agreement to comment #2 by Brian…..When you lose weight, your pants get loose. Something is loose on my car, I think I’m losing my muffler. I think I’m losing my mind because I see wild animals running loose in the neighborhood…

    This one really gets me. I also do not understand why so many people spell “lose” incorrectly.

    Thanks for letting me add this. :)

  213. Here is an error that is so pervasive I fear it is becoming “correct” due to so much use:
    Adding an apostrophe + s to make words plural, rather than just an s. Example: “apple’s for sale” should be “apples for sale.”
    This problem is just inexplicable to me.

  214. I thought I was going to pass this with flying colors until I got to number 5! I’m admit I’m guilty of using dangling participles from time to time. But I didn’t know what they were called until now! :) Like you, I didn’t ever learn the rules. I got my knoweldge of grammar by reading voraciously.

  215. True and very helpful.

    I also learnt by reading veraciously. I too can fix an incorrect sentence when I see one, but don’t ask me the rules :)

  216. All of these are good points. I think the most important thing is to take enough pride in our work to compel us to read and re-read our blog entries before we post them. That way, we’ll reduce the possibility that grammatical errors will distract our readers from our message. The message is what it’s about, after all!

  217. What amazes me is the fact that so many of the comments praising this post contain grammatical and spelling errors. How can people claim to be in such agreement regarding the value of proofreading and then not do it themselves?

    I’ve come to a conclusion that the world is full of idiots.

  218. Thanks for useful information!

  219. One word : guilty. :(

  220. Not having read through ‘all’ of the comments, I wonder if people are swayed by MS Word’s abysmal spelling and grammar checker?

    And, in reference to Rev. Spooner, I like to refer to them as ‘spolling errers’

    I’m so glad I came across your blog, it’s a fantastic resource and one I’m pleased I chose to subscribe to.

    Oh yeah, that reminds me: choose and chose. *shudder*

  221. I work with attorneys :)) and they frequently end their letters with “Please do not hesitate to contact either myself or Mr. *** should you have any questions.” Amazing – to think that after all those years of college…

    Another one that sets off an alarm is when I hear the word “height” pronounced as “heigth” – I hear this approximately once a week, frequently on the news! I know these comments concern writing skills but I couldn’t resist mentioning that one.

  222. wow that is crazy I tend to do that because I just type when I blog and really do not overview my post – I have just recently re reading my own post to make sure it sounds right

  223. John Hannah :

    Brian, you have (you’ve) offered a valuable site about the rampant abuse, misuse and lack of proper use of the English in its (singular possesive) written form. I especially like Mike Maranhus’s comments. Mike nailed it as far as I’m concerned. Like you and many others, I did not major in English, Literature ao the like. I did do a double major in Psychology and Philosophy, however, and had to do a boat load of writing for both. I was also one who did a lot reading as a child, especially sea tales about pirates and those who went up against them. I was also very fond of the old Westerns of Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour and others. As a kid who was very much into sports, I also read about the great atheletes at those and earlier times. Throw into this mix my mother, who did attend nursing school and all the reading and course work that with with that, and the constant corrections she hammered into my two sisters and myself ( this last use of me, myself is from her…be respectful to others, put them first, then include yourself, which is the English sibling of myself).

    The point to all of this is that I whole-heartedly agree that the thought that we do absorb all these rules of grammar ( it is AR, not ER) either by osmosis or whatever one chooses to call it. Like many others who commented, I loose interest in a heartbeat in anothers writings if they exhibit a plethora of egregious erors in the written word. I shudder to think of the impact our Constitution and its Premable would not have had if it was written with the same lack of care and attention that is so prevalant on the ‘net. A mistake here or there is one thing, but to see them served up as often as they are is laziness, be it the proofreading that should accompany any copy writing, spell-checker, dictionaries, etc., or the laziness that is born of disrespect to others, while being solely concerned with getting as much profit as one thinks they can squeeze out of their site. Ant of us who use the ‘net to find what we are (we’re) searching for are not stupid; we maybe ignorant ( lack of knowledge about a given subject or topic), but if we detect a lack of attention to basic detail, you’ll (you will) loose us by the droves.

    You do us all a great service by offering this site, Brian. Kudos to you!

    John Hannah

  224. None of mentioned mistakes could have ever been made by a foreigner. For me (I’m a Czech) it’s unimaginable to make a mistake when using “your/you’re”.

    It’s kind of funny that even a foreigner with the very basics of English grammar would never interchange those terms. The reason is that our understanding of English is based on the grammar and vocabulary, not everydays oral communication and perception. Thus we learn how to write well at the cost of the ability to react quickly and correctly to a spoken word.

    By the way, the Czechs have general problem with English tenses which their language doesn’t include. That’s why we struggle with both present and past perfect.

    Only a few things I wanted to point out. Maybe someone finds it interesting. :o)

    Sorry for the typos and mistakes I’ve made.

    — Dero [Czech copywriter]

  225. I just visited your blog for the first time today.
    I love this post!!! These things drive me crazy as well. But, if you ever remark about them, say, on the Warrior Forum, you get blasted for being with the “Grammar Police”. Well, I am with them and proud of it!!!
    Does it make you crazy when people put apostrophes all over the place like in the word “guru’s”? Like when they say “Most guru’s will ….”. Helloooooo! Did anybody graduate third grade in the U.S.???

  226. I’m jumping into this kind of late, but I can’t get over how puzzled I am by post No. 79 from novaculus, concerning “the misusage of the adjective “this” as a demonstrative pronoun (“This hat is mine.” “This is my hat.”). Without regard to its strictly grammatical propriety, it can be confusing and is unappealing as a matter of style. Better alternatives are available.”

    At first I thought, “My god, why have I never known that?” But then I checked Webster’s, and I saw that the very first usage of “this” listed is as a pronoun.

    novaculus then goes on to point out a use of “this” that is actually incorrect: “This adjective is also misused for as a substitute for indefinite articles, for the purpose placing greater emphasis on the subject. (You need to evaluate the motives of this person who gave the advice.)”

    But then he spoils it by again emphasizing his original, incorrect insistence: “This usage is inappropriate but not as egregious an error as its misusage as a pronoun.”

    How very, very strange; this isn’t one of the usual grammar-snob myths, like split infinitives, nor a slightly outdated one, as far as I know. I think it’s just flat-out wrong, and I can’t figure out where he got this idea. Unless I’m misunderstanding his point.

    Has anyone else heard that you shouldn’t use “this” as a pronoun (“This is my hat”) before?

    Oh, and one thing I can say in defense of everyone making spelling and other errors on this blog: It’s really hard to proof yourself in such a small window! You’d have to copy/paste into a bigger space in order to do a really thorough job, which would just be too anal even for me.

  227. Even by the standards of this epic correspondence, this one is a killer!

    ‘This’ is not, nor can ever be, an adjective! It’s either a pronoun or what’s called a ‘determiner’

    In the statement “I heard this on the radio”, ‘this’ is a pronoun.

    In the statement “I heard this song”, ‘this’ is a determiner.

    The post #79 which you cite is plainly and simply wrong; and incoherent. Which should be seen as no personal slight on its author :)

    Good evening to you from London, England.

  228. Hmm…Must be an American thing, but in Webster’s New World (the proofreader’s bible in my company) the “determiner” uses that you describe are designated “adj.,” or adjective. Nonetheless, I’m very glad you agree about the rest of the post; I couldn’t believe no one had commented on it in the three months or so since it had been posted.

    Hi from Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.! My husband’s from England, and a word geek too, so we have endless fun marveling at the mysterious discrepances between American English and, well, English English. The other night he said “centrifugal” (sen-tri-FYOO-gul) and I cracked up. We pronounce it “sen-TRIF-i-gul,” which in turn made him burst out laughing when he heard it. Neither of us had ever heard the other pronunciation before!

  229. “discrepancies”

    Dammit!

  230. Carol,

    This US/UK anomaly thing is well trodden, of course, but on occasion has earned me consulting fees from US companies simply to check and advise on both context and usage of US originated copy pre-use in the UK market.

    As to ‘this’ being termed an adjective in its determiner use…I just can’t see how that use would qualify it as an adjective, even if you assumed that the concept of a determiner was unknown in the US.

    An adjective qualifies the characteristic of a noun. Big. A big hat.

    If ‘this’ were an adjective, then what would it be in ‘This big hat’? An adjective describing ‘big hat’? In which case is ‘big hat’ a compound noun, now, rather than a noun qualified by an adjective???

    It all gets silly rather quickly, does it not?

    Last thing. Centrifugal. I can’t even SAY it the way you just spelled out to represent your pronunciation!

  231. ‘ello Brian, guardian of the English language and good communication.
    Well done!

    I was really happy to see that there are people who care about good use of the English language.

  232. To Terry McGinn

    I think it would be logical to put ” ur” if you are talking about possessive noun or else separate the u and r..

  233. I like what #266 wrote and I totally agree. Too bad he’s got the same name as my ex…
    I wish I could make a living finding and correcting mistakes in text. Any suggestions?

  234. Oops! Maybe “Chris” is a female. If so, sorry!

  235. Just to make things even more confusing (and hopefully I am not repeating what someone else may have posted), Affect is also a verb and a noun.

    In addition to the common use of Affect as a verb (The event affected him quite dramatically), it is also used in medicine to describe one’s mental status (He seemed to have quite a flat affect).

  236. good idea with ‘ur’, terry, but I still have to type ‘u’re’ when appropraiate; just to show I’ve been to school.

  237. “Lay” and “lie” might be a good addition to this list. My suggestion for learning the vagaries of English grammar: teach it as a second language. Oh, and Peter is correct, “affect” can be a noun, normally used by psychiatrists to describe an individual’s appearance and behavior when observed. “Catatonics normally demonstrate a flat affect.” As to Mr. Blume and “this,” it is a relative adjective.

  238. Ack! I meant to say that “this” is a relative pronoun.

  239. Jess,

    you are partially corrrect, but not so much so as your certainty suggests. In English English *grin*, as I said way back, ‘this’ is either a determiner or a pronoun. In truth, I think you are even wrong when you say that it is a relative pronoun! Fowler lists: ‘who’, ‘which’, ‘what’, ‘that’, ‘such as’ and ‘as’ as relative pronouns, but not ‘this’. And Fowler, as we know, is incapable of being wrong.

    Regards from London, and back to client stuff!

  240. Well, I can only speak for American English, but the Chicago Manual Style lists “this” as both a demonstrative pronoun and an adjective pronoun. (In “this is my hat,” it’s demonstrative; in “this hat is mine,” adjective.) “That” classifies as demonstrative (“that is my hat”), relative (“the hat that I bought”) and adjective (“that hat is mine”).

  241. Well, I can only speak for American English, but the Chicago Manual of Style lists “this” as both a demonstrative pronoun and an adjective pronoun. (In “this is my hat,” it’s demonstrative; in “this hat is mine,” adjective.) “That” classifies as demonstrative (“that is my hat”), relative (“the hat that I bought”) and adjective (“that hat is mine”).

  242. Its a great post, i think your a good writer, their is a lot of good stuff in you’re blog…
    huahuahuaaaaa….
    nice post man… :)

  243. Oh absolutely!

    And #4: gratuitous misuse and overuse of IMPACT when you are too lazy to understand the difference between these two.

  244. I caught myself with the your and you’re in my early writing days, lately, I find myself needing to make a mental note regarding “then and than”.

    Unfortunately, Word editors don’t always catch these mistakes either, and tired eyes can play tricks on well intentioned writers.

    Good tips and I like your example regarding “you’re writing”

  245. Grammatical Error Intended
    (wink)

  246. Valid mistakes, especially the one on effect & affect.
    Would need to recheck this article when I would need to write. Also when I run spell check their & there does not show up.

    Thanks for these tips.

  247. Great Site!

    Here’s the one that gets me…try and make
    instead of try to make. For example, “I’m going to try and get it done” instead of “I’m going to try to get it done.”

    Sure hope my punctuation is right!

  248. Affect vs. Effect. The easiest way I distinguish between these two words in my writing is the following thought:

    Affect is the one that “does something.”

    Effect is the result of “doing something.”

  249. Thanks for all the great tips!

  250. I am eating lunch, reading this post and laughing out loud by myself in my office at your “P.S.”

    I’m so glad not to be the only one!

    To this day, I can’t tell you, for the most part, why something is wrong but I can tell you when it is.

    I call my sister for the explanation: She’s an English teacher!

  251. The Wall Street Journal on Friday used “it’s” where it should have used its. I was shocked. Murdoch?

  252. A very useful post for bloggers. I did considering to write my blog in English and the mistakes you mention are very common for me.

  253. another one drives me nuts…

    Where / Were / We’re

  254. I often see compliment and complement mixed up.

  255. Loose and lose bothers me and I seem to be seeing it a lot lately. Maybe “alot” should also be added!

  256. I guess I can’t resist adding that using an adjective as a noun (having a “human” doing something–a “human” what? human being, perhaps?) is not terribly desirable.

  257. Always a good thing the read some information on your web – site , thanks

  258. hi good work

  259. Thanks for a great post! I, too, am peeved by incorrect apostrophe usage on business signs. I always think “Who wrote that?’. My peeve is the confusion between advice and advise. People often use the s word as a noun. Argh!
    And, I know that I make mistakes. I have been gently guided to look at my comma usage. I still don’t believe I have a problem. So much so that when happily perusing the Illustrated Elements of Style, I skipped past the comma section, thinking I had it covered. Alas, I busted myself and went back.
    Thanks for keeping us on our toes!

  260. FYI, we have a free service called Virtual Editor (www.veditor.net) that automatically finds many common grammar, style, and usage problems. You upload a document to the site and it emails you back a report highlighting the issues it’s found. Typically you receive the report in a few minutes.

    It’s a great tool to use when you’ve written something and you want someone to review it, but it’s either too late or you’re in a rush.

    It’s not perfect, but it definitely helps. We’re adding rules all the time to make it better. Check it out and let us know what you think.

  261. Can anyone tell me which is the correct one: Two and two make/makes four.
    WHY? What is the reason for whichever is the answer

  262. *breaths a sigh of relief* It’s wonderful to know there are others who could never ‘get it’ when ‘learning’ grammatical constructs. I’m with you guys, I can tell when something isn’t right, I can fix it, but I wouldn’t know it’s called a dangling participle. I usually have to look up the difference between verbs, adjectives, nouns, adverbs, etc. etc. etc.

    Amazingly enough, after years of writing, I AM starting to learn, bit by bit. Now for example (note that this is a ‘for example’ that could not be substituted with e.g.), thanks to this excellent article, I know what a dangling participle is. There are, however, no guarantees I’ll remember it tomorrow.

