15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly

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We’re big advocates of conversational writing that’s engaging, persuasive, and fun. So that means it’s perfectly fine to fracture the occasional stuffy grammatical rule (and many times it’s preferable).

On the other hand, making some grammatical errors just makes you look bad, and hurts your effectiveness. Sometimes we even misuse words simply because we hear others use them incorrectly.

So, we’ve assembled the 15 most egregious grammar goofs into one helpful infographic. With this handy reference, you’ll never look silly again.

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15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
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About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger, CEO of Copyblogger Media, and Editor-in-Chief of Entreproducer. Get more from Brian on Google+.

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  1. I love this! I’m going to share it with my English students :-)

    • I LOVE this article. I have a friend who moved here from Mexico a few years ago. She is training in English to be a translator. She knows more about English language than most of the people I know that are natives. With texting and our “shorthand” , our language is slowly dying out!

      • @Marketing Gal and you just did one that drives me up the wall…..referring to people as “that” instead of who. (…I know that are natives”). But don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. I see this dozens of times a day and just about any given time can hear people doing news reports, etc. doing likewise!!

        • lol… Nice catch!

          • you are so right. mistakes are everywhere. I would probably would blame the lazy approach that we have these days.
            With so much help on the tools that we use these days. it’s very bad that are not even spell checking leave out the grammar.
            but for most of us English is not our native language or first language as well. but we’re at the point where we need to know it properly we have know choice.

        • Katja Thornton :

          You CAN use that for people! You can say “Do you know anyone who/that speaks French and Italian?” This example is from Raymond Murphy (1994), English Grammar in Use. CUP, p.188.
          The Michael Swan Oxford English Grammar Course also confirms the use of that for people in certain relative clauses.

    • That’s great! One of those things that just isn’t taught often enough in school. Real world application helps drive it home.

      • Oh, it’s taught. It’s just not considered important enough to remember or abide by.

        • Sunny LeSeur :

          The unfortunate thing about correct usages “being taught” is that often the teacher is the one who is remiss.

          In the south, you hear teachers all the time say “I seen that girl yesterday” or “I had saw that movie when I was a kid”.

          In the California Dreamin’ classroom, you often hear the term “whateva” from the teachers. (They’re contending with a classroom full of disruptive students who’d rather be anywhere else, never mind the task of getting everyone to pay attention to grammar).

          In Boston, I’ve heard “I gotta axe you this” and the teacher doesn’t address the mispronunciation of “ask”.

          We have generations (yes, plural) of people who don’t give a flip flop about grammar or correct usage. Such an attitude is reflective of the same generations’ disrespect for themselves.

          Generally, I’ve noticed a trend that students for whom English is not their first language speak far and away better English than those for whom English IS their first language.

          Alas, I’m sad for those who will be left behind in life because they didn’t pay attention to the details of communication.

          Amazon itself is paying attention to grammar and deleting e-books that don’t abide by good communication protocols.

          The wheat from the chaff, as they say …..

          • “Generally, I’ve noticed a trend that students for whom English is not their first language speak far and away better English than those for whom English IS their first language.”

            I think it’s a general rule for all *foreign* languages, whatever the language: foreigners speak and write it better because they were taught right from the start the *correct* use of their foreign language – and they learnt that correct use *exclusively* (at least at the beginning) – whereas we all learn our native language, whatever it is, not from a school teaching us what its correct use is supposed to be, but from natural speakers using it *as it is spoken* in real life – mistakes, regionalisms and all – and in that case the school’s first mission consists of *correcting* native language use and setting it straight…. the teachers being native speakers themselves, they are prone to committing the same *native* mistakes as well.

            The incorrect assusmption consists of believing that native speakers automatically deliver *the* *error-free* version of their own language. This is far from the case, and not only in the English-speaking area. I’m a native French speaker myself, and I can tell you the issue is exactly the same at least for French.

    • You forgot to, too and two.

    • I want to add in ‘unique’ to the ‘literally’ message.
      Something is either unique or it is not. It cannot be ‘quite unique’.
      PS I’m a pedant on a scale of 1-10 I score 7…. guess Brian’s a 9.999 recurring!

      • Sunny LeSeur :

        I often see book jackets extolling the virtues of this “very unique” perspective on ______ (marketing or whatever). Another common one is “most unique” (as in “It’s the most unique vacation you’ll ever take!”).

        • Maybe they want to stress the fact that some people *think* they are doing something unique -or want to make us believe this is the case – whereas in fact they’re mere copycats… and in that context the ” unique” marketing gimmick is intended to differentiate its user from the rest of the pack (“*they* say that the are so, but *we* are the real thing”). The rest is the usual marketing hype escalation story (how do you get something stronger than a superlative?).

          • I meant the “[adverb] unique” marketing of course – the system probably interpreted the brackets I used as a (failed) HTML tag :-)

    • Great infographic! This could be an amazing quick reference guide used in training materials.

      Going to share this on our Facebook and Twitter for those with a case of the Mondays!

    • You also forgot “who’s” and “whose” !!!

    • Some of these i was reading and i really didn’t see a difference! But I also thought some wre funny. This is a pretty cool site for people who are into, and study english lit.

      • Then you need to study it harder. :-)

      • Dorinda, these 15 listed errrors aren’t for English Lit students; they’re for anyone who communicates. I’m guessing you communicate with someone else on this planet at some point in your life. If so, that would include you.

        You see, these 15 clarification points are merely 15 reminders of how we as individuals (no matter our lot in life) can get our messages across with a minimum of confusion, argument, delay, and frustration — for all parties concerned.

        It applies to any kind of written communication (although in this article, errors in posts is the reference point).

        The fact that you didn’t see a difference in some of them indicates that your communication with others may benefit from a wee bit of clarity. I’m sure those on the receiving end of your communication would appreciate it, too.

        Just a supportive comment from a voice in the crowd …

    • Here is another:

      Practice v Practise (UK English only. In US English, “practise” seems to be all pervading)
      Practice is a noun. For example, a doctor or consultant runs a practice
      Practise is a verb. For example, I’m going to practise my scales on the piano tonight.
      Same goes for “advice”, which is a noun and “advise”, which is a verb.

  2. Without fail, when I go back and read my old blog posts, I see many obvious mistakes. It makes me cringe!

    I love that you, Robert, and Sonia make cameos in this infographic!

    • I do too, I keep looking at it and giggling. :)

    • That’s my problem. When I type up a post and attempt to proof it, I rarely see any grammar errors. However, once posted, someone may note a grammar error I’ve made, or I’ll see one on my own. *_* That’s my biggest problem as a writer — stupid grammar errors.

  3. Another lovely and useful infographic, they are coming out by the ton lately.

    Most of my grammar mistakes are done because of auto correct, or because I’m going fast, I usually catch them when I take the time to proofread.

  4. Glad to see the “me/I” mistake included. Between you and I, it’s a personal bugbear that both you and me find annoying.
    Also, “myself” is a funny one. I agree with you on how it should be used, but I’m reading a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories at the moment, and Watson often refers to “myself” when I think he should say “me”.

    • Katie – you just committed one of the mistakes in the first sentence of your post. “….. it’s a personal bugbear that both you and (me) I find annoying”. Me doesn’t find it annoying. I find it annoying.

    • There’s another problem with the “myself” box in the graphic: “I thought to myself” is redundant. Unless you’re telepathic, I suppose. :)

  5. #15 is hilarious. When did you meet my brother?

  6. Ugh – it’s the effect/affect that gets me every single time! If only my editor lived in my house!

    • SO with you on this one!!

    • Well, don’t use this infographic to guide you: “affect” could also be used as a noun.

    • Kat Westcott :

      And “effect” can be used as a verb. (“In order to effect change, you need to take action.”) But in most cases, “affect” is a verb and “effect” is a noun. Really, the exceptions are used so rarely that most people struggling with grammar to the point that they’re still making the above grammatical errors probably wouldn’t use the words in that sense anyway, so I’m glad they didn’t go into an overly complicated explanation.

  7. This is the best article I have ever read. I am going to share, tweet and forward until I reach every single person I’ve ever met, thanks Copyblogger

  8. Cool! I love infographics!

  9. I love this so much I would marry it if I could!!!

  10. Fun way to see common grammar mistakes…heading directly to Pinterest!

  11. Great post :) It made me think twice about what to write in this comment box haha! And yes, I love the new trend of infographics.

  12. Hilarious. And I thought only Germans had simple problems with grammar/spelling.

  13. Thank you for the reminders about the correct use of grammar!

  14. O, sigh. These infographics just are not good for blindies. Might it be possible to provide a text version?

  15. Melanie Johnston :

    The one that gets me everytime is lay / lie and laid / layed. I remember the struggle all the way back to grade school when we worked endlessly on diagramming sentences. Do they even still make kids do this anymore?

    • Lay is a transitive verb (has a direct object). Lie is an intransitive verb (doesn’t have a direct object). Laid goes with lay and layed isn’t a word. Hope that helps a little.

  16. Great infographic, though I would include many of your points under two headings: contractions that are confused with possessives, usually involving pronouns, and words that get mixed up with words that sound almost the same. Spell check won’t catch them so they’ve become a huge problem. I would not include ‘less than” or “fewer” because it’s not a distinction that helps us understand each other. With grammar declining, let’s focus on the rules that help people communicate.

    • Getting “less/fewer” does help people communicate with me because, for whatever silly reason, when it’s wrong I go around the bend. Which impedes communication.