  263. I am amazed at people that actually confuse idea and ideal? Where on earth did that come from?

  264. @Linda: I have no ideal what you are talking about!?! ;-)

  265. Case closed.

  266. I also still struggle with the USA and Australian versions of grammar or spelling.
    In the USA, very often there is a comma before the ‘and’ in a sentence, plus do I use the ‘s’ or ‘z’ in “personalise”?

    A real ‘cringe factor’ of mine is, hearing news readers with lines such as, “There’s a lot of marchers at the rally” and they’re absolutely the worst when it comes to over use of the “dangling participle”.

    Aha, there’s an example! Should I have used a comma before the ‘and’ in that last sentence? I’m fairly sure they would do that, in the USA.

    Now to hope that I’ve not left any errors behind me when I hit the ‘Submit’ button! :)

    Eye halve a spelling chequer
    It came with my pea sea
    It plainly marques four my revue
    Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

    Eye strike a key and type a word
    And weight four it two say
    Weather eye am wrong oar write
    It shows me strait a weigh.

    As soon as a mist ache is maid
    It nose bee fore two long
    And eye can put the error rite
    Its rare lea ever wrong.

    Eye have run this poem threw it
    I am shore your pleased two no
    Its letter perfect awl the weigh
    My chequer tolled me sew.

    Regards, Thea

  267. “Five Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb”

    Which is precisely why the English language (so I’ve heard) is the hardest language to learn. Hummmmmm Glad I never had to learn it! (another grammatical error that make you look dumb, since you should never end a sentence with the preposition, “it”), or can you? Check this out! http://www.grammartips.homestead.com/prepositions1.html

  268. Thank for your outstanding contribution.But I would like you to notice that you have made a few mistakes in you conclusion above.
    -After”when it came to”,the verb that follows must in the gerund form.
    -The verb ” to learn” is always followed by”how” to the best of my knowledge though I am a non-english blogger.
    Looking foward to linking to most of your posts.
    Thank once again!

  269. You forgot the most common mistake. People
    often say and write “who” when they mean “whom”,
    such as in “with who” instead of “with whom”.

  270. how bout this one…

    Advise vs Advice

    or

    Councel vs Counsel…

    those always get me

  271. or what about this:

    farther vs further

    which sentence is correct?

    1) you don’t have to look any further, or
    2) you don’t have to look any farther

    that always get me

  272. Thank you so much for posting this. I was beginning to think I was the only person left in the solar system who still knew the difference between your and you’re. It has driven me nuts for years seeing this mistake nearly everywhere everyday. It’s such a relief to know there are still others out there who care about writing correctly!

    • Robert, please! If you care about writing correctly, learn the difference between “everyday” and “every day”!

  273. I heartily agree with almost everything here. The only thing I disagree with is the use of “alot” vs “a lot”. Think about it – if you have “a lot” of comments, then you have comments strewn about a piece of land. If you have “alot” of comments, then you have many comments. “Alot” will make it it into the dictionary someday (just like “awhile” did).

  274. Very insightful post! I recently held a conversation on writing quirks (little mistakes that you find yourself making time and time again) and Mark from Pro-Blogging Matrix directed me to this post.

    It’s and its has been a toughie for me. I always have to double check myself. Its never become integrated into my way of writing.

  275. OMG I can’t believe this post is still being commented upon! I just ran acrost it (JUST KIDDING) while googling something else.

    For some reason, lately I have been seeing people use “apart” where they should use “a part”. For example, “Tom wants to be apart of a clique”.

  276. “I could care less”
    although it should of course be
    “I couldn’t care less”

  277. Receive vs Recieve. I know I know, its spelling, not grammer, but dangit, I just can’t ever get it right.

  278. I simply LOVE IT…

  279. Interesting tips, although I haven’t noticed so much of these gram. errors on blogs around.

  280. Good tips. I will now keep these in mind when writing. The one I always get stumped on is when to use “who” and “whom”. Can you give some feedback on this?

    Thanks for all the good information.

  281. thanks it,s toooo important , I’ll keep it in mind

  282. When do you use the words ‘It is…’ and ‘This is’.

  283. my opinion…..’It’ refers to an object or anything which is the subject in a discussion.
    ‘This is’ refers to anything that you speak of with/without discussing about something.

    pls correct me if I’m wrong.

  284. English is not my native language making it even harder to notice those mistakes.
    I see a lot of English speaking bloggers using “to” instead of “too”. It is good to see someone concerned about proper writing.

  285. Yup little things.But Important.Should take care of these otherwise really we will be looking dumb.

  286. I don’t think so i make these.But nice article.

  287. Brian – its to bad your married, cuz myself is looking four some1 whose as in to grammer and speling like myself!!! Ha ha ha , ok i am kidding, I tried to get as many mistakes as i could into that sentence :)

    People using MYSELF instead of ME all the time is my latest pet peeve!! “Call myself or my husband” – i just want to scream ME ME ME ME! Or do you love these people who actually say outloud…”Shelly and I’s relationship”… “I’S” RELATIONSHIP? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! I can’t take it anymore!

  288. Andrew McGinn :

    I think you missed one. These five are a start, but another that pair that are problematic are “then” and “than.” “Then” having a time component and “than” a comparative. How often to read things like “My car is better then yours” and “After that, than he will arrive home,” both of which are erroneous.

  289. Good article. What all of these people who responded are saying is of value for me, and hopefully for many others. I can’t pretend to understand the rules of grammar completely, but I do try to avoid as many as possible by reading and re-reading, and being aware of how it could sound to others. Perhaps the greatest problem I have is ending a sentence with a preposition. Thanks for all of the good tips!

  290. oops…I found a dangling problem in the note I just left! “but I do try to avoid (as many mistakes) as possilbe”…yikes!

  291. Yes, prepositions are terrible things to end sentences with. And you should never begin a sentence with a conjunction :)

  292. Very interesting conversation on grammar. I actually got punished as a child for those very same errors of which you speak. I finally stopped cringing at the words ” I seen”, “4U”, “2diefor”, “lol”, argggh! The abbreviations kill me – and as my kids would say “why is abbreviation such a long word for a word that needs to be shortened?”. I will call back here when I need a fix.:)

  293. I’m so in love with you for writing this. I get teased so much for speaking and writing well, and I hate that people expect that nonstandard English should be accepted as correct. In fact I am often insulted almost to tears. I guess I have a lot of toxic people in my life.

    I did want to add another error that I see quite often (and yes, the “t” is silent). I see and hear many people who don’t know the difference between then and than. Sorry! I just scrolled up and saw that one in another comment.

    And then there are the others who will use “their” for “they’re”. Doesn’t it make you laugh or want to hit someone when the people with the worst grammar want English to be the official language of the US? And these people can barely speak it themselves?

    I don’t judge ESL people for making mistakes, but when I hear glaring errors by a native speaker, I question the intelligence of the person uttering or writing them. Why wouldn’t a person check for those things before putting his thoughts out for the world (or the sole intended recipient) when it makes him sound like his IQ is 85? With so many resources available, there is no excuse for sounding like a dumb twit.

  294. I did not take the time to read all of the comments, so this may have already been said; and if it has, then I am sorry for the repeat…..

    My BIGGEST BIGGEST problem is when a writer mixes up the words “then” and “than”…..expecting others to buy something from them or to even continue reading what they wrote!

  295. A similar gaffe in personal correspondence is one of my pet peeves. it’s the tendency for people to address a card or letter to “The Smith’s,” rather than to “The Smiths.”

  296. Ok, Okay. I’m sure we have all been victim to the grammar mistakes pointed out. I know I have but it was never intentional. After sitting at the computer for endless hours, it’s easy to make an honest mistake. These mistakes ruin great copy. I’ve visited websites of well known companies and after seeing a typo I’ll decide not to buy from them.

    Does any one have any tips on the proper use of punctuation? When something is not spelled correctly it sticks out like a sore thumb. Improper use of punctuation is probably not as noticed, or is it? In journalism we were taught two spaces after a period but now I’ve read it’s one. I think what’s even harder to keep up with is the rules about punctuation.

    On that note, I’ll try to be more forgiving in the future, especially of myself. I’ll check back for comments on punctuation. Is there a post I can visit?

  297. Yep, right here.

  298. Thank You! It’s much appreciated and I will refer to it when needed.

  299. Really dumb is the right word if one makes such mistakes.

  300. Yes! You’re vs your is constantly being used incorrectly and by very educated people. It drives me NUTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I posted about it on one of my blogs because I just couldn’t stand it.

  301. These aren’t people who are “very educated”. If you look closely, you’ll find that either their degrees are from crappy universities or they are made up.

  302. Oh, God bless you for this post!

  303. I think I’m ‘loosing’ my mind

    ;-)

    Great Post,
    Mark

  304. Thanks for the article.

    I have a Mystery Shopping company which (that?) depends on General Comments provided by Joe public.

    FYI – Have included your tips for them http://www.whytohow.com

  305. I’m so glad that you didn’t give us a “sneak peak”…

  306. Glad to hear another writer admit to the “flaw” of having almost no idea of the technical reasons as to why a sentences structure might be wrong.. For me it usually just sounds clumsy when I read something wrong back to myself.. Almost feeling of discomfort in my ears

  307. Hi,

    I’ve just come across this post, and I totally agree with all your points, thank you for highlighting them. If I may, I’d take the opportunity to share a link to the post on my blog on a similar subject (I wrote it as a part of Blogcatalog challenge last September). Somehow I felt that the verbal and grammatical correctness are just as important as all ethical and geeky stuff. :-)

    http://loscuadernosdejulia.blogspot.com/2007/09/bloggers-against-abuse-use-of-language.html

  308. Thanks for the article, I linked to it: http://smallfishbigmoney.com/2008/03/03/small-fish-big-money-super-blogging-link-love/

    The problem with the English language is the fact that people make so many mistakes every single day, but we have gotten so used to it, we do not realise it is a mistake anymore.

    The “affect” and “effect” thing is a pet peeve of mine. It is a very common error in Australia, and the problem does not seem to be getting any better.

    Kind Regards,
    Fabien

  309. I’ll add another thanks to the pile. :-P I consider myself quite knowledgeable when it comes to grammar, but I must admit I don’t remember ever have the difference between “affect” and “effect” properly explained to me.

  310. I am 44 and hardly remember the rules I learned in college. Yet I still am a document proofer for a bunch of professionals and I see these same mistakes all the time. I should share this article with my team, but it probably won’t help. They just expect I’ll fix their mistakes when I see them.

  311. The amount of rainfall will “affect” the dam’s water levels.

    You should always use exclamation marks in your sentences for added “effect”

    Hopefully that clears things up :)

    Thanks

  312. Another One of the errors that we hardly notice while writing is “teh” error for “the” but makes you certainly look dumb.
    But spelling errors can sometimes lead to good traffic especially when doing Keyword Optimization. I have covered the details of the same in one of my posts on SEO and Keywords.

    Thanks

  313. Crap,

    Don’t read my blog then. That is just about half of my mistakes!

  314. To Pixiu:

    “Teh” versus “The” is not a grammatical error, it is
    just a typo.

  315. The lack of a possessive apostrophe in ‘its’ gets me all the time. Nice summary.

  316. I just got busted on “do” and “due”:

    “Do to issues with…”

    God, I am a moron. I need to read more.

  317. I qestion this example: “Featuring plug-in circuit boards, we can strongly endorse this server’s flexibility and growth potential.

    Hmmm… robotic copy written by people embedded with circuit boards. Makes sense.”

    Do you think a ‘server’ is a person? It isn’t. A server is a computer that makes services, as access to data files, programs, and peripheral devices, available to workstations on a network.

  318. It’s not so easy to write in English… Specially for a brazilian blogger like me. But what you taught here is very useful! Thanks!

  319. I agree, those are the most common five errors found in on-line writing. Here is another that is starting to annoy me:
    know – now

    People who say: I know want to ask you this question
    and what they should have used is: I now want to

    Know – something learned (knowledge)
    now – this very minute (time element)

    But what really makes me nuts is when I find the
    would of – could of mistakes.

    Oh well. To err is human, to really look stupid takes computer access!

  320. I agree

  321. I enjoy reading these comments. I’ve learned quite a bit from the writers. However, when I get an e-mail stating that there are new comments posted, I have to read all the comments over again. I can’t figure out what is new and what is not new. Is there a way to just reading the latest comments?
    More important than this, I would like to thank you all for the new insights and lessons. By the way, I always have a problem with more important, more importantly, and most importantly…my guess is that most importantly follows a series of “important” things and more importantly just doesn’t make sense if the series of things are not present.

  322. Sometimes I can also fix wrong sentences but not knowing the reason behind it. Maybe it’s just not good to hear. I learned a lot from this posts especially the technique of inserting “the” in effect. And of course the dangling principle. Are you an English teacher Brian? Just kidding.

  323. Your example in the 5th Grammatical Errors mistakes,

    “After rotting in the cellar for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.

    Uhh… keep your decomposing brother away from me!”

    is very funny. I can’t stop laughing ; )

  324. Valid mistakes, especially the one on effect & affect.
    Would need to recheck this article when I would need to write. Also when I run spell check their & there does not show up.

    Thanks for these tips.

  325. i would like just to correct a slight mistake pertaining to the function of “your” mentioned in the 5 mistakes above ; you should know that ” your” is not a possessive pronoun but a possessive adjective . thanks for the tips

  326. Dear Brian:

    Beware of homophones dangling there participles.
    UR correct in exposing these enemies of the basic rules of grammar. And as my grammar always says: IM’ng conventions are oxymoronic to good writing online or off :}

  327. And then there are the UK English versus American English errors, such as the word ‘momentarily’ which in england means FOR a moment, such as in ‘the aircraft hung at the top of its trajectory momentarily before plunging to the ground’ ……..as opposed to the American where it means IN a moment ‘we have to break now for a word from our sponsors, but we will be back momentarily’

  328. A different typo I hate:
    ` instead of ‘
    Even major newspaper sites (and one of your commenters above) do this all the time.

    Even worse is the double:
    … the term “diet” is often…

  329. My post did not clearly demonstrate, because your software fixed the error!

    I was referring to using the accent grave key just left of the number 1 key, instead of the single or double quotation mark keys.

  330. The worst is newspaper text that use till when they want to abbreviate until (’til)

  331. Here are a few more bloopers that lower my esteem for the writer:
    * Apostrophes in plurals. One of the ads on the site today says “Most Guru’s [sic] got theirs here”. Does this make me feel as if the people behind the ad know what they are doing? Nope.
    * The random comma. Commas in writing are similar to brief pauses in speech. For some side-splitting examples of inappropriate comma use, see the excellent little book “Eats, shoots and leaves” by Lynn Truss.
    * The use of “amount” instead of “number”, and “less” rather than “fewer”. You can’t count sugar or sand, so “less sand” and “a large amount of sugar” is correct. But “a large amount of people and less dogs”? Yeuch. You can count people and dogs. Use “number” and “fewer”.

    Thanks for listening!

  332. Catherine:
    I agree….. less and fewer make me crazy.

    And good catch about the Warrior Forum 125 pixel ad at top right of this page. The world’s most famous forum, on the best copywriting site, and they spell Gurus incorrectly!! (:)

  333. I’m not going to lie and say the designer did it :-)

    I have a tendency to rape the English language without mercy.

    We’ll get that fixed asap.

    Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    Allen

  334. Great article, those really are the most common errors. I didn’t learn this stuff formally either, I just know it’s wrong when I see it.

  335. Dangling Participles: Our favorite is (paraphrased) “Swimming happily, the corpse floated by his head.”

    Our training manual addresses this problem because it is so common. The subject of the descriptive phrase needs to align to the subject of the action it describes.

  336. Another two for you, I recently had a reader of my blog kindly e-mail me pointing out that I had incorrectly used been rather than being and lightly rather than likely. Great post, thanks for posting.

  337. Simon Beames :

    I cringe when people write (or say) ‘comprised of’ or ‘comprises of’ instead of ‘composed of / composes of’ because we all should know that the verb ‘comprise’ in fact means ‘composed of’ thus rendering the ‘of’ redundant when used in conjunction with the word comprise.

  338. Doublespiral :

    As an extension of number 2, I’d like to share a huge pet peeve. I constantly see people putting an apostrophe in nearly ANY word that ends with an ‘s’! This drives me completely insane!!! I see it in printed advertisements, all over the net, everywhere.

    “I have three aunt’s and one uncle.” “Please enter your first and last name’s.” “Please call – we are taking appointment’s on Wednesday’s only.”

    What is wrong with people?

  339. Doublespiral :

    I also agree with Blue, above.

    Would of – should of – could of

    NO!

    Would’ve – should’ve – could’ve

  340. I’m a purist. I say it’s like this:

    Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

  341. I also agree with Blue, above.

    Would of – should of – could of

    NO!

    Would’ve – should’ve – could’ve

  342. Four hundred and twenty eight responses, thats great.

    However, I have to say that the quality of grammar in those responses is lacking to some degree.

    Here’s a list of a few that I noticed:

    BTB Sales trining Ireland – “I had incorrectly used been rather ”

    John – “momentarily”. What are you talking about? Momentarily means the same thing in English as it does in American. It means an instant or a moment, so FOR a moment or IN a moment both apply.

    Jim – “I qestion this example”. Typical typo!

    Andrew McGinn: “five are a start, but another that pair that are problematic are”. Quote, “another [singular] that pair with five”. I dont think so! That just doesn’t add up!

    Postman – “I did considering to write my blog in English ” Oh dear!

    Sketchfeed – “Receive vs Recieve. I know I know, its spelling, not grammer”. It’s “i” before “e” except after “c” with a couple of exceptions but you’ll have to look those up yourself.

    Oh thats just the tip of the iceburg, there are loads more but I can’t be bothered to list them all.

    TIP:

    If you want to check spelling, read your copy backwards, your brain won’t be able to assume the spelling of the next word and and so won’t fool you that It’s right just because of its placing in a sentance.

    If you want to check grammar, give the copy to someone who is qualified, or at least like the writer of this article, and just like me, someone who has gained a knowledge of the English language and how it’s constucted, purely by reading, and readng, and reading from a very early age. I seem to remember finishing The lord of the Rings Trilogy at around 8 years old. Not sure if that qualifies me but I have been reading ever since. Just like the writer of this article, I don’t know the technical side of grammar but I do know what looks right and what looks just plain wrong!

    Excuse me for any typo’s or grammatical errors. :-)

  343. Oops! How many typo’s in there? A lot! And is “Oops” a real word, I don’t think so!

    Urban Dictionary definition: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=oops
    Hilarious!

    I take back my comment on errors in the posts. Can’t really complain when I make just as many errors.

    My “Tips” hold strong though.

  344. Brian,

    Glad to know I’m not the only one who learned grammar through early reading. I am very nearsighted and had trouble seeing the blackboard. I thought everyone else saw fuzzy letters too!

    I’ve always loved reading. When I was 4, I told my parents I could read. I would turn the pages and recall what they had read matching up what I saw in the pictures. It seemed like a grown up thing and I wanted to do grown up stuff too!

    Once I got my own library card in second grade, I devoured books. My favorite was the, “Choose Your Own Adventure” and I would put little numbered bookmarks in the pages :)

  345. Most of the mistakes you mention here are pretty basic but I have to say it’s really common!

  346. Great post! I cringe when I read online newspapers these days. As well, I’ve found the following to be common:

    a) well-known phrases which have been heard by the writer, but never seen (“cut and dry” instead of “cut and dried”, “can goods” instead of “canned goods”, and my personal favourite, “for all intensive purposes” instead of “for all intents and purposes”)

    b) using “from…to…”, but omitting the “to…” part (“From construction workers, astronauts, chief justices and even a prime minister, women have taken a stand to be recognized…” — Canoe.ca)

    c) using “less” when you mean “fewer” — if you can count it, it’s “fewer” (less flour, fewer apples)

    d) as mentioned by another writer, using the possessive when you mean to use the plural: “Century Computer’s” — (This was the name of a company on a business card I was given).

    e) the use of alumni to identify one member of a graduating class, instead of alumnus.

  347. You forgot one. Probably the error that drives me nuts the most is the improper use of apostrophes. If you have 4 cats, the word “cats” doesn’t need an apostrophe. However, if it’s your cat’s ball, then you need one. People just seem to add apostrophes at random, and it drives me crazy!

  348. You forgot one. The error that drives me nuts is the improper use of apostrophes. If you have 4 cats, the word “cats” doesn’t need an apostrophe. However, if it’s your cat’s ball, then you need one. People just seem to add apostrophes at random, and it drives me crazy!

  349. The one grammatical error that bugs me the most is the misuse of the word “I”.

    “Make a copy for George and I” is how many people say it. Of course, it’s “Make a copy for George and me”.

    I don’t know what the grammatical rule is (this modifies that, etc.) but I do know that if I drop George out of the picture I would be asking you to make a copy for “me” not “I”……and that’s the way you would say it for both.

    Drives me crazy………….and many of my highly educated co-workers and bosses make this mistake all of the time.

  350. I don’t think anyone has mentioned one of my grammatical pet peeves–the “word” (phrase) a lot.

    Often people use the “word” alot. It is NOT one word! It’s two words, a lot.

    Drives me crazy when it’s misused… and it happens often.

  351. Wow, look at all the comments. If you want to start a flame war mention grammar :)

    Thanks for the lesson.

    Next we need a lesson in pronunciation . Here’s some good examples: ad-ver-tizement, excape and medium strip.

  352. well-known phrases which have been heard by the writer, but never seen (”cut and dry” instead of “cut and dried”, “can goods” instead of “canned goods”, and my personal favourite, “for all intensive purposes” instead of “for all intents and purposes”)

  353. The “it’s” verses “its” drives me mad.

    A lot of the great unwashed grammar trolls confuse its with Fred’s, Jane’s and Sith’s not realising that the ‘ represents a missing letter and is not a possessive apostrophe .

  354. I disagree on the effect/affect issue/. “Effect” is commonly used as a verb.

  355. Yup. It means “to bring about.”

    Also, since I skipped to the end of the comments, has anyone pointed out that it is in fact NOT incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition? That’s one even the English teachers get wrong. Winston Churchill is on record as saying that following that non-rule is an affectation “up with which I will not put.”

  356. Does it really matter that much. Seriously folk?

    Would you rather read a boring blog post that is totally grammatically correct with awe-inspiring punctuation ?

    Or would you rather read a post that grips you by the mind, twists your will and inspires you to do something different notwithstanding poor grammar and punctuation?

    I know where I’d rather be …

  357. Yes, good grammar does matter from a credibility point of view. If I read something, even if it’s interesting, if the grammar is bad I don’t respect the writer.

    Maybe I’m just old fashioned?

  358. I don’t think you’re old fashioned; I agree completely. No matter how interesting the topic if it’s presented poorly I’ll bounce. I don’t like destroying my brain by trying to translate poorly written content. A few errors are ok but legibility is a necessity.

  359. I didn’t read all the comments. Did anyone mention the example, “Feel free to call Joe or myself if you have any questions”?

    Or, “I wish you would’ve told me,” and “If I would’ve known….” Interestingly, this is a favorite of IM-speakers who ostensibly love brevity. Okay, so say, “If I had known…”

    Journalists and news writers especially have their own solution to their ignorance of the “affect or effect” dilemma – just say “impact”! (No, they don’t about the use of “effect” as a verb, as in “This wire should be sufficient to effect transfer of funds.”) I’ve written the newspapers that allow this, asking them to please learn the difference and save “impact” for when you’re talking about crashes or bullets.

    How about using “along with” when “and” (or a comma or just “with”) works just fine? Ex: Joe, along with Don, went to the game. They ate popcorn, along with pretzels and beer.

    Re: Brisbane Marketing’s mention of mispronunciations, add: nu-cu-lar (nuclear), ree-luh-ty (realty), neh-go-see-ay-tion (negotiation), mis-CHEE-vee-us….

  360. So your saying their not going to like they’re bad grammar. Its not just sending you’re bad grammar in an email, but have it’s mistake published is even worse. The affect of it’s stigma, is bound to effect you’re reputation too.

  361. Good article. I think one of the main problems with spelling errors like these is that people just don’t take the time and run a spell check. Or, they type too fast and skip basic grammatical errors. Slow down I say!

  362. Hi folks,
    Excuse duplication if already mentioned above, but a great reference and lovely addition to any library is a recent special edition of Strunk’s “Elements of Style” originally released in 1918 . Complete with memorable mis-use examples and tongue-in-cheek illustrations, this little book was updated for its 2007 re-release by a student of the original author.

  363. Well, Nice Post… I couldn’t understand the 5th point though..

  364. Great list. I really am not what people would call a “Grammar Nazi” in that I don’t correct people, but some of these drive me absolutely crazy when I read them, especially “it’s” and putting apostrophes in plural words. When people use the “me vs. I” thing incorrectly, I sit there gritting my teeth and talking like a caveman. “Me like blogging!”. :)

  365. They’re just distracting as hell.

  366. I would add “Ensure” and “Insure” to this list :)
    Nice post

  367. Their vs. There vs. They’re

  368. This was a great post and based on most of what I read these days very much needed. We linked to your post from our blog.

  369. Brian,

    You’ve saved my life!

    – It’s vs. Its

    – Affect vs. Effect

    Thanks

    John

  370. Great post. I wish more people would learn the correct usages.

    One that really bothers me lately is “Me and” at the beginning of a sentence. “Me and John will be there.” Really? Would you say “Me will be there”????

  371. I make a grammatical error occasionally myself but if it wasn’t for spell check my writing would be terrible. It’s post like this one that help keep my grammar in line.

    When we look at grammar its the combination of words that create the meaning. When the combination is off the effect of our writing is destroyed. Don’t let poor grammar affect you marketing ability. A good way to prevent a lot of these simple mistakes is to read aloud what you wrote before you post it.

  372. I was never an english major in school. My grammar is not this perfect. I use Microsoft Word for creating my e-mail, blog etc. Then I would copy and paste what I write. The Microsoft Word computer program, corrects all of my spelling and grammatical errors. It helps me render myself to be smarter than I truly am. Other people should consider using this technique for e-mailing and blogging.

  373. “You may find it amusing to know that I, like David Ogilvy, have never learned the formal rules of grammar. I learned to write by reading obsessively at an early age, but when it came time to learn the “rules,” I tuned out. If you show me an incorrect sentence, I can fix it, but if I need to know the technical reason why it was wrong in the first place, I go ask my wife”

    I completely identify with the feeling Brian. To me, either a sentence sounds “correct” or it doesn’t. I really cannot figure out the technical nitty-gritties of inappropriate composition or grammar. I thought I was the only writer who did not know the “rules” of the language! Thanks for sharing.

  374. Great post. As a great lover of the written word who happens to blog for a living – I often feel conflicted. On the one hand, blogs decide where I get to shop and how often I get to do so. On the other hand, I often fear that blogs (and texting, IM-ing…) are slowly killing the written language.

    We’re all too casual far too often. We want to be conversational, so we throw a lot of the things we learned in Grammar 101 out the back door, along with our Spanish, Elements, Algebra (long gone!), etc.

    My biggest pet peeve is actually something I’m the world’s worst at doing. I’m a wild woman with punctuation. I have to read and re-read everyhing I write, otherwise there’ll be dashes and dots all over the place. I call those my Morris Code posts – and…yeah… they pretty much drive me nuts.

  375. Valid mistakes, especially the one on effect & affect. Would need to recheck this article when I would need to write. Also when I run spell check their & there does not show up. So thanks for these tips.

  376. One of my pet peeves is the use of the word ‘valid’, as in “that’s a valid point”.

    ‘Valid’ is a word to use when you are describing an argument (a group of premises and a conclusion to be drawn from them), not a “point”. Think of it as (to quote Dr. Charles Morgan): An argument is ‘valid’ when it is impossible to create a universe in which all the premises are true and the conclusion is false.

    So:
    “I am a man. All men are mortal. Therefore, I am mortal.” is an argument that can be said to be ‘valid’.
    “It’s really important to have breakfast.” while true, is not an argument and therefore, has nothing to do with validity.

  377. Haha very nice post. I agree with you. Those are the most common mistakes in writing… I think the “its” and “it’s” error should be at the top one.

  378. Add these to the list:

    – Then vs. Than
    “Then” tells you when something happened.
    “Than” compares two things.
    One thing can be better THAN another; when you decide which is better, THEN you choose.

    – The verb “Lay”
    Lay is a verb that you do to something else. You lay a baby gently in its cradle. But it’s also past tense of the verb “Lie.” I’m tired. I think I’m going to lie down for a while. Yesterday I lay down for a nap at the same time. If you find yourself writing the word “laying,” a red flag ought to go up, because we almost never use this verb to describe an action that we’re performing (unless we’re writing porn.) (And in that case, all bets are off.)

  379. Ugh. This is a good list that I could definitely use. Often!

  380. Thanks for a great post. I will admit that I’m one of the ones that don’t always proofread my work after I’ve written it. So now I’m going to watch myself especially after this post.

  381. Indeed. It’s probably ok to make a few mistakes on a blog post. But grammar mistakes are never acceptable for static website copy.