      I don’t find that contractions confused with possessive really impede communication either — if you get it’s wrong, I have no problem at all figuring out what you meant. It just makes me twitch.

  17. Love the infographic. I cringe when I see people misusing items 1-9. (And I see it often!!!) I always have trouble with complement/compliment. I thought I was using it correctly when someone pointed out that I wasn’t. (Maybe she was wrong.) This is a great reference tool to keep handy and review every so often to make sure we don’t fall into the trap of following people who don’t know what they’re doing grammatically.

    • That’s always tricky — I had a college professor steer me wrong on “free rein/free reign.” This still makes me crabby 20 years later. :) (Free rein is the correct one.)

    • Just remember “I give you a compliment” as in that’s the one with the “i” in it.
      Ah, mnemonic devices.

  18. Bet you can’t spot the two errors on the infographic! ;)

    • I joke! But if you went back trying to find them, good for you! Welcome to proofreading!

    • Yep.

      1. Misplaced “only.” See CMOS, 16th ed., section 5.182. Of course, this has become so commonly accepted in spoken English that it’s very often used in written–see what the writer says at the top of this post.

      2. Misuse of colon. See CMOS , 16th ed., section 6.65.

      Otherwise, this is GREAT. :-)

  19. #16 TO and TOO, but not to be confused with a tutu. As in…
    “I make too many spelling eras to be considered grammarily korrect.”
    Sea I got it write so I’m not silly at awl!
    Be On-Purpose!
    Kevin

  20. Ronald Pine :

    Many of these errors have nothing to do with grammar but are simply misspellings and the like. “Affect” and “effect” both have at least one legitimate meaning as a noun and one as a verb.

    • You are correct on all counts, Ronald. I just didn’t want to point that out to Brian. Regarding your affect/effect comment, I support you with this usage note from my dictionary:
      “Affect (1) and effect, each both noun and verb, share the sense of “influence,” and because of their similarity in pronunciation are sometimes confused in writing. As a verb affect (1) means “to act on” or “to move” ( His words affected the crowd so deeply that many wept ); affect (2) means “to pretend” or “to assume” ( new students affecting a nonchalance they didn’t feel ). The verb effect means “to bring about, accomplish”: Her administration effected radical changes. The noun effect means “result, consequence”: the serious effects of the oil spill. The noun affect (1) pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, is a technical term in psychology and psychiatry. Affect (2) is not used as a noun.”

    • Not correct if you take the most expansive definition of grammar:

      “In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, 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.”

      Misusing one word for another, perhaps because it’s a homophone, is not simply a misspelling. It’s a grammatical error based on ignorance of the correct choice.

      • Albin Pahernik :

        Actually, that’s still not grammar. That’s what you call a diction error.

      • When someone chooses the wrong symbols to form the word he means to write, that’s a spelling error, pure and simple. The “your/you’re” confusion (and other homophone errors) is fundamentally a spelling problem, not a grammar problem. Homophones are often confused. Spelling mistakes can sometimes inadvertently affect grammar, but spelling really isn’t part of grammar.

        Spelling, in fact, *precedes* grammar. Grammar concerns itself with the conventions that govern the structure of language–syntax and sentence formation. When you’re looking at words in isolation, as you are when you consider spelling, grammar doesn’t come into play, because whatever spelling you use generally has no effect on the word’s function in a sentence. What’s more, when the kind of mistake featured here occurs in speech, there is no error. That’s a telling clue.

        • Don, to simplify matters (and clarify both the intention and use), it might have been a better choice for Brian (the original poster) to have said “writing” errors rather than “grammatical” errors.

          It could have been that Brian was accommodating the idea that most people understand grammatical errors as errors in spelling, syntax, usage, grammar, whatever. The general public seems to perceive the whole bushel basket of specifics involving the art of written communication as “grammar”.

          I know that’s not so with us language nuts; I’m speaking of the average Joe on the street.

          Even so, it might have been better for “writing errors” to have been the point of reference.

    • Note the use of the words “most often” when describing effect as a noun. This is a rule of thumb to help people make the correct choice in most situations. ;)

      • I would add to this discussion only the idea that because you used “most often” when referring to effect, you should also have used that phrase in reference to affect; saying “most often” in one case and not the other indicates that affect is always a verb, while effect can be either.

    • Exactly. Most of these “helpful” lists of “mistakes you make” carry the subtext “Look how much smarter I am than you,” and a big portion of the “mistakes” aren’t even mistakes, never mind mistakes of grammar.

  21. The ‘grammar’ infographic would make a great office poster!

  22. I lose faith in the writer if there’s a typo.

  23. Fantastic….. Let us noy forget another common misused word that is a pet hate of mine; “bought” and “brought”
    Bought.. Is something you have paid for that you now own…. I.e I bought a new coact today!
    Brought.. Is something you ‘bring’ with you.. I.e I brought a bottle of wine with me!

    Just saying. hehe :-)

  24. Love this. Have a question: would the I/myself example actually be an appositive in need of commas? You have “…but I myself tolerate it…” Should it be “…but I, myself, tolerate it…”?

    • You have to ask yourself whether or not you can take out myself and the sentence would still make sense. In this case, you can.

  25. Tom Peterson :

    You missed one of the most current mistakes: “on purpose/by accident.”
    You can do things on purpose, but never on accident – I hear this more and more often; it’s enough to make me want to plan something on purpose that will look like it happened by accident!

  26. Great infographic,wish number 16 was BEING & BEEN. These two are my biggest grammar…

  27. My pet peeve: “ensure” vs “insure”. Nice infographic though, I’ll use it with my kids!

  28. Thanks for highlighting 15 of my pet peeves :). As for no. 8, if you really want to read something geeky about punctuation, I can totally recommend “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” by Lynne Truss – a whole book on punctuation in English and I can guarantee you it’s the funniest book you’ve ever read about grammer! And you can actually learn from it. I think about it every time I put in an apostrophe.

  29. #1 drives me insane. I have to bite my lip when I see it – which is often! Loving the infographic. Thinking I should stop saying, “I literally peed my pants.”

  30. I love you guys. I appreciate what you do. I’ve learned and am sure I will continue learning much from Copyblogger. That being said…

    By choosing to turn your words into a picture of words, you’ve now pushed away many of the “more than 25 Million” people who have severe visual impairments, and cannot read regular print. That’s more than 25 Million in the USA alone (so says the American Foundation for the Blind). How many millions more, globally?

    Call it what you want. Blindness, low vision, an impairment, a disability. It doesn’t matter. Blind or not, we’re all consumers.

    If someone wants my money, I want to know what they’re offering me to get it, just like anyone else. But when their words are inaccessible, and when their graphics aren’t labeled with proper (or any) descriptive text, millions of possible readers, subscribers, buyers, can’t find what those businesses are offering online.

    AOL was huge on artsy, graphical text a decade ago… until they got sued for accessibility after ignoring pleas by blind consumers, paying members, and blindness organizations for years. They’ve become much more accessible since. Accessibility is just the smarter way to go.

    Strive on! :)

  31. Another common error occurs in the use of “stationary” and “stationery.” See http://bit.ly/zq1viy for the difference and a trick for remembering when to use each word.

    • I have taught my students this little trick to remember the difference between these two words…

      Stationary is spelled with an “a” as in “stay” so you stay in one place and do not move.
      Stationery ie spelled with an “er” as in “paper” which is what you write on. Stationery is pretty paper.

      • Sunny LeSeur :

        Such a neat idea!

        You know, it’s tricks like this that make spelling / grammar playful and like a fun game for all of us, especially kids.

        Good job!

      • My Mom taught me that stationery goes in an envelope. E for envelope = Stationery with an e.

  32. I think that the word “literally” is changing. By saying you are “literally” something when you’re not, you intensify the metaphor to the point of absurdity–which conveys meaning.

    And I’d argue communicating meaning is the chief end of language, not correct grammar.

    But for now it literally makes me want to punch someone when I hear it.

    • I always thought using “literally” in that way would be considered a hyperbole because it is an exaggeration. Interesting.

      • I completely agree with Paul’s point about this word being used to intensify the metaphor to the point of absurdity. In fact there’s a nod to this within the definition in my Oxford English, and it’s one of the delicious subtleties of the English language.

        In fact didn’t Shakespeare often play with using the opposite of a word’s meaning so as to convey a separate point about the absurdity of speech in itself?

        More to the point, etymologically speaking, the word “literally” or “literal” is not synonymous with “actually”; it means, “of or belonging to writing”. Strictly speaking this should not preclude its use in the sense illustrated here as incorrect.

        It literally makes my blood boil that people misunderstand this word!

    • Kat Westcott :

      I agree that its meaning is changing, but I don’t think people are doing it on purpose. I think the vast majority of people just genuinely misunderstand the meaning of the word, haha.

  33. Thanks, Brian, for making it readable by all. :)

  34. Love it – another great infographic. I’ll have to show #7 to my husband! Thank you also for the code – I plan on using this one on my blog.

  35. Marge Piatak :

    This is great. The graphics make it so much easier to read and remember. As an HR Consultant with 30+ years of HR experience, I’ve seen it all and a lot of it is not “pretty”. If you’re not a word or grammar wizard, at least get someone to proof your writing before sending it out to the world.

  36. Does this post really have 1k+ pins on Pinterest? What the heck..?

  37. Awesome… just posted! Thanks guys & gals!

  38. Fewer/less drives me crazy! I have been known to correct news anchors on this. (Yes, I yell at the TV during football games, too.)