  382. A common mistake, more often a confusion is between the words “OVERSEE” and “OVERLOOK”
    1. Oversee means to watch over and direct/supervise.
    2. Overlook means to
    .. look over or at from a higher place.
    .. to fail to notice or consider
    .. to ignore deliberately

  383. Can anyone enlighten me about the difference in use of “that” and “which”. For example:

    I’m going to visit a company that makes cars.
    -OR-
    I’m going to visit a company which makes cars.

    Which is correct? And why is it correct?

  384. ‘Which’ informs. ‘That’ defines. This is how The Economist Style Guide explains it.

    So, you are going to visit a company. You don’t want to inform us that the company makes cars. You want to define the company you’re going to visit. So I’d say it’s ‘that’.

    I’m going to see a company that makes cars.

    BTW… watch out for this if you have the grammatical correction thing turned on in Word. It ALWAYS trys to ‘correct’ which to that …even when it’s wrong!

  385. “Which” introduces a subordinate clause. It’s optional information that is not needed to finish the sentence. Otherwise, use “that.” This is one of those mistakes (like using nominative-case pronouns as objects, e.g., “get the info to Michael and I”) that people use when they’re trying to impress by sounding more “grammatical” than they really are.

  386. You know what’s missing?

    ‘Payed’ vs ‘Paid’

    Here’s the rule — ‘Payed’ is archaic

    And here’s an interesting list of common errors — http://tinyurl.com/6xw49

  387. Like it or not, more and more people will meet you in print than in person. So, if you think you need look your best at an important meeting, then you should know that you need to look your best in writing. What you write — and how well you write — will leave many of us with our very first impression of you.

  388. “I live in the 3rd house, which has blue curtains” informs the person to come to the third house in the street and if he’s confused just check if the 3rd house has blue curtains.

    “I live in the 3rd house that has blue curtains” specifies the guest to come to the 3rd house on the street that has blue curtains. Here the curtains are a definite instruction. The 3rd house with blue curtains may be 10th house on the street.

  389. B2B Copywriter….your answer is exactly right…but I reckon that comma you’ve slipped into the first illustration, after ‘house’, is confusing the clarity of the example!

    Hope you don’t mind me saying :)

  390. The comma is correct. It introduces a subordinate clause, as well as indicating a pause in speech. Without the comma, it looks more like the common “which for that” mistake. THIS would be more confusing than the same sentence WITH the comma.

  391. I didn’t say it wasn’t correct! I simply said I felt it distorted the very good comparison you were making. Which I do.

  392. I can make an excuse because English is my second language, but hey, blogging also needs good grammar to make it effective!

  393. The Dangling Participle – I have not heard that in 30+ years. Yikes!! Interesting article.

  394. Laurence.. you’re right.. the comma somewhat killed the comparison.. thanks for pointing that one out :)

  395. Rowland.. thanks for the defense.. I actually put the comma at the last moment because I too had that “which for that” trap fear.. esp when one is trying to answer a query regarding diff between that and which.. finally decided to go with the comma..

  396. peter mcgunnigle :

    Please note that although the word “effect” is most commonly found in noun form, it also exists as a verb, and as such is often confused with the word “affect” (itself most commonly a verb, but occasionally found in noun form, especially in the areas of psychology and philosophy).

  397. How about the term ‘explain about’?
    It is redundant since explain is already describe about?

    Why is it we can say speed of speech but not speed of talk,as talk can be both a noun and verb?

    When do we use at/ on/in?
    Is it ‘I’ll meet u at the bus station/i’ll meet u in the bus station?

  398. For that matter, when do we use the letter “u” as a pronoun?

  399. Great post that I can “bear” under the watchful eye of my “bare” soul.

    While I can understand the occasional typo, the examples you cite here are irksome. Even in my own vigilance and awareness, one slips past me now and again. I am more annoyed when I make these errors…And when I read them, I am delighted that “I” didn’t commit the “irk.”:)

    And then there are those who simply cannot spell:
    “Self and Ploid” (self-employed) as one man wrote to me on a dating site…I rest my case.

  400. Hey, Brian…

    How about we all just revert back to Shakespeare’s Ophelia…shouldn’t it be “Woe is I” afterall?? :)

    Just your new fan,
    Henie

  401. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the wide misuse of “peak” in place of “peek”, usually in the context of something like “take a sneak peek at…”.

    Picking a figure out of the air, it seems that about 80 per cent of Internet marketers get it wrong every time.

    Over 2.5 million Google results for “sneak peak” (with the quotes)!

    – Bill Hely
    – Author: “The Hacker’s Nightmare”
    http://HackersNightmare.com
    – “How to keep hackers, worms & other germs out of your PC”
    – BLOG: http://ComputerAndOnlineSecurity.com

  402. Hi! great post and surprised to see comments, I guess that this post will be the most famous post on copy blogger.
    Well I want to say that this post is really informative, but suggest you to write some thing about pronunciation, and Punctuation.
    I’ll wait for it. Thanks!!

  403. Yes, the peek and peak errors are prevalent and annoying, but the one that really annoys me is using either of those words when what is meant is pique.

  404. I so thoroughly enjoyed this post! My mother’s an English teacher, and I grew up with a little brother who said got instead of have until the age of 10. It used to drive us crazy. All hail (hale…haha, which is it?) the well-written web page!

  405. You must be fortunate to have a wife whom you can consult. :D

  406. Like your style and humor. Enjoyable and i learnt some new stuff.

  407. If I may, I’d like to add two common mistakes I have noticed:

    Than versus Then

    and

    Accept versus Except

    Very often around south USA Accept is written when Except is meant.

  408. Your best way of avoiding this might be to move :)

  409. Wow, makes sense to me :) Luckily I’ve been watching out for my little grammar mistakes.

  410. Here’s another really common error: Writing “Here, here!” instead of “Hear, hear!” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hear_hear

  411. I love to use instinct to filter the mistakes, the more we write, the better our writing will be. Don’t worry about grammatical errors, just keep writing and do your best and everything will do the rest. Don’t you think?

  412. What about the dreaded (for me that is) “inspite of” and “despite of”? Until now I still can’t figure this out. It was taught to us back in college but it gets me everytime… Lols!

  413. Louver: “despite” is a transitive verb, it takes an object. “Despite of” sounds wrong. “Inspite of” sounds right, but here “Inspite” is actually two words, “in spite” and the verb “to spite” can be intransitive (takes no object, like “I see”).

  414. ‘Who needs enemies, you’ve got friends’ or ‘Who needs enemies; you’ve got friends’? Or is it neither? If that’s the case then could someone please inform me what it is? :D

  415. How about the ifs, fellow ‘grammarians':

    “If I were a horse, I’d kick the s out of His Highness’s ass” or is it, “If I was a Prince, I’d take out the s from His Highnesses’ sexy princess’ ass?”(Which is the correct one, please, anyone?) ;)

    If one was a writer or if one were a blogger? Sorry for being confused. I’m just getting mixed up quite a lot lately, guys… :)

  416. well this post was very helpful. I have ran into several of these mistakes as a blogger. I am glad some one addressed the problem finally. I have messed up the use of “their” and “there” several times. The biggest one for me has always been “its” and “it’s”. for some reason i can’t seem to get a handle on it. I believe now i shoud be able to think it through better than before.

  417. Great post! I’m one of those people who you describe in your second paragragh! If you don’t care enough to proofread your copy I can’t possibly take you seriously.

  418. I found that the 5th mistake “dangling participle” is the most serious one, because it can ‘take away’ the actual meaning of a phrase or sentense. I would think that the negative effect caused by this mistake would be significant if the sentense/phrase is being used for describing a health product and related side effects.

    Anyway, thanks for the great blog & I wish you a very good HEALTH. :)

  419. You, sir, have some good points. Yet, the dangling participle is much less of a problem than one would surmise from this post. Why? Because people do this all the time. And quite simply, there is no confusion as to the meaning. The examples provided above show that the technical grammatical meaning is ludicrous and we would not take that as the actual meaning. The other errors amount to spelling errors, which are easily detected and labeled as a lack of education or care on the part of the author.

  420. Thanks for this post. It was really helpful for me.

  421. Good advice and thanks for the last paragraph. I’m the same way, I know when something’s wrong but couldn’t begin to tell you why.

  422. Loose vs. lose–this seems obvious to me.

    Loo (pronounced like Lou) -> Loose (pronounced like Lou’s/looz?)
    Lo (pronounced like low) -> Lose (pronounced as in fructose, with no corresponding word except the Spanish los)
    –>Loose in place of lose, as it can be phonetically read with that sound.

    I would not expect the opposite error because lose is never phonetically read as loose.

    I learned how to write the same way; it’s always difficult when you know something but cannot defend it to the person speaking about past participles. “I just know” isn’t very convincing. Thank goodness for Google!

  423. I don’t like it when people say there’s Gus, how’s Gus doing? I don’t know if it’s grammatically incorrect, or just rude. It sounds like they are talking about you instead of to you. I often times reply “if you’re talking to me, I’m fine.” I feel if people are going to greet you they should talk to you and not about you to the crowd.

  424. Thank you!!!
    To differentiate from “it’s” and “its” — unless you mean IT IS, do not use an apostrope. Ever.
    Another hair-puller-outer I see frequently is “than” and “then.” As in, “I’d rather eat sushi tonight then Mexican food.” Who wouldn’t?

  425. I’m in the same boat when it comes to knowing the grammar rules! When it comes to fixing a sentence, I can usually tell something’s wrong and can reconstruct it, but I’m a dud when it comes to being able to explain why it’s incorrect.

    Which has led me to always be the office proofreader. They say if you teach a man to fish… Still working on that one.

  426. It should be “There vs. Their vs. They’re”

  427. Loose in place of lose drives me crazy!

  428. I love that you learned the “rules” by reading. I learned them the same way!

  429. Thanks for the post. It’s always great to have those reminders that haven’t written in awhile. =)

  430. You said: “I learned to write by reading obsessively at an early age.”

    That is precisely my story. I never learned the proper rules of grammar, but I can catch errors quickly and efficiently. I may not be able to tell you what the error is “called,” but I can tell you that something is amiss.

  431. I did learn the rules of grammar – Latin grammar. I’m pretty sure it’s why my mother insisted I take it in secondary school, and why it pains me that our kids’ school doesn’t offer it. But there’s no substitute for really understanding the grammar of a foreign language to make the rules of our own seem trivial.

  432. Well I was using some bad grammer it seems, and I thaught my English is above average. Thanks for enlightening me

  433. AMEN! I couldn’t have said this better myself! I, too, learned my grammar and writing abilities by becoming an avid reader as soon as I could handle chapter books!

    That said, you missed one. Instead of just “there and their” don’t forget about “they’re.” Believe it or not, I have actually seen that one misused – or the other two in its place – a few times here and there!

  434. A common error is “disinterested” (= “impartial”), often used to mean “uninterested”.

    Another common error is “between you and I” instead of “between you and me”, (or, as I prefer, “between ourselves”).

    And another: “She invited my wife and I” instead of “She invited my wife and myself” or “She invited me and my wife.”

    Incidentally Brian, “affect” is also a noun, meaning “emotion” or “feeling”.

    PS. If my highly articulate namesake “j m rowland” reads this post, I’d be interested to know (gordon@ilda.com.au) if you also have Welsh antecedents.

    Cymru am byth! (Long live Wales!)

  435. Grammar mistakes can sometimes easily be made, but the examples (your vs you’re etc.) are just plain sloppy. If I am not sure about the correct grammar I will do a search for it. There are online dictionairies a plenty!

  436. Very interesting article! Funny too! ;) Thanks.

  437. Here’s a list that contains pairs of words (and one threesome) that people often confuse/misuse – how many can you define without having to reach for the dictionary?
    Affect Effect
    Adverse Averse
    Principle Principal
    Stationery Stationary
    Illicit Elicit
    Inquire Enquire
    Flaunt Flout
    Allusion Illusion
    Complement Compliment
    Council Counsel
    Dependent Dependant
    Mitigate Militate
    Practice Practise
    Advice Advise
    Loose Lose
    Ensure Insure Assure

    When this test was first carried out by the Times, the average score for native speakers was 75%.

    Just to show how confusing English can be, in the early 1980s the UK Civil Service, in response to fears about the potential threat to women’s fertility caused by radiation emissions from VDU screens, sent out a memo with an introduction that read:

    “This memo will be of interest to all women who are pregnant, or who wish to become pregnant whilst at work.” Oooops!

  438. I see this one all the time:

    Loose vs. Lose

    Drives me crazy! If I loose my wallet does that mean I’m getting some money out?
    S.

  439. Sarah @ Thriftydecorchick :

    Great points!! My trick for affect/effect is “RAVEN” — affect/verb, effect/noun.

  440. These are GREAT! I’m linking to you in today’s blog post because these handy 5 are so useful! I’ll add another: One thing that used to bug me horribly was when people wrote alot instead of “a lot.” Now it’s become so common that I pretty much see it everywhere I go.

  441. These are definitely the most common grammar mistakes I see. I also have never really known the difference between affect/effect; I am excited to be able to use them right now.

  442. Some people tell me that I can’t use the word affectively effectively….

  443. The best error is still the “should of” one! :D
    (instead of “should have”)

    -Hugo

  444. Well I was using some bad grammer it seems, and I thaught my English is above average. Thanks for enlightening me

  445. It’s refreshing to know that I’m not the only person who cringes at these errors. My favorite is when someone is trying to write a convincing argument against someone else and their text is riddled with errors. Example: “You don’t like there sticky buns? Your nuts.” No I don’t, and please refrain from talking about my nuts.

  446. My personal peeve is “than” or “then”.

    “Than” is used for comparison or alternatives. “I am a better golfer than Biff.” “Rather than fill out the paperwork again, Biff decided not to apply for the grant after all.”

    “Then” is used to introduce a conclusion, consequence or something which is after another in time. “if you fail then you get rejected”, “I went to see Sue, then Stephanie, since Sue seemed more likely to know about it.”

  447. “The effect of bad grammar can affect your blog readership tremendously.” I get this one wrong almost every time. Your explanation – affect=verb effect=noun has really stuck this time. Hope I can remember it always. “

  448. I love it! Nice to know that I’m not the only one driven to the brink by so many of the errors noted in this blog.

    But what about singluar/plural agreement such as: kinds (of books) vs. kind (of book) (and the like). I’ve seen this (kind of books, etc.) a lot lately and wondered if it’s me. Did something change or am I confused? Maybe this has been covered already but there are so many listings here I may have missed it. Also, any takes on either vs. neither? (For example: “Me either” — always thought it was “Me neither.”) Any response is appreciated!

  449. Surely, it’s neither “Me either’ nor “Me neither”. It’s either “Me too” or “Nor me”?

    (I was raised in the UK and pronounce them “eye-ther” and nye-ther”, and my Aussie wife pronounces them “eether” and “neether”.)