  39. PJ McCulloch :

    How about the misuse of “all right” and “alright”?

    • Sunny LeSeur :

      … and “all together” / “altogether” …

      (Other bugaboo are “any time” / “anytime” , “any one” / “anyone”, and “every day” / “everyday”.)

      • Sunny LeSeur :

        I see I left out the “s” in bugaboo … ;-)

      • Greg Hartwig :

        And this leads to “noone,” which is not a word, despite what so many believe!

        • Sunny LeSeur :

          So true!!
          Speaking of running words together to make a non-word, I run across “alot” a lot. :-)

        • Both of those make me insane.

        • Every time I see that I respond to the person, “what does Peter Noone have to do with _____?” Most people don’t know the reference but I feel better having annoyed them as much as they annoyed me.

          My problem is when I type fast, I type phonetically. So homophones get all mixed up. I know the difference and the proper uses of the their/there/they’re, your/you’re, its/it’s, weather/whether, then/than, and many more. But my habit worse than mistyping is hitting “POST” before I proofread. When I write papers I have to go through with a fine-toothed comb just to pick up on those small mistakes.

          • Sunny LeSeur :

            Leah, I definitely know what you mean.

            I also get over-eager to post and often don’t proofread as well as I ought prior to clicking that magic “post” button (that’s happened with me more than a couple of times just in this series of post responses.) :-)

            Even so, I think that many folks are posting bunches of boo-boos simply because they couldn’t be bothered to learn the correct usages and / or to be sure they haven’t inadvertently made some errors in usage.

            Overeagerness to support others (as in the case with you and me) is out there, I’m just not sure it’s the primary reason grammar goofs are so prevalent.

  40. Perfect compilation! So basic, so vital. I look forward to sharing this with our clients.

  41. I wrote a somewhat similar post a few weeks back on my blog. In example sentences I’ve given sentences from a novel of Agatha Christie – http://www.writeregion.com/2012/01/few-weeks-back-i-finished-reading.html

  42. Thank you! Thank you! I see these errors all the time, and they make me crazy. Right or wrong, if I read that somone was afraid to ‘loose their car’, or that they ‘have there chores finished’, I tend to dismiss their content as much less credible. Fair? Not necessarily, but we’re talking grammar school English here. Those for whom English is a second language get a bit of a break, but most of the perpetrators were born here. No excuses! If you make a comment about a news article or write a blog and want people to take you seriously, check your work.

  43. Yes! I am endlessly annoyed by the constant misuse of your/you’re and should of/should’ve etc.. I have to restrain myself from correcting people on Pinterest!

    One thing that wasn’t covered is the increasing use of the apostrophe for plurals – box’s instead of boxes, for example. This also drives me crazy!

    • Copy Blogger Reader :

      I agree. Though it was covered indirectly in item 8, I think it’s important that the infographic directly say that apostrophes aren’t used for plural nouns.

  44. The colorful pics makes this worthy of framing and hanging on my wall. The easy explanations and humor makes it’s worthy of hanging there forever. (Now I am worried if my grammar was write…whoops…right.)

  45. Archan Mehta :

    Brian,

    Great post: especially valuable for students, teachers and copywriters; but also for, actually, anybody interested in the English language. Very sound principles. Very useful to read. Thanks for pointing out our follies. I stand corrected each and every time I make such mistakes, which is often. It is time for me to change my ways or join the swelling ranks of the unemployment line. It is okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from those mistakes. Have a good one. Cheers.

  46. I love this because it treats these grammar goofs in a fun way. I know a lot of people feel stress about writing and grammar rules, so an infographic like this really adds a scoop of sugar to the medicine.

  47. LOVED this article! It really bothers me when simple grammatical errors are made in articles, signs, ads, etc. Thank-you for the great little reminder lesson! I agree with Frederika’s remarks. When I see gross errors made like that, I really do question the person’s credibility. This type of grammar was the stuff I learned back in elementary school. My children didn’t really receive this kind of education until Jr High, however. In spite of that, I agree that there should be no excuses. The only other observation to interject here is that the world of texting has introduced a new generation of kids that can’t spell or write complete sentences! On top of that, they can’t carry on an actual live conversation with anyone, either!

  48. LOVED IT! I am sending this to some friends that learnt English as a 2nd language (plus I posted on FB since it could be used by maaaaaaaaaaaany people!)

  49. One thing social media has done, is exposed just how poor we are in writing and grammar. I read some posts that are nearly illegible because of poor sentence construction.

  50. Thank you for this handy guide. Shared it via Pinterest!

  51. One HUGE error made all the time but people don’t seem to notice: PEEK vs. PEAK.

    I see the incorrect “sneak peak” more often than I see the correct spelling these days.

  52. Great graphic. It’s always fun to have pictures to go with dry information like grammar tips. I will share this with my editing clients.

  53. My problem has always been affect or effect. I still can’t get my mind around it on the fly :)

  54. The one that always stumps me is the correct use of ‘which’ and ‘that’…

    For example, using Brian’s closing text in the infographic, it says:

    …avoid the 15 common mistakes that may leave you, literally jobless.

    In this case, I would have been tempted to say …avoid the 15 common mistakes *which* may leave you, literally jobless.

    I guess my use of ‘which’ would have been wrong, so if there is a rule for choosing the correct correct term I’d love to know it!

    • I good rule of thumb is to only use “which” after a comma. No comma, use “that.”

    • Use “that” when the phrase following it is restrictive (no comma).

      Use “which” when the phrase following it is nonrestrictive (comma).

      Below are perhaps not the best examples, but anyway…

      “I know the route that will take you there.” (The “that” phrase is required to define “route,” so it is restrictive.)

      “I know the correct route, which you did not take.” (The “which” phrase is not required to define “route,” so it is nonrestrictive.)

      • Brian, Tracy… VERY much appreciated, thanks.

        Now I just need to use the correct one verbally :-)

  55. It’s fun to read graphic infographs.

  56. Worst word ever is irregardless :)

  57. Good one, Brian – all my pet peeves! Well, most of them. When people say “irregardless” it also makes me want to bang my head against a post. Love the dangling participle – could be a blog post title: “Would You Take Fruit from a Zombie?”

  58. Good stuff! But because we’ve become a nation of thumbing smartphoners, these problems will only get worse, and it’s hilarious. My favorites are the erroneous headlines you see on newspaper websites every day. Can you say, “nice cheap intern staff”?

    I wonder if anyone who actually should implement the ideas above will read this, or will it only be us grammar and spelling geeks, for whom this stuff is obvious. To actually implement those concepts would require at least a little analytical ability.

    • You have a point, Dave. I sometimes feel that way, too. I was reassured when I personally experimented with my own students (many of whom are inept in the “analytical ability” you describe).

      It seems that if these folks are surrounded by examples of others using words correctly, (either print or spoken words) they absorb it by osmosis and begin using the correct grammar automatically.

      The same thing happens when incorrect grammar (including spelling) is consistently used around them; they absorb that and it becomes automatic for them. That’s why so many people are completely oblivious to the fact that they ARE using words incorrectly as they speak/write.

      And that’s why it’s so important for those of us in the know to set good examples for those who don’t know.

      Societies crumble for want of good examples …..

  59. I think you could’ve made them sixteen by adding “were/where.”

    This is also confusing to most people.

  60. “irregardless” irks me. Use irrespective instead.

  61. I love this infographic and plan on sending it out to the students in my tutorials. My biggest gripe is people who use the word “literally” in conversation.
    “I literally had to use the bathroom at that point.”
    I’m sorry, can you metaphorically have to use the bathroom?
    Thanks again for the post!

    • I literally have never looked at it that way. Yeah, i had to, but good point. I have a peeve about water heaters. People continue to call them hot water heaters– why?

      • Sunny LeSeur :

        I’m with you there, John! A similar phrase is water hydrant . Can you have a hydrant that pumps something besides water? The phrase the fire department uses is fire hydrant.

        This redundancy can make reading laborious instead of fun. Some more that immediately come to mind are:

        … free gift, true fact, collaborate together, merge together, unexpected surprise, revert back, retreat back, tired cliche, end result, invited guests, resulting effect, tuna fish, advance warning, past history, preplan …

        … and, of course, the doubled acronyms:

        please RSVP, automatic ATM Machine, LCD display, DOS operating system, HIV virus, CAD design, RAM memory, AC current, DC current, ACT test …

        I know there are lots more; these are just the ones popping up for me at the moment … ;-)

  62. I’m not going to lie. This article pissed him off. http://images.wikia.com/starwars/images/2/2b/Yoda1.jpg

  63. Very humorous and also useful! I’m going to stick a copy on my wall and a copy in my English classroom at school :)

  64. Beautifully illustrated. I especially enjoyed the dangling participle example.

  65. Grate article what I luved vary much.

    Re: ‘Myself’- What is the term for using, “I thought to myself?” Is it possible to have thought to someone else? Should it be, “I’m being a nit-picker,” I thought to myself, or simply, ‘”I’m being a nit-picker,” I thought.’ ???
    And the only reason I’ve put three question marks is because I didn’t know how to correctly employ inverted commas, double quotes, speech marks, a full stop and a question mark together to complete the sentence in a grammatically correct manner.

    Another great article though. Thanks.

  66. Great post. I just shared this on my blog, twitter and facebook. So many of the mistakes in this infographic run rampant in social media and blogs. Text messaging and web grammar are ruining languages in my opinion. Thanks!

  67. Interesting graphic. But there are also times when using the correct word gives others the impression the speaker is in error. Example: forte is correctly pronounced “fort,” not “fort-A.”. But who winds up looking like the moron?