  450. my biggest pet pev is reading a blog that get a ton of readers but the writer has horrible grammar

  451. Love this post! I’ve never learnt grammar either. My sense of right and wrong writing has come from my voracious reading habit. If anyone asks me what a verb is, I actually have to look it up in the dictionary.
    :D

  452. What about us vs. our.

    I really look forward to our working together.
    I really look forward to us working together.

    Any thoughts?

  453. “[…] but if I need to know the technical reason why it was wrong in the first place, I go ask my wife.”

    Happens to me, too.

    By the way,

    “Unsure November 2, 2009 at 2:44 pm
    What about us vs. our.

    I really look forward to our working together.
    I really look forward to us working together.

    Any thoughts?”

    @Unsure Both makes sense since “working” is also a noun.

    Your question leans more towards the way you communicate with your partner.

    In my opinion, if you use “our working”, that tends to mean you only care about the outcome and the finished product rather than its development (the process you go through).

    “Us working” together, on the other hand, is perceived in such a way where it shows you care about how you work together as colleagues.

    Personally, I’d prefer to work with someone who tells me, the latter. It shows me that the person really looks forward to how we work together as a team.

  454. “Affect” often appears as a noun in discussions about mental health (e.g. “He suffers from a blunt affect”) and “effect” can be used as a verb to indicate consequential action (e.g. “She effected a workable solution”) so the noun/verb distinction doesn’t really work to determine which applies.

  455. My pet peeve is “lose” vs. “loose”. Oh, how I detest reading all these blog posts where bloggers discuss how much weight they have to “loose”. Though the “you’re” and “your” one is pretty irritating, too.

  456. I am hoping I have found a place to get some grammatical help….
    In recent years it seems to have become common to say “I will meet you on tomorrow.” as opposed to “I will meet you tomorrow.” Am I crazy, have I forgotten may grammar? If on tomorrow is correct please explain to me.

    • I have never heard people say “on tomorrow” before. I’m sure “I will meet you tomorrow” is correct.

  457. How about the word “definitely”, I see it spelled “definately” or “definetely” all the time!

  458. One of my biggest pet peeves is ya’ll instead of y’all. Y’all can argue that it’s not even a real word so big deal, but it’s an example of badly written contractions anyway.

  459. FYI, affect can also be a noun.

    How about “Who vs. Whom” and “Me vs. I”?

  460. Learn the difference between em and en dashes and you’ll be correcting the world every day afterwards. It’s amazing how often that “mistake” is made.

    But in the grand scheme of things, since so few of these people know the difference, nobody cares.

  461. My pet peeve is when people say “Me and” Such as “Me and Joe went shopping.” It drives me crazy and really makes the person saying it sound ignorant. It’s especially disturbing to hear highly educated people speaking this way.

  462. It bothers me equally to hear college graduates saying, “…gave it to my husband and I.” For some reason, most people leave high school thinking that you always end in “I” if you’re mentioning two people together. I made sure my 2nd graders knew WHEN to say “Sarah and I” and when it was MORE appropriate to say “Sarah and me” (and why there was a difference).

  463. Can someone wigh in on my grammar-taught assertion that “impact” is not a verb?

  464. Brian,
    After reading this, I checked over my latest blog post to find several Dangling Participles! I’m glad I stumbled upon this article.

  465. Mr. Clark,
    You might have to ask you wife about this one……
    I hear TV personalities say something such as “The speaker he said to roll with the flow” or “Miss Jones she wanted to know who hurt her dog”.
    What grammar rule covers the use of ‘he’ and ‘she’ in the above sentences?

  466. I think that the web has become more casual and errors are more commonplace and accepted.

  467. Dear C & W,
    That may be true, but it doesn’t make them right. What I’m looking for is the rule of grammar that governs the use of pronouns. My old English teacher would have made me sit in the corner for such a grave error.

  468. @vintage, I’ve never heard the usages you mention. In both cases, for standard English, the pronoun is redundant and shouldn’t be there.

  469. I say keeping it to five is very hard, nigh impossible. The list could include almost every word with same pronunciation and different spelling. I have to watch you when I want to use ‘your’. It’s not a meaning thing just that I often forget to add the ‘r’. Perhaps I say “you” more often. So it’s just habit. By the way, did I use the double and single quotes properly?

  470. You have managed to touch on many issues that drive me insane, well done.

    I would like to add “On accident” instead of “By accident”. I find that this creeps up nearly daily in some post somewhere in my daily internet travels.

    Example: “I ran my car off the road and hit a tree on accident”.

  471. Hershell Ludovitz :

    I have been reading since age 3 and went to a little thing called “School”, where they taught me how to spell and use grammar properly. O, and I paid attention. I can distinctly remember the rules and examples such as “your/you’re”, “they’re/there/their”, “i before e..”. It is a sad state of affairs for the English language when most University students cannot differentiate between a possessive word and a contraction.

  472. Hershell,
    You said, “O, and I paid attention.” Did you mean to use the exclamation, ‘Oh?’ or is ‘O’ a person: O and I?
    :-)

  473. Recently, while reading a novel, I was horrified to see this: “It always amused Nate and I…” I want to write to someone and point it out! (Am I just being a snob?) It should be corrected in the next printing, shouldn’t it? I’ve looked at the publisher’s and author’s websites, but couldn’t find contact information. I’ve seen many grammatical mistakes in books, but never one as blatant as this, and never one that made me feel so disappointed in an author I liked. What do you do, if anything, in situations like this?

  474. And please don’t forget “for free”! There is no such thing as FOR free. It’s either free or it sells for $X… oh, well… I’ll step down off my soap box now.

  475. It’s good to have a grammatical sense. beats me…maybe it is not grammatically wrong to say “Nat and I..”
    I guess ” amuses Nat and me” could be incorrect if that was what you wanted to mention.
    please see this link.
    http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutgrammar/meandi?view=uk

  476. Sometimes I feel all those high marks I received in English class have clearly gone out the window. I know I make mistakes on a regular basis. I need an editor….an editor who is willing to work for free.

    ~melody~

  477. Good points, Brian.

    Even though I know these, I sometimes get them wrong when I’m in a hurry or too close to the work. It’s best to take a break after writing something before you start editing it. Or get someone else, who’s good at editing, to check your business writing.

    Best regards,
    Michael Gladkoff

  478. I didn’t read every single comment… but there’s one that went without mention in the first 100 or so:

    THEN vs. THAN

    I see this mistake all the time and drives me crazy!

  479. Thanks for this!

    My spelling and grammar are usually pretty good, but the affect/effect and it’s/its have always been an issue.

    Hopefully I’m good now.

  480. Hershell Ludovitz :

    Poor spelling and grammar shows that people have never read a book in their lives. Many modern university students make these mistakes, as universities are no longer hubs of knowledge.

  481. thanks i do most of these errors need to learn more grammar

  482. Isn’t it interesting that this post has more comments than any of the others. Could this be because of people’s fear of looking stupid?

  483. common mistake made by most people.

    Wrong : One of my friend, one of his colleague
    Correct : One of my friends, one of his colleagues

    simple rule : it is always one of “many” i.e. plural

  484. nancy fitzgerald :

    In her own search of discovering God,
    vs. search for discovering God,

    she was big time into raising her children vs she was dedicated raising her children.

  485. Americanisms from English people in their writing drives me crackers. Don’t misunderstand me, I am English through and through, I am also a former resident of Ann Arbor, MI (5 years).

    Reading emails from my ex-pat friends does not stir this emotion in me at all. They write and tell me they’ve been to the new ‘Sports Center’ today or something akin to that.

    Now that I am back in the UK, when one of my English colleagues writes to me that they have a sales inquiry (oh, I can feel the hairs on my neck coming up already).

    Another one is: We’ll dispatch that to you as soon as possible Madam (Aarrgghh!)

    Far be it for me to criticise (or is that criticize?), it’s that word ending that still gets me occasionally. I do not possess the greatest standard of grammar myself, but I at least try not to forget which continent I’m currently on.

    Really great article, really great country – I miss it.

    n.b. Why did I just read my own comment 7 times before I submitted it?

  486. I think something about this article really pushed my ‘peer-pressure’ button.

    Last night I went off to find some local articles about grammar and writing tuition.

    I found this excellent series from Bristol University in the UK. It has very easy to follow exercises and focusses on the basics.

    http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/exercises/grammar/grammar_tutorial/page_01.htm

  487. Nice post. You should add “lose” vs “loose” onto here as well. I personally can’t stand that one and I have no idea how people mess it up, they don’t even have close to the same meaning. It also seems to be one of the most common mistakes people make when writing.

  488. Working at a printers in Middlesbrough, can you imagine how embarrassed I was to see that someone in the building had printed a poster for one of our internal doors which reads: ‘Make sure this door shuts fully’. !!!

  489. Merna August 20, 2008 at 10:38 am wrote,

    “The one grammatical error that bugs me the most is the misuse of the word “I”.

    “Make a copy for George and I” is how many people say it. Of course, it’s “Make a copy for George and me”.

    I don’t know what the grammatical rule is (this modifies that, etc.) but I do know that if I drop George out of the picture I would be asking you to make a copy for “me” not “I”……and that’s the way you would say it for both.

    Drives me crazy………….and many of my highly educated co-workers and bosses make this mistake all of the time.”
    ————————–
    I haven’t been to school in 35 years but I do remember the English teacher drilling it into our heads that the high class/proper/polite way to say it is, “George and I”. If we said or wrote George and me, or me and George, we would have gotten a smack on the side of the head. We had to put the names of the other people first and then add I. Low class/improper/impolite way would be to say, “Me and George are going to the store.” High class/proper/polite way would be to say, “George and I are going to the store.” Anyways that is how I was taught. :)

  490. If the present rate of educational skill attainment continues its downward spiral much longer — grammar, spelling, use of correct word, and other language details will not matter — because no one will know the difference. Except, of course, the rest of the world! (Don’t get even – get educated!)

  491. Time for a dictionary of American English > English English / English English > American English?

    Include a dictionary/appendix of Australian English, Irish, Scots and Welsh English, Indian English . . . You get the idea.

    With billions of potential buyers, a fortune awaits an innovative publishing entrepreneur.

  492. Great idea, Gordon. Perhaps also need something like ‘written English’ to/from ‘texting English.’ (My shift key has become intermittent today, and is causing me more stress than normal). Texting English is being written more and more often as those affected forget whatever they may have known.
    Tomorrow’s Leaders. And voters! — Now I’m depressed! Good night.

  493. Just wanted to thank you for the great posts!

    I have wanted to write my own blog posts and guest blog posts for a bit of time. Just reading your articles has made significant improvements for my self confidence as a blogger.

    Thanks!

  494. I love the dangling participle example on the rotting brother. It’s really hard to take someone seriously as a professional when you read some of their posts that look like this.

  495. Ironic indeed. Here you are being pretentious as hell about people’s grammar, which, yes, can be atrocious at times, and you don’t even know how to spell copy righted. It’s not Copy written!

    Anyway, I will proceed with the read through now. I just had to point that out to you, professor (yes, that’s mildly sardonic).

  496. Another thing that really makes you look like an idiot: mistaking copywriting (the act of writing copy, particularly marketing and sales copy) with copyright (the legal protection). You get points for “sardonic, though, Professor Irony.

  497. Wow, “Irony,” I haven’t seen someone come along and make this much of an anonymous fool of themselves in quite a while. And that’s saying something.

  498. @Brian and Sonia,

    The biter bit! :) Maybe it’s time (courtesy of ‘Ironic’) to make that Six Grammatical Errors that Make You Look Dumb

  499. Heh. I will confess that, while I know the difference, I have been known to typo that one from time to time. We all look like idiots on occasion. :)

  500. As u mentioned that u like David Ogilvy never learned the formal rules of grammer, but by reading through ur post it seems like u have deeply studied these rules otherwise u would have alot of mistakes in ur articles, which i don’t see any.. anyways nice post.. i have sent a link of this post to one of my friend who has done Masters in English but his english is worse than me… i hope this will sort things out for him…

  501. Jeevan Stephen :

    @Swabi
    few observations made
    1. Grammar (spelling)
    2. Anyways is a slang
    3. one of my friends – not one of my friend. it’s always one of many.
    4. worse than mine – not worse than me

  502. My favourite was made by my ex-boss, who had a habit of scribbling on documents, “Revue next week?”
    Presumably he wrote that on the ones he returned to his P.A. as well, because after a while they ran off to get married.

  503. @Jeevan Stephen
    hahahaha… Thanks for the correction, but as i mentioned earlier that my english is really bad, one of the reason behind this is that its not my mother tongue.

  504. Jeevan Stephen :

    @Swabi
    Not pointing fingers again…but you’ve gone wrong again in “one of the reason”. It should be one of the reasons.
    Always remember this simple rule ” One of many” as in one of my friends, one of his servants. I’m sure you will not forget again. English is not my mother tongue but has now become the source of my bread.

  505. @Jeevan Stephen
    hahaha, i wish i had a teacher like u you so my english would have been far more better than it is now… tnx again for the correction

  506. Well I created an article on my blog posts using google translate for grammatical assistance, whether it looks good or bad? Why I’m not really able to use good grammar. Perhaps too many words that is not quite right on my blog that sentence in the article. Hopefully the above tips can I learn it well.

  507. I just happened upon this post and just wanted to say that I share your experience of reading developing my grammatical abilities. To this day, I can see a sentence, pick out a mistake, and fix it, but I often can’t express to anyone the formal error. I’ve tried to explain this to people before and they’ve never understood. I’m glad you share my thoughts on this. Good post!

  508. I also would like to add that I do agree that these grammatical mistakes should not be called mistakes but be called errors.

  509. Thank God and thank you for this article. I am about to write the 50 mistakes you should NEVER make in the English language and there will be a few that you have covered here and a few more that drive me insane. THANK YOU for trying to educate people. Have you ever seen the Bob’s Angry Flower cartoon? It’s the BEST!
    http://www.angryflower.com/bobsqu.gif

  510. Jeevan Stephen :

    Most of the time, I end up correcting mistakes in “comments” section. @Farnoosh. Please provide the link on completing the 50 mistakes.
    You might want to add one more. An article does not precede a “language”.In the above case “NEVER make in THE English language” is wrong.
    Avoid “the”

  511. Not to add to the confusion, but “Affect” can also work noun.

    “Affect” can mean emotion or the way a person displays emotion.

    Look at this sentence:

    Margie’s lack of affect made it difficult to judge her personality type.

  512. When your wife is busy, Grammar Girl is available: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/

    Hmm…. wait a minute…
    Note: I am not Grammar Girl and no double entendre was intended in the transmission of the above sentence.