    • ahighlandmom :

      Using the correct spelling may help people pronounce ‘forté’ correctly.

      • Sunny LeSeur :

        Touché ! ;-)

      • ‘Forté’ is, alas, not the correct spelling of the English word. “It’s not my forte.”

        Even the magnificently persnickety Paul Brians thinks we have to give up on this one, though.

        • ahighlandmom :

          Forté may be used in our language, but it isn’t English. It’s French and should be spelled with the accent mark.

          • The French is “ce n’est pas mon fort.” There is no e and no accent.

            Feel free to look it up if you don’t believe me. :)

          • There can an “e” with forte if it’s used to describe a feminine noun. Lack of gender distinction with nouns makes English easier. You’re right about no accent. I wonder how that word evolved.

          • Sunny LeSeur :

            I’d like to humbly chime in oh the history of this word.

            Sonia, you are correct that the original French word was fort (meaning strongest point as in the blade of a sword). However, in the 18th century, the Italian composers began using this term to mean loud (play this part “strongly”). They originally spelled it with the Italian spelling of forte (without the accent).

            At the time, France and italy were in heated competition not only with the arts and composers, but with each’s contributions to civilization in general. When the Italians adapted “their” (the French’s) term into music terminology, the French immediately and indignantly responded by adding the accent over the e to “brand” the music term as French.

            Upon Ben Franklin’s and Thomas Jefferson’s return from Paris (and upon Lafayette’s introduction of some French culture to the colonies), the French version of the music term (forté) was established firmly in the colonies. Then, as time marched on, the term forté (spelled this way) began to stretch its meaning from musical volume into how the French originally used it in the phrase you quoted (meaning one’s point of excellence or strong point) — but with the “New World” spelling.

            Yes, fort is the spelling in the French phrase but forté is the spelling in the imported phrase.

            Even now in French schools, they proudly proclaim that they “got one over’” on the Italians by exporting the Italian term with the “touch of the French”.

            That’s why I responded earlier with the word “Touché”. My response was a pun on the whole history.

            I trust I”m not out of line by sharing this bit of language history …. ;-)

          • Sunny LeSeur :

            I’d like to humbly chime in oh the history of this word.

            Sonia, you are correct that the original French word was fort (meaning strongest point as in the blade of a sword). However, in the 18th century, the Italian composers began using this term to mean loud (play this part “strongly”). They originally spelled it with the Italian spelling of forte (without the accent).

            At the time, France and italy were in heated competition not only with the arts and composers, but with each’s contributions to civilization in general. When the Italians adapted “their” (the French’s) term into music terminology, the French immediately and indignantly responded by adding the accent over the e to “brand” the music term as French.

            Upon Ben Franklin’s and Thomas Jefferson’s return from Paris (and upon Lafayette’s introduction of some French culture to the colonies), the French version of the music term (forté) was established firmly in the colonies. Then, as time marched on, the term forté (spelled this way) began to stretch its meaning from musical volume into how the French originally used it in the phrase you quoted (meaning one’s point of excellence or strong point) — but with the “New World” spelling.

            Yes, fort is the spelling in the French phrase but forté is the spelling in the imported phrase.

            Even now in French schools, they proudly proclaim that they “got one over’” on the Italians by exporting the Italian term with the “touch of the French”.

            That’s why I responded earlier with the word “Touché”. My response was a pun on the whole history.

            I trust I’m not out of line by sharing this bit of language history …. ;-)

          • Sunny LeSeur :

            Oops! Can someone delete the first entry of my response on the moderator end? I’m not sure how that happened.

    • Good point! And there are legions of people who can’t pronounce “et cetera”, “nuclear”, etc. ;-)

      My mother the French teacher takes this to an extreme related to your thought – she insists on pronouncing every French item on a menu with correct French (circa 1960). All very nice, but waitresses can’t understand her. It’s the idealist vs. the pragmatist.

      For what you’re describing, I like to actually take it and run with it even further, pronouncing something even worse than a slight mistake. I like to mess with people by making them think I can’t pronounce things. Then I lower the boom on them later. For instance, I almost never pronounce the word “gazebo” correctly. Mispronunciation is fun. And if they think I’m stupid, that’s fine, I know that I could crush them in a contest.

  68. Awesome infographic Brian!

    And perfect topic too, I hope to see a lot of more infographics on copyblogger and on writing in general. I learn visually, and I think that infographics are a beautiful way for us right-brained creatives to learn.

    and I noticed you added the Pinterest button.

    I can’t wait to see more, I love it!

  69. Are we pissing in the wind here? Those of us who care about writing endeavor to write right (properly). Those who don’t, scan/read internet copy written for scanners: 2-3 short sentences per paragraph and many short paragraphs in 500-700 words. Care to read some of the stuff on EzineArticles that passes for suitable content by “platinum authors? Or how about papers written by some of the “mature” students in my graduate classes that are handed in as “good”?

    Nevertheless, I do appreciate Clark’s effort at staying loyal to our old grammar and writing teachers in 8th grade.

  70. I like how the infographics works Robert and Sonia in for “Fewer / Less.”

    Pink hair is a lot of fun!

  71. I think I love you… :) I wrote a post dedicated to the sexiness of the apostrophe. Other than the sexy part, you boiled that baby down to two sentences. Isn’t that one of the first rules of writing? Be clear, be concise. Big gold star for you!

  72. A great example of a writers staple. I especially like the inclusion of 14. and 15. as these drive me crazy. Most people use “literally” incorrectly and it demeans an otherwise great word.

  73. Nice infographic. I suspect a lot of people who need it will look right passed it though.

    • ahighlandmom :

      *past ;) I’m not sure whether you made this mistake on purpose or not! Should there be a comma between ‘it’ and ‘though?’ I’m not sure about that one!

    • Er, did you mean “past”, by chance? :-)

  74. I can’t see this image for some reason.

  75. trainphreak :

    Caveat with effect: It can also be a verb that means “to bring about.” For example: “US presidential candidates often claim that they will effect change in the country. Unfortunately, the winner usually does not affect things in a good way.”

  76. Sunny LeSeur :

    Great commentary! I find it especially annoying when news readers, journalists, teachers, principals, etc. habitually misuse words. This teaches the misuse as “correct” to those listening who don’t know (children or new residents, for example).

    Some of my word/communication pet peeves:
    passed/past
    walla instead of voila
    new prospective instead of new perspective
    fertography instead of photograhy
    fermiliar instead of familiar (Would they say they have 2 children in their fermily?)
    that instead of who when referring to a person (“the people that” should be “the people who”)
    I think I’ll leave my short list there or I could go on all afternoon (smile).

    Another biggie:
    You’ve got/we’ve got (“Got” shouldn’t even be in this phrase. It should be you have/we have (and, in the correct combination with the verb “got”, the correct choice would be “gotten”; but, again, “got” shouldn’t even be in there at all.)

    Someone above mentioned “sneak peek”; however another misuse of the word peek is “peek my interest” (when it should be pique my interest).

    Another really pervasive and insidious misuse is combinations of words used with the words “reason” and “because”. It’s always the reason “that”, not the reason “why” (which is like saying the reason reason). It’s even worse when you say “the reason why is because” which is like saying “the reason reason reason” (kind of like ATM machine). The correct usage is “the reason is that” with no “because”.

    If you want to use the word “because” correctly, someone can ask you (literally) why and you say “It’s because …”.

    If one reads a lot of edifying material (from whichever medium), one will read the spelling, proper usage, and correct phrasing of the various words in use. It’s a commentary upon the state of readership in general.

    I think what gets me most huffle-puffled is the lack of conscientiousness within people themselves in assuring that their own word choices are the best they can be.

    • “Fertography.” Are they perhaps in the ultrasound business?

      • Sunny LeSeur :

        Apologies … phertography is usually how it is printed (the “fertography” version is how it is spoken). Also, I noticed a typo in my original post (I left out the second “p” in photography”) but I can’t get in there to correct it.

        By the way, FBueller, I really enjoyed your memory “tool” for the word “compliment”. I hadn’t heard that one before. Thanks!!

    • Hmmm… I would have said, either:
      “He didn’t come, the reason is that he was sick”
      “He didn’t come because he was sick/it’sbecause he was sick”
      “He was sick, that’s the reason why he didn’t come”

      Maybe I’m the one who is wrong but I hear and read the phrase “the reason why” all the time – but of course not “the reason is why” ;-)

    • Sunny, the use of “got” in such expressions as “You’ve got to be kidding” is perfectly acceptable idiomatic English. It adds emphasis where emphasis is desired.

      • Don, just because it’s considered “acceptable” doesn’t mean it’s desirable or correct. The word “ain’t” is considered perfectly acceptable. So is “I have to axe her” and “I seen them yesterday. I knew I had saw them before” in the southern US (even the teachers and broadcasters use these terms).

        Stating “You have to be kidding!!!” or even “You HAVE to be kidding!!!” gives just as much emphasis where emphasis is desired while maintaining correct grammar.

        [By the way, weren't you just now being snicketty-picketty about Brian's use of the word "grammar"?]]

        Supportively ….

        • Sunny, whether the use of “got” is this way is “desirable” is a question of style. Apart from that, it is altogether acceptable–and correct–as an idiom, in contrast to the use of “ain’t,” which has always been nonstandard.