  513. No double entendre intended? Of course not. Whoever would have thought so?

    :)

  514. “While some people do use “effect” as a verb (“a strategy to effect a settlement”), they are usually lawyers, and you should therefore ignore them if you want to write like a human.”

    lol…..Brian, absolute classic. Gold I tell you!

  515. Spelling errors may be eliminated by using spell check. Spell checks often do not catch errors if the wrong word is chosen, however. This has led to common writing errors such as advice instead of advise, loose instead of lose, and there instead of their. Describe your strategies that ensure you will not make these kinds of mistakes.

  516. “irregardless”

    Should be #1.

  517. “Irregardless” is the one that really gets me going. The sad/amusing thing is, it’s usually flung by people thinking they sound intelligent. Heh.

  518. Wow. Puggley and I were on the same wavelength.

  519. Grammar Man :

    A piece on grammar and the author uses “in order to”….

    Just “to” will suffice.

  520. Awesome Von Pawesome :

    Quote:

    “Des Walsh March 5, 2007 at 3:59 am

    Great post. As a former English high school teacher I sometimes wonder if I’m being too pedantic. Then I decide I’m not. It’s about clarity of communication. Some bloggers would have written “to pedantic” which a misuse of the language that drives me batty! That’s one that regularly stops me and that I’d add to your list – too and to.”
    —————————————————————–

    If I were a grammar teacher, I would have given you a less than perfect, simply for being the guy espousing your dislike for the way people write; yet you manage a typo (a silly one at that) that tends to validate the critiques of so-called “Grammar Nazis”.

    You missed the “is” in:
    “Some bloggers would have written “to pedantic” which a misuse of the language that drives me batty!”

    You wanna know what drives me batty? Too bad. It’s anal retentive people. I don’t have a problem with correct grammar. A lot of things I’ve read have stopped me cold because of many of these silly grammar mistakes, and (as was said earlier in the thread) ruins my ability to take in, and enjoy the article or post.

    However, flagrantly trying to show you’re the better writer by employing words directly out of the thesaurus, while touting your (English) teaching career;
    all the while being mad about mistakes you could have easily made yourself (and did)? Unacceptable.

    Good thing your students couldn’t find this corner of the net with both hands (on a keyboard)! Now, pick my post apart for errors. I wanna see them (I’m sure they’re there). Thanks!

  521. Great post! I have made all of these mistakes in the same paragraph. Thanks for the advice.

  522. As always, Copyblogger is insightful and interesting. Thank you!

  523. I wish my facebook friends would read this (I posted it to twitter to make it easier).

    I think #1 for me is too, two and to. I’m surprised it wasn’t included. Seriously, how can people make this mistake?!

    Great post and great comments!

  524. error in grammar is common, but we have to fix it to make better blog.
    thanks for sharing this.
    great!!

  525. We must take care of students to learn how to avoid these errors, I saw many writers made these errors in their posts, thanks for this nice post

  526. Writing from a position of not knowing they’re proper grammar, its obvious the authors totally not qualified if they have to rely on there wife. If you can’t get this stuff right, your NEVER gonna have the write effect on your audience! (and you definitely won’t become a pro-blogger…)
    ;)

    – love this post and noticed it has well over 600 comments…! is that the record-holder for copyblogger…? Duly Noted.

  527. Okay, I read up to comment 102, and then decided to comment. There are comments with unintentional grammatical errors. Is it only me, or is that driving anyone else insane?

  528. It used to make us insane, now it mostly makes us giggle.

  529. I’m Dutch myself, but these rules aren’t very difficult in my opinion. I also learned these rules from frequently speaking, but mostly reading English. It’s true that they make you look dumb, especially when you write for a bigger audience, I’ve seen it happen :(

  530. Sorry I didn’t read all 500+ previous comments, but I’m surprised you left out the most common error I see these days: the I/me confusion. “John and me were watching ‘Grown Ups’.” …. “The snow fell on her and I.”

    Perhaps this error is so common now that committing it no longer makes people look dumb.

  531. Brilliant. I always fall over with affect and effect. Knowing now to stick a ‘The’ in front of it to see which one I need to use is perfect.
    Thanks a lot for this.

    Marcus

  532. Brian, I like the part about asking the wife. I use my better half to comment on the emotional tone of a piece. She’s so much more attuned to that.

    Joe :D

  533. What a great list! The comments that follow are quite telling. One common error that bothers me is the misuse of “lie” and “lay.”

  534. “I learned to write by reading obsessively at an early age, but when it came time to learn the “rules,” I tuned out.”

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a summation of bonding with the written word that was more apt at describing my own personal experience.

  535. hi, i am also weak in English Grammar and try several good methods to get good hold in English grammar but fails. Then my friend has suggested me some good methods that i want to share with you all. If you love to listening to music then put you headphone and start listening English songs. Install a English Grammar checker tool in your PC and while listening the song write it in your PC word file. After listening the song two-three times write it’s description and check your grammar mistakes using the grammar checker tool. Hope this method will really help you out!

  536. “Me and my friend are going to a movie.”

    It turns out my friend couldn’t make it, so me am going by myself.

  537. How about this one. ‘A couple dozen’, and variants too numerous to count. This bit of linguistic butchery seems to have gained ground over the last few years. Curiously, it’s rarely heard in verbal form, only in written form. Drives me crazy.

  538. What about ‘then’ vs. ‘than’, and saying ‘should of’ instead of ‘should have’? Grrr…

  539. Could I have said it any better ,NO. I am an active blogger and a reader , and I realize that bloggers should write as if they are talking to people ,not like Shakespear. Good article and tips

  540. Amazing that people make these mistakes. They are common, my favourite gripes are “to lose something” being written ” to loose something” maybe it was too tight so it escaped.

  541. I’m very excited to find out your ‘P.S.’ because I’m the same way!!! (But I never tell people that because I’m might get scornful looks…so shhhh.)

    The one word that constantly bugs me is when people mix up lightning and lightening. It seems to be pretty common, and so annoying.

  542. It is true that one looks dumb committing the first four errors, but I place them more in the category of typos. I know the differences between the pairs. If the wrong one gets by me, it would be because I’m in a rush or otherwise not fully paying attention. Dangling participles, on the other hand, indicate a situation where I think I am saying what I mean. The difference between what’s in a writer’s head and what actually gets written can be glaring.

  543. The first three really do bug me (a little too much). Further offenses: using ‘am’ as a stand-alone verb (yes I know it works sometimes but am talking about when you really should be using ‘I’m’. Like just now) and ‘should of’ instead of ‘should’ve or should have’. When I see these, I may not think the user is dumb, but ‘barely literate’ springs to mind.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing.

  544. Dennis Magnusson :

    Like you, I never learned the rules. However my mother, a former teacher, consistently corrected me so in defense I learned to recognized bad grammar. I have become a bit of a martinet about it. I’ll retweet this for the benefit of many grammatically impaired twitterers.

  545. All 5 of these are big ones for me, but you have to admit that seeing #5 is often good for a chuckle.

    Spelling and grammar errors like these jump right off the page at me. I have unsubscribed to some blogs when the writing is poor, even if the content is not bad. The errors can be so distracting that you miss the message.

    Writing “I want to loose weight” instead of “I want to lose weight” always makes me shudder. I imagine the writer wants a flabby, loose body. I got so tired of it, I wrote a post about this at:
    http://www.robyntransforms.com/2010/01/31/no-i-dont-want-to-loose-weight/

  546. I think I love you! Reading your/you’re/it’s/its/their/there/they’re/to/too/two/loose/lose, etc. mistakes makes me want to poke my eyeballs out! I started a “Words on Wednesday” mini grammar lesson section of my personal blog, but I haven’t written in a long time. I think I’ll start up again, just in time for a new school year.
    http://calibabble.blogspot.com/2009/04/words-on-wednesday.html

  547. Thanks mate!
    I have a good concept to start a new blog.
    Do to my poor grammar, first want to learn some lessons, when I tried accessing in Google found your post.
    Very useful dude. Keep publishing such good & informative postings.

    Thanks,
    Shaiksoft

  548. As JimL commented above my pet peeve is the use of “loose” when meaning “lose”.
    You let your horse loose in the field and lose your shirt at the casino ! You simply do not loose your shirt in the casino.
    Very off putting.

  549. Yep.
    And don’t forget THEN vs THAN.

    It’s almost as if the word THAN doesn’t exist. Usually, THEN replaces THAN, but not vice versa:

    Apples are better then oranges.

  550. ‘Who needs enemies, you’ve got friends’ or ‘Who needs enemies; you’ve got friends’? Or is it neither? If that’s the case then could someone please inform me what it is?

    • The first one is a run-on sentence. The second one is grammatically correct. But the best way to say this would probably be:

      “Who needs enemies when you’ve got friends!”

      And the good old utterance, I think, goes like this:

      “With friends like these, who needs enemies!”

  551. “With friends like (insert name here), who needs enemies?”

  552. I’m surprised no one managed to hit my own pet peeve: Using “reign in” when you mean rein in (as one does to check a horse’s forward motion). Do they stop to think that maybe there’s no royalty involved in whatever they’re talking about?

    A site everyone should bookmark that started out as a web page in 1997 and has grown into a search engine and book: http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html

    (Disclosure: I’m a graduate of Washington State University and now work at the WSU Spokane campus. Paul Brians’ site was a great resource before I ever took the job.)

    @BarbChamberlain

  553. Finaly an article that ALL bloggers, journalists, and even those that email their supervisors need to read. There is nothing more irritating than improper grammar/spelling/context in a script. Most of the general use email and word doc programs have spell and grammar checks – use them please!

  554. “[…] but if I need to know the technical REASON WHY it was wrong in the first place, I go ask my wife.”

    I learned that adding “why” to REASON is redundant, but I’m accosted by it in our TV and print media a hundred times a day — even from the President — so I guess it has become an idiom I’ll have to either accept (or go mad!), the same way I’ve had to accept that disturbing word “snuck” instead of sneaked and the “verb-ing” of the word enthusiastic into “enthused,” or using “like” with pretend… (sigh)

    My pet peeve, however, does not detract from my enjoyment of your blogs, Brian. Long may they shine!

  555. Gabriella, you’re completely right. Copywriters use “reason why” as both a term of art, and I suspect also that it tests better despite the redundancy.

    For example, “Free Gift” is redundant. But it will pull a better response than “Gift” alone every time.

    Further proof that we’re all crazy. ;)

  556. It’s amazing how an article from 3 years ago still attracts visitors to comment. (I can’t help myself ..)
    It really proves that you’re a good writer.

    two thumbs up!

  557. I hate reading ebooks and emails with “try and…” when they mean “try to” and of course there’s the infamous “an historic” both sound dumb to me…

  558. great stuff….i commit that i too sometime make these mistakes.

  559. This is buggin’ me, so I’m sharing it with you. Check out the following link to a VERY SIMILAR blog post. It’s in Linked In, so I’m not sure you’ll have access, but here’s the link.

    http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&discussionID=28037862&gid=94936&trk=EML_anet_qa_ttle-dnhOon0JumNFomgJt7dBpSBA

    • Unfortunately, reading it would mean I’d have to actually go find my LinkedIn login info. :)

      It could well be a scrape (someone cutting & pasting our content and passing it off as their own). It happens with blogs of every size. It’s an annoyance, but it doesn’t do us any actual harm, and there are more important priorities than chasing scrapers. But thanks for being bugged on our behalf. :)

  560. yeah, you’d look like a silly bill if you made those typos. But other times, mispellings can give your writing a fresher sponatenous feel, rather than a terse essay and stuff.

  561. I certainly hop your post is suposed to be scarsastic, Zub. I cant tell…

  562. I’m so glad it’s not just me that gets annoyed at incorrect use of “your” and “you’re”

  563. Here is the problem: when I visit a snazzy looking blog with some great stuff on the topics of writing and copywriting, I do not expect to see silly grammar errors.

    Is it that bloggers are just becoming lazy and careless with their grammar? Is it that some bloggers/writers do indeed lack a good grasp of some basic grammatical rules? Or is that following proper grammar is increasingly becoming overshadowed by the need to express a point in a conversational manner?

    It’s a huge turn-off when you see “your” and “you’re”, “its” and “it’s”, “there” and “their” wrongly used in an otherwise interesting piece of writing.

    These 3 errors are so common that I find myself making the mental correction in my mind as I read some blogs that consistently make these grammatical mistakes.

  564. Actually, Affect vs. Effect is not such an error. They can be used interchangeably and often are. For example: Working hard to effect change…

    The rest are spot on!

    It’s a good idea for most writers to ask a learned friend to proofread for them.

  565. Sorry, but “effect change” and “affect change” mean quite different things.

    For example “Governor, how does your budget proposal effect the changes you promised?” means “How does it cause or create those changes?” whereas “Governor, how does your budget proposal affect the changes you promised?” means “How does it change those changes?”

  566. I learned the same way as you! I lived in a small town, and apparently I cleaned out the local library when I was in grade two.

    We had to travel to the nearest urban center, a 40 minute commute. Luckily my parents were willing to make the trip.

    Like you, I don’t know the formal rules off the back of my hand…but I do know what looks and sounds right.

  567. Cheese Crackers :

    There should be a literary license. You should prove yourself able to do the basics before you besmirch public forums with your poorly formatted drivel.

    Honestly, how good can any of your ideas be if you can’t even phrase them correctly?

  568. I agree with the ‘to/too/two’ issue, the ‘lose/loose’ issue, and pretty much all issues mentioned here. One that concerns me the most is using ‘of’ instead of ‘have’. I’ve actually corrected papers sent home from teachers and had my children deliver the corrected version back.

    Another major issue I have is with the “lol” sites that use such horrendous spelling that sometimes it’s difficult to determine what the word they’re trying to spell is. It’s no wonder our children can’t learn proper spelling, grammar or speaking with examples such as these.

  569. I found this post refreshing. I am often guilty of these same errors, but I am usually aware of them when I am writing. Although blogging and texting can be excuses to use poor grammar or spelling, the writer appears less intelligent when using “ur” instead of “your” or “you’re”. One trick I use to remember when to use “it’s” and when you use “its” is this simple sentence: It is apostrophe S. It has worked for me.

    One more item that gets me is when people use myself instead of me.

  570. Love this post and will certainly share! Someone I worked with a while back, who knew full well the difference between the two words, substituted “affective” for “effective” throughout all of his website copy. Though I could understand where he was going with it, I couldn’t convince him that most people would think it was an incorrect word rather than the sort of play on words he meant it to be. It still makes me cringe!

  571. Wow… but these are just basic spelling/grammar mistakes!! I have to admit that whenever I see any of the above, especially 1-4, I tend to immediately blacklist the writer :-/

  572. Roberto Potahto :

    TO EVRYWON (on purpose):
    Read this and let it soak into yor brains:
    Grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of sentences, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics, and pragmatics. Linguists do not normally use the term to refer to orthographical rules, although usage books and style guides that call themselves grammars may also refer to spelling and punctuation.