          As Grammar Girl (among others) points out:

          >>> The phrases “has got” and “have got” are somewhat informal and are often contracted, as in “He’s got” and “They’ve got.” Although this expression has long been criticized as an unnecessary substitution for the verb “to have,” it is perfectly idiomatic. It simply adds emphasis (1). In American English, “have got” is an intensive form of “have” (2). For example, if I say, “I’ve got a really big TV,” I’m placing more emphasis on my possession of the TV than if I say, “I have a really big TV.” If you say you haven’t got any money, you’re stressing the fact that you’re broke. Note that you can use “has got” or “have got” only in the present tense. If you want to talk in the past tense about your enormous TV, you would say, “I had a really big TV.” You would probably use expressive intonation to add emphasis.

  77. Your partnership with Blueglass is a match made in heaven. Thanks for shaking up some of my neurons’ grammatical errors. I needed that.

  78. This was a great post! I think we all might have our times of fumbling grammatically. I agree that when writing takes on a more conversational tone the rules are loosened up a bit to comply with the atmosphere. But for sure, just like with spelling errors, some grammatical errors just don’t show the best of us. I agree with the ones you listed! I think it’s especially important for us bloggers to keep in mind our grammar. When we let our grammar/spelling slip too much it tends to take some of our credibility away….at least that’s the way I view it!

  79. Sunny LeSeur :

    Okay, I couldn’t help myself …

    I was just now reading a well-respected popular authority blog which, in today’s post alone, contained “unexpectantly” (for “unexpectedly”), “these ones on the right and those ones down below” (leave out both “ones”), and “my business partner and me, we ____”, (change the “me” to “I” and leave out the “we”).

    In addition, there was one sentence in which “also”, “too”, and “as well’ were all included. I think we got the idea at “also”.

    Just had to add that. Now, on to reading more blogs ….

  80. Great article! This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I understand we all slip up from time to time and we can’t all afford a dedicated copywriter, but there are a lot of serial offenders out there. That’s just bad for business!

  81. I love this infographic and will be including it in a blog post. Grammar is something that is still a work in progress for many…to the chagrin of many more. Thanks for putting this together!

  82. Love it! But I’d like to point out that “affect”as used above is a verb, not an adverb.

  83. LOL love the dangling participle example!!!! Time to check on the vegetable in the cellar.

  84. Affect and effect are both verbs and nouns, but only effect is common as a noun, usually meaning ‘a result, consequence, impression, etc.’: my father’s warnings had no effect on my adventurousness. The noun affect is restricted almost entirely to psychology

  85. Superb!!

  86. Do you ever intentionally make a grammatical error? I’m sometimes concerned that someone will think I’m just showing off when I use correct grammar rather than colloquial speech. Ending a sentence with a preposition is the best example. I would prefer to write, “There are many things on which you could speak,” rather than, “There are many things which you could speak on,” which sounds more natural. I have been told that ending a sentence on a preposition is considered acceptable now. On another subject, how about the distinction between “that” and “which”?

    • Sunny LeSeur :

      I know what you mean but in most cases, you can rephrase the thought to sound even better than your original sentence. To use your example, you could say, “You can speak about many things” or “You can speak about various topics” or ” You can speak about anything you like”, etc. (One speaks “about” topics and “on” a stage; one doesn’t speak “on” a topic.)

      All of the above rephrasings sound better than the original and convey the same meaning — without the dangling preposition problem. When you’re writing your blog copy, you do have the time to consider these things and, after a while, it will become automatic in your speaking patterns, as well.

    • Gary, we do often choose a more conversational wording that’s not strictly correct. Content that reads like it was written by your English teacher is often ineffective content. (Unless your customers are English teachers, of course.)

      • Sunny LeSeur :

        Sonia, if one rephrases the sentence in such a way that there is no preposition at the end (I mentioned an example above), then the statement can sound conversational / casual and still be grammatically correct.

        Getting in the habit of rephrasing when you notice there’s a preposition at the end is a lifestyle choice. Your writing will be far clearer, sound more professional, and, as you choose to make it a writing habit, it will spill over into your conversational style. You will automatically choose the words that convey your meaning without a dangling preposition.

        Even Churchill’s defiant statement parodying the subject — “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put” — can easily be rephrased as “This is the sort of bloody nonsense that I will not tolerate”. That sounds better than ” … which I will not put up with”, anyway.

        I heartily disagree with your statement that writing correctly can be ineffective (or is only effective with an English teacher).

        It’s all a matter of choosing to be mindful of oneself. Remember, you can rephrase the sentence to be casually chatty and grammatically correct simultaneously, so why not? When you do, everyone benefits. ;-)

        • The idea that you should not end a sentence with a preposition is a not a “rule” of composition. It’s a matter of style. Among other arbitrary claims (like the bogus assertion that you should not split an infinitive), it was first propounded in 1762 by the clergyman and amateur grammarian, Robert Lowth, in his “A Short Introduction to English Grammar,” a book whose unwarranted influences have led to all kinds of needless clumsiness in student writing. It’s a myth, yet owing to the indoctrinating attitudes of too many poorly informed grade school teachers, it endures. There are many occasions in composition when placing the preposition at the end of the sentence will help the writer avoid wordiness, awkwardness, and archness in tone, for example, “He resorted to the spewing the wrathful insults he’s known for” or “Do you know where that came from?”

          In his excellent resource, MODERN AMERICAN USAGE (Oxford University), usage expert Bryan A. Garner calls it a “superstition”: “The spurious rule about not ending sentences with prepositions is a remnant of Latin grammar, in which a preposition was the one word that a writer could not end a sentence with. But Latin grammar should never straitjacket English grammar. If the superstition is a ‘rule’ at all, it is a rule of rhetoric and not of grammar, the idea being to end sentences with strong words that drive a point home. That principle is sound, of course, but not to the extent of meriting lockstep adherence or flouting established idiom.”

          • Don, I agree with you that choosing not to end a sentence with a preposition is a matter of style and not a rule of composition. However, it is an indication that there is a better way to phrase the thought so that an end-sentence preposition isn’t necessary.

            Your two examples can be rephrased to be clearer and more concise:

            “He resorted to the spewing the wrathful insults he’s known for”
            into
            “He resorted to spewing his infamous wrathful insults.”
            or
            “He resorted to spewing his notorious wrathful insults.”

            “Do you know where that came from?”
            into
            “Do you know the source of ____?”
            (To be even clearer if required: “Do you know the room/city/country that is the source of ____?”)
            or
            “Do you know the origin of ____?”

            Stephen King said, “If you find that you’re ending a sentence in a preposition, go back and tighten it a bit. The sentence is still too loose.”

            Mark Twain said, “Prepositions prior to a period in a sentence points to sloth in thinking.”

            We’re not speaking of rules or laws or who said what is supposed to be and what can be allowed. We’re speaking of elegance of thought with resulting clarity and brevity in the communication of that thought.

            Regardless of any rules or allowances from anyone — historically or contemporarily — written communication can be laser-clear with the introduction of a few rephrasings here and there. Thus, fewer misunderstandings and more harmony all around.

            That’s all I was saying.

  87. I find the easiest way to distinguish complement/compliment is that compliment’s “li” very nearly spells “lie.” We all know compliments don’t always have their basis in truth. See “Re: Does this make my butt look big?”

  88. This is stuff you learn in the first year of learning English. It surprises me that native speakers have so many problems with these super simple grammar principles.

  89. Both “affect” and “effect” could be used as nouns or verbs.

    It’s a bit of a “goof” to make an infographic like this and then be incorrect, no?

  90. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Aren’t there a couple of errors in the second intro paragraph?
    “…making some grammatical errors just makes you look bad, and hurts your effectiveness.”
    I believe errors MAKE one look bad and HURT one’s effectiveness.
    This type of error makes it into the media way too much.

    • Sunny LeSeur :

      Actually, the way it was written in the graphic is technically correct because “makes you look bad” is the verb phrase following the subject phrase “making some grammatical errors” (that entire “making … ” phrase is considered a noun, the subject).

      However, it’s in bad form to use a version of the word “make” twice in the same sentence (separated by just 5 words). It might have read better to say “Some grammatical errors just make you look bad” (In which case, the simple verb “make” follows the subject phrase “some grammatical errors” (the simple subject is “errors”).

      In other words, leaving out the word “Making” altogether would have been better.

  91. Thanks for sharing the html. I posted it on my school website and my personal website. I love Grammar!

  92. Oh, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who literally cringes when I see these kinds of mistakes. Especially if I find I made the mistake (oh the knots in my stomach!) Recently, I’ve been searching the internet for a VA to hire and it is truly DISTURBING how many of them (and it’s not just VAs of course) have huge spelling, grammar and punctuation errors on their home pages, their blogs, etc. How does a perfectionist hire an assistant? Love this graphic! Thanks for letting us share it :)

  93. How do I connect with Blue Grass?

  94. Good one! And let’s not even get into the differences between American and British English….

    Cathy

  95. ahighlandmom :

    I’m always correcting my young adults for using ‘like’ as a synonym for ‘about.’ An example is, “It’s like five miles.”

    Stationary/stationery is also incorrectly used quite often. The way I was taught to remember is that ‘correspondence’ is spelled with ‘e.’ Therefore, stationery is used for correspondence. :)

    Will someone please tell me if it’s correct to use an apostrophe in this case: There are two c’s in broccoli. Also, are ‘c’s’ and ‘broccoli’ supposed to be in apostrophes as well?

    • Sunny LeSeur :

      ahighlandmom, as #8 in the graphic indicates, there are only 2 uses of an apostrophe: to indicate a word contraction or to indicate possession. In your example above, there is neither a contraction nor possession so an apostrophe is not used.

      As Isobel_A said in her comment above, apostrophes are frequently misused to connote plural. (Incorrect usage includes CD’s, 1920′s, etc. which should be CDs and 1920s because they are both plurals.)

      Another all too common mistake is using apostrophes instead of quotation marks. I see this all the time and I asked several people about it. Their response? It’s easier to hit the apostrophe key than the shift key and the quotation mark key. However, due to this prevalent misuse, some people now don’t know they’re supposed to use quotation marks and blogs are now filled with this mistake.

      So, the short answer to your question is:
      Correct Usage: There are two “c”s in “broccoli”.

      • ahighlandmom :

        Thank you, Sunny! Your explanations are perfect. :)

      • In fact, a rare–but altogether correct–use of the apostrophe to form a plural is in the pluralization of lower case letters, as in “Mind your p’s and q’s.” And in “There are two c’s in broccoli.”

        • Also, in the US, commas and periods always go inside quotation marks, not outside. This convention is consistently followed in academia and throughout the publishing industry.

          • Re:

            “Also, in the US, commas and periods always go inside quotation marks, not outside. This convention is consistently followed in academia and throughout the publishing industry.”

            Yes, this is so. However, the reason that the US is the only country in the world to do this is that there was a typo in the 1830s that started it (to save money so that the thousands of pamphlets containing the error didn’t have to be reprinted). Since this printing was authored by none other than Samuel Webster, it was adopted as gospel. Thereafter, Webster attempted to correct his own mistake but was overwhelmed by the large-scale adoption of this error.

            Ever since, this error has been considered correct in the US. To this day, it remains a badge of “Americanism”.

            Did you ever wonder why all the rest of the world so adamantly continues to place the quotation marks within the period (where it would logically go)?

            Answer: That’s the genuinely correct place for the quotation marks to be, Americanism or not.

          • Whatever its history or logic, it steadfastly remains the convention here in the US. For any student and for anyone who writes for publication here, that’s a good thing to know.

            The following explanation comes from the “Frequently Asked Questions” file of alt.english.usage: “In the days when printing used raised bits of metal, “.” and “,” were the most delicate, and were in danger of damage (the face of the piece of type might break off from the body, or be bent or dented from above) if they had a ‘”‘ on one side and a blank space on the other. Hence the convention arose of always using ‘.”‘ and ‘,”‘ rather than ‘”.’ and ‘”,’, regardless of logic.” This seems to be an argument to return to something more logical, but there is little impetus to do so within the United States.

          • The explanation I’ve always heard for placing punctuation inside the quotes (in the US) is that it is done entirely for appearance. Placing them inside puts them against the letters and doesn’t leave them hanging out by themselves. This sounds to me like the most reasonable explanation (I don’t buy the Webster story at all).

            Following strict logic would have them outside the quote, which is why it probably became the standard elsewhere, but this looks ugly to some.

          • Greg, I think you’re right–the Samuel Webster story is most likely apocryphal. Any explanation I’ve seen for the origin of this AmE prectice accords with the alt.english.usage one, above. That is, it’s a compositor’s imposition intended to protect the bits of punctuation from being knocked off a lead slug. As writing guru Tina Blue says, confirming the alt-english explanation, “When type was handset, a period or comma outside of quotation marks at the end of a sentence tended to get knocked out of position, so the printers tucked the little devils inside the quotation marks to keep them safe and out of trouble.”

        • Re:

          “In fact, a rare–but altogether correct–use of the apostrophe to form a plural is in the pluralization of lower case letters, as in “Mind your p’s and q’s.” And in “There are two c’s in broccoli.”

          Not correct, Don. Sorry!!

          Please refer to my post dated Mar. 7 for the correct spelling/punctuation of plural alphabet usage within sentences.

          • The trend is indeed toward eliminating the pluralizing apostrophe in these (and other) instances. Nonetheless, exceptions do endure–and for good reason. The MLA, for example, continues to recommend the apostrophe for capital letters to avoid confusion, because “Is” and “As” are words. Also, when words mentioned as words are placed in quotation marks, as Diana Hacker confirms in THE BEDFORD HANDBOOK, the apostrophe is still recommended, as in: No more “maybe’s.” You are welcome to disapprove, Sunny, but in fact grammarians and linguists continue to support the use of the pluralizing apostrophe in those limited instances I have already mentioned, such as pluralizing lower case letters.

          • Don, I wasn’t basing my statements on particular (and very often — as a matter of fact, more often than not — in error themselves) rules, handbooks, best practices, etc. I was basing my statements on forms that best express clarity of communication.

            As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

          • THE BEDFORD HANDBOOK, now in its 8th edition, is the standard text used in college writing classes throughout the country. It is only one good, current authority on such matters, but it does reliably establish those exceptions to the proscription against the pluralizing apostrophe.

    • Nukalpiaq Shields :

      Thanks for the answer on the two “c”s in Broccoli” question”. I too was having problems with it..

  96. Except that “effect” can be a verb and “affect” can be a noun, when used properly.

  97. Excellent. Pinned and soon to be reposted! Thanks!

  98. I was all set to love this, then in the very first box, it says that “your” is a possessive pronoun. It is not. “Your” is a possessive ADJECTIVE – it must modify a noun; it cannot replace a noun. Pronouns replace nouns. This error is repeated in the next section in which “its” is also incorrectly identified as a possessive pronoun. The English possessive adjectives are my, your, his, her, its, our, their, and whose. The English possessive pronouns are mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs, and whose.

    Example of possessive adjective: This is my car. (‘my’ must be followed by a noun; it is an adjective)

    Example of possessive pronoun: This is my car, not YOURS. (‘yours’ is a pronoun; it can stand alone)

    This would be great for teachers if it weren’t for that mistake.

    • ahighlandmom :

      Katie, Thank you for your clear explanation.

    • Sorry, Katie, but the mistake here is yours. “Your” and “its” and “my” and so on are indeed possessive pronouns. A possessive pronoun may modify a noun. This is basic grammar–check a good grammar text or just Google the term for confirmation.

  99. dominick Palmisano :

    Great refresher course on many common mistakes, and very helpful reminder, especially when you mix up the english language with slang. Well done, and appreciated. Ciao, Tioamio-PB

  100. Ellen Smyth :

    This is a great infographic, but as others have stated, nothing is as simple as an infographic would make it seem. I slightly disagree with the fewer/less definition. By that definition, I would have “fewer money” than someone else because I can count money. A more precise definition would be that we use “fewer” if and only if the amount of the item is always a countable number (positive integer).

  101. Nope. APostrophes can be used to show plural possessive and singular possessive when the word ends in s.

    Also, there are both single and double quotation marks. While your lazy friends are still probably wrong, it is also wrong to say you never use the mark you call an apostrophe in that way. When in pairs, there is a correct usage that is more like standard quotation mark usage.

    • Sunny LeSeur :

      Mrs M, I have already mentioned that apostrophes can be used to show possession — that includes singular or plural possessive. My comment was about using apostrophes to indicate the condition of plurality as its only function (used incorrectly to only show plural as in box’s mentioned by another poster and CD’s or 1920′s which are expressly used in the examples).

      As for apostrophes being used inside quotation marks where quotation marks would normally be used, those are called singular quotation marks, not apostrophes. I nor the graphic above is referring to singular quotation marks; we are both referring to apostrophes. Also, in the rampant number of places I’ve seen apostrophes used instead of quotation marks, there are no outer quotation marks that the “apostrophe” would be within. These writers are using the apostrophe instead of a normal / double quotation mark.

      I trust this clarifies my statement …

      By the way, I wasn’t referring to my “friends” who didn’t want to type the quotation mark, I was referring to other posters on blogs such as we have here in this community. I would consider you such a member of the posting community; one who asks questions and responds to others’ questions. I also wouldn’t call them lazy. I would call them unmotivated / disinclined toward that particular activity.

      I’m simply sharing my insights to support others in an energy of camaraderie and goodwill. I include you in my supportive goodwill.

  102. Beautifully designed – but there is a difference between spelling and grammar…

    • Sunny LeSeur :

      Yes, technically, but Brian already addressed this earlier. The list in the graphic is in the spirit of crystal clear communication unmangled by grammar and/or spelling boo-boos. It’s in the spirit of the more expansive picture of grammar / linguistics that this list is compiled to assist with the communication glitches that we all experience.

      If your professional copy (blog, website, resume, whatever) isn’t communicating clearly what you intended to impart, no one benefits. You don’t connect with your intended audience and zip goes your opportunity.

      The more expansive definition of grammar in this case can only benefit everyone. ;-)

  103. Great list – I’d love to see a sequel. I see this a lot: People that are hungry, instead of people who are hungry.

  104. very informative, thank you – I still find myself making little mistakes all the time and have found a great little WordPress plugin that checks my grammar and spelling for me before allowing me to make a post. It’s just that extra bit of insurance that I need to avoid silly mistakes! http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/after-the-deadline/

    Best Jess

  105. LibrarianLisaN :

    Thanks for posting this (and for making the embed code available)! I’m a school librarian and I’m putting it on our library website next week.

  106. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Some of my colleagues think I’m too anal retentive when it comes to grammar but my take on it is that if you are sending an informal email among colleagues the rules of grammar can be relaxed. However, when my team has to send a notice to the entire company they better check the notification for mistakes and make sure that it sounds intelligent.