  573. Roberto Potahto :

    I would also like to add, how does After rotting in the cellar for weeks, modify my brother brought up some oranges?

    And the same for this one.
    Featuring plug-in circuit boards, we can strongly endorse this server’s flexibility and growth potential.

    Wouldn’t the comma, the physical representation of a slight pause to let you know there’s separation, let you know that it doesn’t modify the rest of the sentence? Even with out a pause, it still wouldn’t make much sense.

  574. I can’t believe this post is going to crack 1000 comments! Very well done Brian.

    Some of the responses are just genius. Great all over read.

    Ramsay

  575. Why no favicon on a web design website?

  576. Great to hear you had no formal training in grammar Brian. And that you had the courage to admit it. So does this mean your wife gave you these five tips?

  577. If reading all of the comments after reading the post is an indication of a great article than you have a great one here. I love this. I know my own grammar could use improvement and finding a blog like this is one is a step in the right direction.

  578. Real points, Brian. Most of them can be avoid by a simple proof reading, but most of the people won’t do.

  579. Nice blog but have to set you straight on the distinction you made between “affect” and “effect”. Both of these can legitimately be verbs and both can be nouns. Affect as a noun is often used in psychology as an emotion or desire. “After so many years of tension and violence, her affects were noticeably blunted.” As for the correct verb usage of effect, in means to bring something about – “To effect his commitment to be more punctual, Harry started by buying an alarm clock wrist watch.” Admittedly these usages are less common than affect as verb and effect as noun but readers and writers should know it’s not as simple as said here.

  580. One that annoys me is when people use:

    “Your have to show me” instead of “you’ll have to show me”.

    I have taken to shouting back the correct English at people when they get things wrong!

  581. I could relate with what you said about not knowing the technical reason something is wrong, but you can still fix it from the extensive experience you have both reading and writing.

    I currently live in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In addition to my blogging activities, I am very active with a group of English speaking Argentinians. They are constantly asking me to correct their grammar in both writing, and in speech. Sometimes they seem to know more about the language because they have studied it so extensively. For example once i tried to help my friend study for her English exam. After about 20 min of her explaining to me the different parts of a sentence, I felt a lot dumber needless to say. I did however find a grammatical error in here book…So at least i had that going for me.

  582. Oh, I hate to admit it, but this is one of my pet peeves. I gave up correcting family and friends 25 years ago.
    Even though I only thought I was helping, it seemed that no one else saw it that way… ;)
    But in this day and time, everyone and anyone can “publish.” Just not sure why with all the spell-check helps, etc.,
    you can still find all the typos and grammar blunders.
    Ah, well, probably more important things in life, but it still bugs me a LOT. :)

  583. Would “Five Grammar Errors…” be more grammatical?

  584. Very insightful post! I recently held a conversation on writing quirks (little mistakes that you find yourself making time and time again) and Mark from Pro-Blogging Matrix directed me to this post.

    It’s and its has been a toughie for me. I always have to double check myself. Its never become integrated into my way of writing.

  585. This post serves as a constant reminder from now on. I must always look dumb when I post :( because I always forget which “affect and “effect” to use. Thanks!

  586. This is a very good lesson on using proper grammar.

  587. Hi from Brisbane, Australia.

    Those are great points. That danged ‘effect’ and ‘affect’ still cause me to tremble. The have a really bad affect? on me.

    I forget who it was, (Hemmingway?) but someone once said “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time”. It is so true!

    Writing SIMPLE copy, is a real challenge. Jargon is just so easy to slip into, and you can lose your readers in a flash.

    Interesting observation. Or should I say, “great article”!

    Jeremy Crockford.

  588. One that drives me mad: people mixing ‘over’ and ‘more than’.

    “Over 100 people have died in a plane crash”. You can’t go over a number. You go over a hill. So it ought to be “More than 100 people…” but I am yet to see a professional broadcaster get this right…

    • Ultimately your sense of euphony will guide you which one to accept for writing : ‘over’ or ‘more than’.

  589. Funnier: The Oatmeal Ten Words You Need To Stop Misspelling
    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling

  590. Thank you for explaining dangling participle, as i can see this in various blogs and always wondered why people leave us thinking what’s going on.

  591. One of the most prevalent mistakes is the misuse of “bulleted” when one is describing those little dots that separate and highlight list items. Bulleted is not a word. The proper words are “bullet head”. I am sure that if you fire a gun at your computer monitor you will have “bulleted” text. Oh, no. Now you will remember me as James, the Bullet Head, who brought this to your attention.

  592. As a non native speaker of the English language this site gave me valuable information and links. Even if somebody reaches a good level, there is always a possibility to train and improve.

  593. Also, double spacing after a period is no longer correct. I may age myself by saying so, but this concept is new for me and will take a little getting use to.

  594. If you say “I go to the store” (which can also acceptably be said as “I am going to the store”) then when you add another person, you should continue to use “I” as in “[Insert name here] and I are going to the store” or the sentence must change to “We are going to the store.”
    “Me and him go to the store” is NEVER right.

    A rule that I think should have been added is “to” versus “too.” This drives me crazy when I read anything online.
    “Too” is most commonly used in the same manner as “also”

    “I am going too.”
    “I am also going.”

    whereas “to” is a reference to a place or precedes a verb

    “I need to go to the shop.”
    “I need to tell him.”

    • Yes, yes, yes! That drives me crazy, too. I’m anal … I’ll admit that … but grammar is grammar and should be done correctly.

  595. ‘On Tomorrow’, one of my favorite tracks from Captain Beefheart’s forgotten masterpiece ‘Safe as Milk.’

    Get it, you won’t regret it.

  596. I’ve bookmarked this post.Nice post.Thanks for sharing.

  597. The use of “he/she” or “his or hers” in a rather pathetic attempt to be “politically corrrect. The plural form “they” or “theirs” is the correct usage when referring to someone of either sex, or when the sex of the indiviudal is unknow. E.g. “there’s someone on the phone for you”, to which the response is: “what do they want?” Or; “someone’s left their briefcase here”. Another example: “The child was able to crawl at an early age and they could stand by the time they were 8 months old, even clutching their teddybear”.

  598. I am afraid to go through my content and correct all of the mistakes that might be lurking for everyone to see. Hopefully my content is enough to make them see through it! Please don’t read any of it for fear you may get very, very angry with me, lol.

  599. OK this phrase drives me nuts and I’m still not quite sure if I have it figured out.
    “you will use 4 times less with itema than itemb”
    I assume that is actually 1/4 but I want to know if the phrase is actually grammatically correct?(did I spell that right?)

  600. One of the best aspects of the ‘social’ web is that you can learn from the original post as well as those who comment on it. Will you be writing a sequel titled 5 More Grammatical Errors that Make You Look Dumb?

  601. I linked this site to my blog for my readers. They will need this information if they read my blog! Thanks for all of the help.

    http://accordingtogf.blogspot.com/2011/01/comma-spliced-blog.html

    Come exercise your grammatical superpowers on my blog anytime!

    gf

  602. Affect can also be used as a noun! (Psychologists often do this)

  603. I think that “your vs. you’re” and “there vs. their” are mistakes that are made out of haste. If you take the time to think there should be no reason to make these mistakes. Proof reading is the cure but how many out there actually do that : )

  604. Orientate and orient. I know the former is now accepted usage but it rankles me as much as irregardless.
    Orient or Orientate?

    The word orient as a noun means “east.” It may be capitalized when referring to the geographical location of the Far East.

    Example: Hong Kong is located in the Orient.

    Orient as a verb means to “find direction” or “give direction.” The noun form of this kind of orienting is orientation.

    Sometimes people in their speech will form an imagined verb from orientation and say orientate. At best, orientate is a back-formation used humorously to make the speaker sound pompous. The correct word is the verb orient.

    Incorrect: Melanie is helping me get orientated to the new job.

    Correct: Melanie is helping me get oriented to the new job.

    Orientate is more widely accepted in the U.K. than in the U.S.A., but it should be avoided in any formal or standard writing.

    For much more on this and other words that are similarly created by back-formation from a noun see http://www.niquette.com/books/101words/orient.htm.

  605. “Of” instead of “have”.

  606. Thank you for this fantastic educational and interesting posting. Also, thank you to the hundreds of responders! So many of the errors mentioned annoy me as well and I am encouraged that so many, like myself, are trying to improve. Those who have come from another country and are working hard to speak and write properly are to be commended! There are so many terrible grammatical ‘boo-boos’ used nowadays that I’m afraid our beautiful language is ‘going down the drain’. One that I hear so often is ‘I seen’ instead of ‘I saw’. My big questions are; where did our ‘proper’ language come from in the first place? Who has the final ‘say’ as to what is correct or incorrect? Surely it can’t be England! People from the UK say ‘Reginer’ instead of ‘Regina’, ‘Americer’, instead of ‘America’,’Canader’ instead of ‘Canada’, and ‘woetah’ instead of ‘water’., and so very many other appalling mispronunciations That is not the way my Oxford English dictionaries say those words are to be pronounced! I have heard recent documentaries expressing concerns that with the new ‘electronic age’ of texting and other social messaging and the necessary ‘shortcuts’ in spelling etc.,as well as time constraints and volume, typos and grammatical errors are becoming too common. The big concern with this is the question of how our children and their offspring will be speaking and writing in years to come! I find the negative possibilities of this perception very troubling! I therefore urge all others who care about maintaining our beautiful language, to join in doing all we can to learn and to take the time to make corrections! It seems we are just getting too ‘sloppy’ and not taking the time to ‘do things right’!

  607. When I started reading the post
    I thought “Let’s see if I am dumb as they say”

    Too easy ;-)
    Thank God … I am not that Dumb after all :)

  608. oh boy, haven’t really thought about the dangling participle.

    i also was never really studied proper grammar either…

  609. Ha, I always hated grammar in school! But this is some good stuff.

    Affect vs. Effect is the one I always wonder about…

    Nice stuff,
    Chris

  610. accept vs. except

  611. “Uhh… keep your decomposing brother away from me!”

    I cracked up so hard at this one. xDDD

    I totally agree. It annoys me to no end when I see on YouTube that one of the highest rated comments has “your” when it should be “you’re.” And that is usually accompanied by a bunch of other stupid mistakes. And don’t get me started on the “thumbs up if u agree :)” bit with that stupid smiley face as if his or her comment were just SOOO PERFECT and as if EVERYONE should agree with that PERFECTLY PERFECT COMMENT! AARRGHHHHH! I HATE IT! STUPID STUPID STUPID!

    However, despite my obsession with proper grammar and spelling at all times, I’m sometimes guilty of the error that made me crack up. =P That’s usually a result of not reading my sentence over, though. I would NEVER commit any of the other four crimes. *Shudder*

  612. Amen to the “P.S.”, Brian! I too learned to write from being able to read at an early age (and being a voracious reader at that) and could not explain how I fixed grammatical errors. I can just fix them when I see ‘em but not be able to explain how… Which is a tricky thing when working as an ESL teacher :P

  613. Here is one that’s always puzzled me. Which is correct?

    It was clear that the sentence was flawed.

    It was clear the sentence was flawed.

    Or are both ok?

    • Both are correct, but if the sentence still makes sense without “that,” it’s better form to leave it out.

      • Ah, that’s what I thought. Thank you for the quick reply!

        • “It was clear the sentence was flawed.” is incorrect. It either needs a coma break or conjunction after the “clear.” “That” is the conjunction in the “It was clear that the sentence was flawed” or “It was clear, the sentence was flawed.”

  614. “It was clear the sentence was flawed.” is incorrect. It either needs a coma break or conjunction after the “clear.” “That” is the conjunction in the “It was clear that the sentence was flawed.”

    • Does the same apply here?

      …and I knew they would appreciate a design to match their passion.

      vs.

      …and I knew that they would appreciate a design to match their passion.

      I guess the first would be incorrect?

  615. a lot vs. alot

  616. Wow! Brian, this is such a simple yet brilliant piece!
    And it looks like it has created quite a stir judging from the comments… ;-)
    It’s great to see all the common errors highlighted in one place and you have some nice explanations to go with them.
    Thanks.
    B

  617. I’ve always been confused about the difference between dangling participles and misplaced modifiers. Some of my English teachers have used them interchangeably.

    I know, for example that saying “I only drink water,” is a misplaced modifier. What you are actually saying is “All I do to water is drink it.” You should say, “I drink only water.”

    But are dangling particples a type of misplaced modifier. In other words, does one fall under the other? Or are they two distinct errors?

  618. You know what makes a speaker look less than educated? Saying, EXpecially instead of ‘especially’…
    Saying “Orient-at-ed” instead of ‘ori-en-ted’

    • Not to mention ‘preventative’ instead of ‘preventive’ or ‘between you and I’ instead of ‘between you me’ (or ‘between ourselves’).

      A common error here in Australia is the use of ‘cynical’, (denying the goodness of human motives); when ‘sceptical’ (or ‘skeptical’), (doubtful that something is true), is intended.

      (Voters may be doubtful of politicians’ promises, without denying the goodness of human motives.)

      • That seems to be a big one here in America too!

      • I’m gonna play the Devil’s advocate here, languages are in a constant state of change, like a lava lamp, so screw the rules! Let’s see it change even more, because without out this constant metamorphosis we’d still be speaking the first human language. To drive the point home, ic ne cann noht singan (each nay kahn noh-cht sing-gone). lit.: I no can not sing (I can’t sing), ic became ik became I, ne became nay, but we wouldn’t use it now, noht became no and not (as far as I know), singan became sing, notice we don’t use -an for the infinitive anymore. Well, basically, since language is never the same from year to year, I just don’t care what happens (happens used to be happeneth what happened there?). I don’t fret about it. OK, I’m done Hope y’all got a laugh outta that!

    • But never ignore the word ‘orientate’ . It has a different meaning which is ‘introduce.’ So context will guide which one to use– orient or orientate.

      • True! Dr. Naquib, I was talking about, ” I’ve got to get myself ‘orientated’ – Wrong!
        Expecially now that I’m ‘sober’ !
        “ESpecially.

  619. “Affect” can also be used as a noun, when referring to a vocal inflection or expression of emotion, as in, “Her face was emotionless, and her voice had a very flat affect.” It means they have a diminished emotional expression. I’m not sure if this is used primarily in medicine and not in other fields, but it is a common description in nursing diagnosis.

  620. I think I might print these out and stick them on my wall. I’m guilty of the occasional typo with “your” and “you’re”. I just type faster than I think sometimes. Thanks for the reminder.

  621. Amen! It blows my mind that some people just can’t understand you’re vs. your and it’s vs. its.

    To add to the “what drives us crazy list”, I don’t like when people say they’re “holding” an event. “The user conference is being held in Baltimore.” Events take place; no one holds them! This grammar lesson took place in my high school journalism class, and I still haven’t forgotten.

  622. These mistakes are always at the top of my fingernails on blackboard mistakes. The one you left out: Where is it at? When bloggers talk about editorial calendars and other such things, I want to tell them to start with a writing class. Punctuation is not based on whimsy–did you sleep through all of your high-school grammar classses?

  623. Same here! I learned to write by excessive reading too! :)

  624. What a good list. I admit “effect” and “affect” sometimes stumps me.

  625. When Brian, my favorite witty teacher says: “I tuned out. If you show me an incorrect sentence, I can fix it, but if I need to know the technical reason why it was wrong in the first place, I go ask my wife” , a question creeps in my mind–should we learn grammar seriously from the early stage or consult our wives ?

  626. When Brian, my favorite witty teacher says: “I tuned out. If you show me an incorrect sentence, I can fix it, but if I need to know the technical reason why it was wrong in the first place, I go ask my wife” , a question creeps in my mind–should we learn grammar seriously from the early stage or consult our wives later ?

  627. I chuckled at the dangling-participle example. Thanks for the list!

  628. GREAT post. As a ghostwriter, I see so many articles, web pages and other content online supposedly written by “professionals” that contain their when it should be they’re, etc. I am so grammar whiz, but like you I’ve read a great many books and picked up the proper use of these types of words. Thanks! Lots of EXCELLENT information on this blog:)

  629. Here is one that appears in corporate e-mail all the time…typing “suppose” when they mean “supposed” ! If you leave off the “d” , then you’re making an assumption instead of doing something that is required!

  630. Thanks, I just realized a grave mistake of mine. :/

  631. I really enjoyed this article.

    Is anyone able to enlighten me as to where “off of” originated? I am wondering if this is prevalent only in American-English.

  632. Your post script makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I was beginning to think I was the only writer with an instinctual understanding of grammar functionality and no idea what the actual “rules” are!

  633. Thanks for the reminder! I think people do get a bit confused about ITS and IT’S. Sometimes we can get carried away with our intense desire to share what we know that we forget the medium by which we are sharing it. More power!

  634. Affect/Effect has always been easy for me: I just think of my guitar effects, and it seems perfectly natural.

    • Hey Joe, Where you goin’ with that guitar in your hand? Do the effects affect your listeners effectively? Or are they merely ineffective affectations?

  635. THANK YOU. Oh my GOD, these drive me CRAZY when I see them spelled incorrectly.

  636. I am non native speaker of the English language – and I learned so much from this site – Thank you.

  637. The dangling participle is a very interesting error. I am sure I have made such an error before in the past without even knowing it. Another one of my common mistake is its vs it’s.

  638. I agree with Yves. I grew up in a country that doesn’t speak English as a first language as well. Our English class was very strict and all of us have pretty much mastered basic grammar. Yes, all 5 of the common mistakes are basic grammar.

  639. hahaha!
    decomposing brother!
    I, like most people, tend to do this mistake!
    Thank Brian bro for pointing our mistakes because I’m an student and I have to keep eliminating these mistakes so as to write better english essays for the Cambridge University guys!

  640. The discussion should continue for reinforcement of what we already know.

  641. I am a marketing/PR writer and I teach college writing and I must say that if a blogger is making ANY of these very fundamental mistakes, his or her blog should be pulled by the internet police. These are the basics, folks. You don’t need a grammar class to learn these things; you need simply to have read a book or two in the course of your lifetime. (Thanks for the blog, nonetheless. I love it!)

  642. Adolescent Geezer :

    Without having read any of the other comments, I would like to add “I vs me” and “lie vs lay” to the misuse mix, and recommend the old classic: Strunk and White,The Elements of Style.

  643. Another one that grates on my nerves is spelling “definately” instead of “definitely.”

    Talk about nails on a chalkboard! Ugh!

    The worst one I’ve ever seen was a longtime friend of mine who used to spell “ludicrous” as “ludacris.” It really grated on me!

  644. don’t forget, stupid people also write “could of” instead of “could have” or something similar. how do you write that stuff?

    “i could of done that” <<< does that even make sense?!??!?!?!

    dumb people! it drives me nuts!

    • I’ve noticed it too. In my own speech and the speech of others. I wouldn’t say that everyone that speaks like this is stupid or dumb, which by the way means unable to speak, or mute, so a dumb person wouldn’t actually be able to say anything. OK, joking aside, when you for instance, could have and it is said in rapid speech as could’ve, it sounds quite a lot like could of. So basically, since an uneducated person would have passing knowledge, probably, of certain things, like that the of is spelled of not ov or uv, then they associate that with the reduced have to ‘ve. At least that’s my take, take it for what you will, if you disagree, I’m open to what you have to say.

  645. Great points. I see these mistakes made so many times across the web. I’ve tweeted your post.

  646. Great post for non native English writer like myself (I hope myself word was wisely used here, Learned it for another post of yours). The Effect and And Affect thing always makes me dizzy. I hope I will sort this confusion soon enough.

  647. Hehehehe. Did you know that a brawl would start in the comments when you clicked ‘publish’? Before I’d realised that the comment string was so very very long, I was only going to say that most writers can relate to ‘learning to write by reading obsessively at an early age’. If we want our children to enjoy such detailed and heated arguments about grammar then we’d best make sure that they get the chance to read a lot too :-)

  648. Normally, I’m not a big fan of grammar rules when it comes to copywriting. We can, and SHOULD, throw the rules to wind and just write the way we want the audience to read it. On my blog, I write pretty extensively about the reasons why.

    This page is just one example among many: http://www.copywritingtipsguide.com/1-copywriting-tips-grammar-punctuation/

    BUT I also believe that you should break the rules only for a good reason. I totally agree about the first four rules here. No excuse. If you break these, you just look ignorant.

    I think there’s some flexibility on Rule #5. (You’ll find people with PhDs and other experts in the technical rules who agree with me on this BTW, but a common sense argument is more convincing then a technical one hardly anyone understands.) People speak with dangling participles all the time without causing confusion. People have logical brains and they automatically understand what is really being modified. Sometimes, the sentence truly is confusing. If so, CHANGE IT! Otherwise, dangle your participle away.

  649. This is funny. I see this a lot where people say ‘your’ when they meant to say “you’re”. I’m definitely sharing this.

  650. For a wonderful, easy to read, funny and enlightening primer on writing, check out “Plain Style” by Richard Lauchmann. I have no vested interest in sales of this book, except that it could improve the day to day and business writing of anyone who reads it. And that would make me happy.
    Plain Style
    Techniques for Simple, Concise, Emphatic Business Writing
    Author: Richard Lauchman Pub Date: June 2008
    ISBN: 9780814414293 Format: Paper or Softback

  651. I see this alot when redoing content that i’ve had supplied, infact i don’t think i’ve ever been supplied content that didn’t have one of these mistakes in.

  652. There vs. Their is the most common error i can see.

  653. It is more common in spoken English but, never say “Me and Jim went swimming.” Always but other people before you!

    “Jim and I went swimming.”

    Nothing, nothing, makes you sound stupider than using Me first.

    Also, use real quotes and apostrophes correctly ! This ” and this ‘ are not part of spoken English. Those marks are used for inches and feet in writing only. They are a lingering result of switching from mono spaced typewriters to typesetting on computers.

    • Drat, typo. “Always but” should be “Always put”.

      Also, this comment system automatically converts inch marks to close quote. Paradoxically annoying. (I thought the space before and after would prevent that.)

      The foot mark seems unaltered.

  654. The one that really bugs me is people spelling “lose” as “loose”. I’ve only really noticed it in the past year or so, but it’s got to the point that I’ve been questioning whether or not I’m actually the one who is wrong!

  655. Grammar mistakes that drive me up the wall:
    Your not stupid.
    The cat played with it’s toy.
    I alway’s go there to eat.
    I want to loose weight.
    I want to loose wait.
    I cant believe your going to sit there and right that.
    My softball team is called “The Destroyer’s.”
    I could of done that myself.
    And none of those mistakes up there were accidental. But I just killed myself writing those atrocities. (I could not believe my eyes the first time I saw someone had written “alway’s.” How do you even get that?! When has it ever been “alway’s”?!)

  656. Great tips for noobs and new bloggers very helpfull.

  657. loose. i will “loose” my mind if i see that again. grrrrrr…….

  658. The one that drives me up a wall is Lose & Loose.

    You will lose the game if you do not have any loose change.

    I cannot count the number of time I have read loose for lose.

    Dave

  659. I read a lot of creative services resumes in my job. It’s amazing the number of writers who confuse “lead” (a metal or current activity) with “led” (the action of leading a project in the past). Drives me nuts — and a fair amount of resumes to the reject pile.

  660. I have not read all 900+ comments before me, so it’s likely this has already been brought up. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone says “women” when they mean “woman.” I see this in online profiles all the time, as in “I am a women who likes to go for walks.” Or “I am a strong, intelligent women.” The trick to remembering the difference is to remember that just as “men” is plural for “man,” “women” is plural for “woman.”

  661. As more people are stepping into the digital age, we are forgetting the basics of common language rules. This is a great reminder for us all!

  662. Text editors and other writing tools have made people forget who to actually frame a grammatically correct sentence. For many, turning off auto correct option will end in a catastrophe.

  663. The error I see the most is “it`s” instead of “its”. Very strange, when it`s so easy to understand the difference.

  664. Ah, yes – I love that you did this, because it makes me crazy, too! But I will say, that affect can also be a noun when talking about someone’s demeanor – as in “The Detective became suspicious because Jane’s affect was all wrong for a supposedly grieving widow.”

    Just because it’s OK to do this on twitter in order to fit that 140 character constraint doesn’t make it OK to do it on your blog, in your emails or on your website. I completely agree!

  665. THEN instead of THAN.

    That is the worst one in my book, and you see it everywhere. People even pronounce THEN when they mean THAN.

  666. Those are very obvious errors that I do make sometimes especially with its and it’s. I used to grapple with this problem in my school days until one fine day my english teacher thought enough was enough and she gave me a full long one hour lecture on how to use it properly. Since then, I’ve never used it wrong :D

  667. Marney Duckworth :

    After some thought, I would also add Then vs. Than.

  668. Lose and Loose

  669. Nice article, I am blushing though. Guilty I am sure!
    Thanks for sharing!

  670. I’m an writer/editor and so is my husband. We think it quite normal to spend quality time (whatever that means) discussing (okay, arguing about) grammar and editorial style. Here’s a short clip about how to react when someone “corrects” you incorrectly: http://www.wimp.com/correctyou/

    Down with the use of “myself,” as in “You can call myself at….” Oh aargh.

  671. Man, that was entertaining, those comments Kraked or is it Krakked? me up completely. What a totally enthralling piece, thank you for sharing.

  672. How can I rewrite sentences so that I don’t keep repeating the word you.
    Example: Are you pretending to be something you are not? By doing that, the person you were meant to be will never come out of hiding. The truth will set you free! Be responsible by taking the power, not waiting around for someone else to take the power over you, to fix you.
    In just this short paragraph, I’ve used the word you six times!

  673. Oh these drive me insane!! Especially the culprits of: your / you’re and there / they’re / their!!
    People get these wrong all the time. I can understand that non-native speakers may make mistakes, but its usually the native English speakers making these silly mistakes.

    All it takes is to read through what you’ve written and you won’t end up looking like a fool! Arrghhhhh!

  674. LibrarianSarah :

    I use a speech to text software which does all of these because it doesn’t always know what I am saying. So just because you read these errors doesn’t make someone “dumb” they could just be disabled.

  675. My biggest pet peeves when it comes to grammar are the phrases “same exact” and “a lot.”

  676. [P.S. You may find it amusing to know that I, like David Ogilvy, have never learned the formal rules of grammar. I learned to write by reading obsessively at an early age, but when it came time to learn the “rules,” I tuned out. If you show me an incorrect sentence, I can fix it, but if I need to know the technical reason why it was wrong in the first place, I go ask my wife.]
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I learned to write in exactly the same way, by being an omnivorous reader from an early age, and I now doctor books and edit copy and fiction, but I couldn’t tell you the names of the different parts of a sentence to save my life. I know a verb is a doing word, and that’s about it! I think so long as you can explain clearly what’s wrong with a sentence and suggest ways to improve it, the ‘correct’ terminology may not be so important. I live in hopes that this is true and not just my own justification for tuning out grammar at school!

  677. “Should of” instead of “should have.”

  678. I keep seeing “loose” used for “lose.” It makes me nuts. One is an adjective, the other is a verb. Loose means not tight. Lose means to misplace. Spell checkers don’t catch this confusion because both are real words. But they need to be used in the right places.

  679. Write the Right Word has recently been released by Apple. It is about the 2,600 plus same sounding words (their/there), which are within our English language. They are homophones and homonyms. There is no more confusion about those deceitful words. The two or more same sounding words are grouped together, along with their meanings. Find it at the Apple Store under education.

  680. “I learned to write by reading obsessively at an early age, but when it came time to learn the “rules,” I tuned out. If you show me an incorrect sentence, I can fix it, but if I need to know the technical reason why it was wrong in the first place, I go ask my wife.”

    Subtract wife, add in sister :)

  681. grammatically speaking :

    Something interesting you might want to note, and this is because I had an argument with someone about this not too long ago. While it is true that “me” is the object form of “I,” “me and him go to the store” is perfectly legit; because even if you take out the him, you would automatically say I go to the store, because you’re a native English speaker. And one more thing that I’ve noticed in my studies of the English tongue, there seems to be a tendency for the object forms to take over the subject forms, which is interesting. And what I mean by that is, if you look at the transformation of English, “you” at one time was just the objective form of “ye”, yet even not counting the French influence, it became a subject form. So what do you think?

  682. Oh, my god, NO! There is NOTHING correct about “me and him go to the store.” Where do you get that fanciful notion?

    This statement is entirely batty and slef-contradicting: “me and him go to the store” is perfectly legit; because even if you take out the him, you would automatically say I go to the store.”

    Well, duh, yeah. You would say, I go to the store, not me go to the store. Check your English before you use it. Nevertheless, as I am entirely too vociferous, I beg your pardon. I am glad you asked for opinions.

  683. I’ll speak up for grammatically speaking. They were trying to note how everyone automatically says I’m going to the store, but it’s very common for someone to say me and him went to the store or me and him are going to the store, I guess, they just didn’t get there point across very clearly, at least that’s how it appears to me.

  684. Robert Q, you’re pulling our legs with the misuse of “there” in your last sentence, right? Please, please tell me this is dry humor.