    Additionally, I see many resumes that come across my desk with mistakes. As a hiring manager that’s a huge turn-off.

  107. Sunny LeSeur :

    One that really gnaws at my nerve endings is “sound bite”. It’s always supposed to be “sound byte” derived from the size of a digital sound file (so many bytes — as in megabytes). I see this in print from journalists who are educated in the origin of the term and they still persist in using “bite” instead of “byte”.

    • ahighlandmom :

      Really?!? I thought that term was in use long before computers were even invented or information was even stored in bytes.

      • Sunny LeSeur :

        In the early 20th century when radio reigned supreme, a common term was “audio clip”. Then came “video clip” (the idea of “clip” was small digestible bits of info — as in ad copy).

        In the mid-1950s when computing terms were being invented, the term “byte” originated to indicate a group of digital bits. The combination of “audio / sound clip” representing bits of information and “bytes” of digital information was incorrectly printed as “sound bites” in some circles. Alas, the error was not corrected quickly enough.

        This propagated in the general public and today many people don’t have a clue that the correct way to spell it is sound “byte”.

        Hope this helps explain it …

    • Again, let’s keep in mind that in the US periods and commas always go INSIDE quotation marks, not outside. This convention is well established in publishing and in academia.

      • Again, let’s keep in mind that the reason that the US has this ingrained (bad) habit that has become institutionalized is that the originating error wasn’t caught quickly enough. It became a ritual passed down from teacher to student through the generations.

        In schools in any other country in the world, your paper would be marked “incorrect” if adopted this convention and your grades would suffer the consequences. This is because they didn’t have a patriotic hero who begat the original error.

        Yes, to pass your exams and get good marks in US schools, you must perpetuate this error. Alas, the world isn’t perfect.

  108. ahighlandmom :

    Just found this:
    A “sound bite” is a brief snippet of recorded speech, usually used in the context of news reporting. The term originated around 1980, long before the recording of such snippets on personal computers was common; so those who argue that the correct spelling is “sound byte” are mistaken.

    • Sunny LeSeur :

      This is one of those incorrect definitions being propagated in the media. That’s the reason journalists use it; they refer to sources of info they presume are correct when they are, in fact, incorrect. (or simply copy what everyone else is using).

      How do I know? I was “on the scene” in the late 1950s when the debacle occurred.

      • ahighlandmom :

        If you have documented proof, that would be fascinating! Please share it! Otherwise, it’s your word against all of the published definitions, unfortunately.

        • Sunny LeSeur :

          ahighlandmom, I really don’t want to get bogged down on this because it’s slightly off-topic. My father was a journalist and bemoaned every night this misuse of the term that was beginning to mushroom then (the late 1950s). I have personal papers dating from that time that is the correspondence between the computer scientists of the day at IBM and him attempting to repair the damage that was being done to the original phrase (what would be called today a mistake going viral). Given that you can’t view all those papers …

          Here’s an entry from the online dictionary:
          byte – /bi:t/ (B) A component in the machine data hierarchy larger than a bit and usually smaller than a word; now nearly always eight bits and the smallest addressable unit of storage. A byte typically holds one character.
          A byte may be 9 bits on 36-bit computers. Some older architectures used “byte” for quantities of 6 or 7 bits, and the PDP-10 and IBM 7030 supported “bytes” that were actually bit-fields of 1 to 36 (or 64) bits! These usages are now obsolete, and even 9-bit bytes have become rare in the general trend toward power-of-2 word sizes.
          The term was coined by Werner Buchholz in 1956 during the early design phase for the IBM Stretch computer.

          As I said, I don’t want to belabor this point. In closing, consider this:

          The terms “we’ve got”, “you’ve got”, “he’s got”, “she’s got”, “they’ve got”, “it’s got”, etc. are used profusely in the films of the 1940s and they’re prevalent today. That doesn’t make those phrases correct and to be taught to each succeeding generation.

          Also, remember what Simone says above about being misled by one of her teachers regarding the words “reign” / “rein”. The ones professing to know and who are in charge of the educational system’s content (including internet content) aren’t necessarily reflecting the authentic meaning / use of the word(s); they may simply be repeating what they were officially taught as “gospel”.

          I’ve spent my entire life researching words — from cuneiform to the current occasional jabberwocky. As Simone so aptly put it, I “twitch” when I hear them banged up a bit. It’s a lifelong love affair I’ve had with language, you might say.

          My intention is to be supportive and offer clarity. I trust you’ll receive my response in that light.

          • ahighlandmom :

            No problem, Sunny! Thank you for the great info!

          • Greg Hartwig :

            I don’t mean to belabor, but “sound byte” may have been the original use by someone but it makes little sense to me. Did it refer to a byte that marked sound content or the content itself? I’m well antiquated with the definition of a byte (I used to work at IBM also) and everything you said about it is correct, but a single byte can hold such a small amount of audio that that usage doesn’t make sense to me unless you use “sound bytes.” Maybe someone heard the phrase and thought it sounded like a good way to describe a sound clip, despite the original intent.

            Anyway, just some thoughts. These things fascinate me also. Sorry if I took this off-course.

          • Greg, the original 1950s term “sound byte” refers to bytes containing sound bits. It’s an extension of the term “audio clip” which was commonly used in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. In essence, it referred to the same thing as an “audio clip” except that then (in the 1950s) it included digital bits instead of just radio signals.

            In the industrial world (the military and large corporations), the term “sound byte” was always used until the mass media began botching it. Because of the public’s unawareness of the original term, the widespread dissemination of the incorrect term by the media was placed in “reference” documents and considered by the uninformed as “gospel”.

            I guess the reason this one makes me twitch is that the angst of the media’s mistake is a personal memory; my father always felt as if he let history down by not acting quickly enough.

          • Greg Hartwig :

            Interesting. The general public wasn’t exposed to the word “byte” much until the 70s or later (The Byte Shop store, for one thing), so it’s understandable there was confusion.

            I also found your explanation of “forte” fascinating. Thanks!

          • The official term “sound bytes” was in use decades before the popular reference materials now say the term originated (incorrectly, I might add). It was in general use, for example, in studios with the production teams / mixmasters of record albums in the 1950s and 1960s.

            Granted, the general public wouldn’t be aware of most of the other terms those folks use, either. The newsrooms decided they wanted to be “loose” with the term and that’s when my father’s heartbreak started. That began in the late 1950s and pretty much swept the world until the late 1960s. In the 1970s, the “Byte Shop” was referencing a term that had been in wide use by the people in the audio / sound industry for at least a couple of decades.

            As for the word “forté”, it wasn’t “my” explanation; I was simply sharing the documented history of the word. Language history is, after all, my forté. ;-)

            It’s truly my honor to be of service in some small way.

          • Greg Hartwig :

            But the Byte Shop was a computer store, so I believe the title was based on the computer term “byte” rather than “sound byte.” Unless you’re saying the computer term came from the audio term.

          • Sunny LeSeur :

            As I described in my earlier post, the term “sound byte” is a fusion of the computer word “byte” and the concept contained within “audio clip”.

            You see, that’s where this term gets so tangled. The word “byte” is a computer word; the term “sound bytes” refers to audio data (just ask a sound engineer from the recording studios of the 1960s). Even though the term is based on a 1950s computer-sourced word, the meaning of the term “sound byte” has always been audio data.

            [Please refer to my previous post for the historical timeline of how this term evolved.]

            However, because the word “byte” originated within the computer world in the 1950s, it became synonymous in the public’s mind with computers (thus, the name of the “Byte Shop” in the 1970s and later such references). That’s all well and good except, because of that, the 1950s audio derivation of the term “sound byte” gets obscured.

            The “authorities” who write the reference materials don’t look deeply enough into the history of the term to know what is what before etching a proclamation into the public’s minds. Subsequently, many people unknowingly quote these uninformed references as correct and dismiss those who offer clarity.

  109. People could read this post a thousand times and still not get it right. It seems like these errors are so engrained in the minds of some people that they will just never change. SO frustrating…almost comical.

    Thanks for the post!

  110. yes, yes, yes! And also all of the strange letter formations of ‘yea’ instead of yeah or yay, ‘yeh’ instead of yay or yeah and, ‘heh’ instead of hee (hee hee) to name but a few. Call me crazy – it’s ok, you’re not the 1st – but these drive me nuts! Or even more nuts :)

  111. Wow, people really love posts about grammar. I’m also super impressed by the number of shares on Pinterest.

  112. Cory Albrecht (@Bytor) :

    Actually, “affect” and “effect” can both be be both verbs and nouns. E.g. “The new machines finally effected the transition to computerized accounting last spring” or “In response to the stimulus his affect was blunted”.

  113. Danica Marsh :

    The one that makes me want to not shop in stores and buy products: EVERY DAY is 2 words!!!!!! You only use “everyday” when using it as an adjective (Seeing “every day” spelled incorrectly is an everyday occurrence for me.)

  114. I believe your example of “it’s” is wrong because “it” refers to a noun- (This infographic has got its groove on) so I argue that the apostrophe denotes possession.

    • Copy Blogger Reader :

      Pamela: In your example, compare “its” to “his” and “hers.” You don’t use an apostrophe for those two words either. The infographic is correct.

  115. Copy Blogger Reader :

    This infographic is wonderful. I now link to it in my email signature (which says, “Please tell me if you see any grammar goofs in my writing.”)

    The only weakness I see in the infographic is that item 8 doesn’t directly say that apostrophes aren’t used for plural nouns. I think that needs to be said clearly and directly so that offenders know for sure that they’re committing grammar goofs.

  116. Kiley Vorreiter :

    Amen and amen. I guess this could go to 1,472 items, but I’d like to give a shout-out to the correct usage of “regarding,” “with regard to,” and “regards.”

  117. As a linguist, prescriptive grammar is a thing of the past. Most of these examples have to do with orthography more than “grammar” per se. Spelling will always be spelling, but for example in the case of “literally”, words change in meaning and grammars change over time. Each generation re-creates its language. For prescriptivists, the spoken language should write the grammar, not the other way around. In the end, oral language always wins out.

  118. Thanks and sharing!

    Jennifer

  119. Great visuals on the infographic – I’ve embedded it on my blog post about the importance of jobseekers proofreading their applications for spelling and grammar mistakes before clicking that all important send button.

    The article’s called “How one grammar mistake can cost you millions (aka the Topshop blunder)”. http://mildredtalabi.com/how-one-grammar-mistake-can-cost-you-millions-aka-the-topshop-blunder

    Thanks for sharing,

    Mildred

  120. Jim Robinson :

    Hi there;
    I just returned from a trip to Florida. While there I saw a language mistake I have not really seen anywhere else in my travels. It would appear everywhere I went in Florida; on billboards, on signs, on posters, painted on windows as advertising, in fact, everywhere. An example “Come on in and see our collection of thousands of books’. ” The word books is neither a possessive nor a contraction. Yet everywhere I went if a word ended in an s there would be an apostrophe either before or after the s. Is this specific to Florida or does it occur elsewhere?

    • Sunny LeSeur :

      It’s pretty much everywhere these days — at least from what I’ve seen (especially on blogs and web pages).

      For example, here’s an excerpt from a musician’s home page:
      “We where ask to stand in for a show because another group was snowed in. We where unheard of and this was are first big show, are show of show’s. Nervous and all we ended up stealing the show and had a nice night on CD sells. We have 9 more show’s scheduled for the next 2 week’s!”

      This is on the home page and it’s an expensive-looking design.

      I run across this all the time and I think lots of folks on here do also.

  121. Wonderful resource! Thank you!

  122. I’m afraid you left one out…? Good vs well. I heard Mickey Mouse say, “good,” when it should have been, “well,” today and it irritated me that my children are learning bad grammar from him, too!!! ARGH!! It’s rare to hear anyone use the word, “well,” correctly these days.

  123. Harry Coffill :

    You should really market posters of this. They’d be great for a classroom.

  124. Elise Harper :

    I would’ve liked to see the misuse of the word “ignorant” on this list, but otherwise it’s great. Too many people make basic errors and I do judge them harshly. Having said that, I myself often get confused with “affect” and “effect”…

  125. David Rodger :

    Three more…

    1. One wouldn’t say “She gave it to I”, so why on earth do people say things like, “She gave it to Karen and I”?
    2. Shop assistants in the US often say “I’ll be with you momentarily.” This annoys me because I usually need assistance for more than a moment.
    3. Alternate. This is a verb, not an adjective. One alternates between one thing and another (one other). Therefore, when Americans speak of an “alternate plan”, they seem to be implying that there could only be one other possible plan rather choosing one of a number of other plans. Of course, when pressed, they protest that this is not what they mean at all.

    Ashlee said “As a linguist, prescriptive grammar is a thing of the past”. I didn’t realize prescriptive grammar was a linguist too!

    The point about grammar and orthography is well taken, but surely one of the purposes of grammar is to reduce ambiguity. The form of words (noun, verb, adjective and so on) actually provide context and meaning. When you get it wrong, you’re making your audience work harder to figure out what you meant.

    • David, your first point is covered by #7 in the graphic.

      Your second point is well taken but it’s usually a given that when someone on the phone says “One moment, please” as they place you on hold, it’ll probably be more than a second before they return to you. I think the general intention of “moment” / “momentarily” in such cases is simply “very shortly”.

      I thought the same thing about the “As a linguist, prescriptive grammar …” phrase, too (Since when did grammar become a linguist?). ;-) I quietly smiled. I’ve been known to make such inadvertent boo-boos.

      You mentioned that one of the purposes of grammar is to reduce ambiguity. I’ll venture the statement that the only purpose of grammar (or any of the definitions of word structure and composition) is to reduce ambiguity. That’s the essence of clarity of communication and the reason grammar came into being.

      One thing I’ve learned in my lifelong walk with words is not to use unnecessarily complex words or jargon — especially when the reader probably doesn’t know what they mean. You’re right about words providing context and meaning for the reader. When we choose our words with care, we show respect for the reader — and for ourselves.

      If you get a headache or “brain freeze” or your eyes glaze when you read something, the writer hasn’t done his / her job as a communicator. Even Einstein wrote in easily understandable terms. This habit of his gave rise to his notorious “thought experiments” (highly informative experiments that were simple enough for a child to enjoy them).

      Now, if we could all write like that … ;-)

      • David Rodger :

        >I think the general intention of “moment” / “momentarily” in such cases is simply “very shortly”.
        Yes, of course that’s what people mean. But momentarily is an adverb: anything done momentarily is done for a moment, not after a moment. As I said, I (usually) want more than a moment of a shop assistant’s time.

        If you use an adverb but don’t intend it to be an adverb, what’s the point? You’re willfully misleading your audience.

        And don’t get me started about “going forward”, “leverage” and “my bad”!

        • Greg Hartwig :

          I would like to find the person who started the “my bad” fad and have words with him, for starters.

          • Another one that flamoozles me is the use of the word “sick” when the person means something very good. (As in, “Wow, that’s sick!” when the person means “Wow, that’s great!” or “Wow, that’s amazing!”.)

            I have to sit there for a minute and wonder if the person thinks it is a good thing or a bad thing (while missing the rest of the conversation during my pondering).

  126. Why even say “I myself.” It’s just redundant.

    • That usage of “myself” is not redundant. In fact, one of the proper and effective uses of the reflexive pronoun is as an intensifier. Check any good grammar text for confirmation.

  127. Linda Hahn Gilliland :

    I’m trying to figure out when etc. became ect. It drives me crazy to see it being used for etcetera. People, people!! That’s why it’s spelled etc.!! ARRRGH!!!!

  128. Sunny LeSeur :

    Okay, I have to add these to the list because I’m just running across them way to often …

    Who’s/Whose
    Assess/Access
    Except/Accept
    Whether/Rather
    ‘Til/Till
    Set/Sit/Sat
    Allusion/Illusion
    Allude/Elude
    By/Buy/Bye
    Sell/Sale

    I’ve also seen the plural of “avocado” with an “e” so many times that I reckon most people think it’s spelled that way (instead of the correct “avocados”).

  129. Great graphic! I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve made one or two of these errors in the past, and no doubt will probably do it again. I”ll be taping this bad boy on my wall.

    Thanks for the tool.

  130. If “Frank’s” shows possession, why doesn’t “it’s” show possession? “Frank’s” can also be “Frank is” just like “it’s” is “it is”. If I’m not mistaken, “it” is the only pronoun that shows possession in the same way as a proper noun. I can’t say, “I’s car.” or “You’s car.” or “He’s car.” or “She’s car,” or “We’s car.” or “They’s car.” His car and her car don’t need any help, but I can’t say, “It car.” either. “It” is the rogue of the bunch. And that is probably what screws people up when they try to use “it’s” or “its”.

    Since English is not a dead language, but rather a living and breathing one, we really can make it up as we go along. Look how much it has changed since King James. Thou and thee to you and me. Doth to does. Never ever do we say ne’er and ‘er unless we’re singing ye ol’ hymn…or hymne. I’ve seen it bothe ways.

    Just some food for thought.

  131. Hmm, interesting that a grammar correction site has an error when describing another error. Under No. 2 the author writes, “This infographic has got its groove on.” Since when do you need to say “has got” in the sentence. Shouldn’t you just use “has” and be done with it.

  132. I la la LOVE this handy dandy reference – thanks so much Copyblogger! Will share with everyone, especially my teenagers.

    Cheers!

  133. Sunny LeSeur :

    Hey Brian,

    Why don’t you create a “Part 2″ version (ie, “15 More Grammar Goofs …”) using some of the comments folks have made on this post (and/or other common goofs you’ve discovered)?

    I’m sure it would continue to be popular and garner lots of comments the way this one (“Part 1″) has. ;-)

    If you do, you can link this post to your new post which would generate traffic from those who discover this post and who want to know about more goofs ….

    Just a thought ….

  134. I think apostrophes r for the birds. If you no what i mean either way it is written, then it is a needless consistency. No what I mean? It’s time to do some trimming down of our language. I’m sure txting will gt us their.

    I liked this info graphic and am only poking mostly in fun. Except the part about apostrophes. I think we can live without them.

  135. Bless you for posting this.

  136. That was a nice infographic, very hilarious, yet very educative. I have personally noticed the widespread use of you’re instead of your among bloggers.

  137. The one that drives me crazy is “assure, ensure, and insure”. I see that misused all the time. There’s also “that, which” and “to, too”.

  138. Brilliant graphic…full of stuff that winds-up everyone who can in fact write properly!

    • Sunny LeSeur :

      Say again??

      “… full of stuff that winds-up everyone …” Do you mean stuff that gets everyone happily excited? … or do you mean stuff that gets everyone angry / agitated?

      Someone being “wound-up” can be either of those things.

  139. I’m glad you included FEWER and LESS. “If you can count it, use Fewer, if you can’t, use Less”. The same can be said for the words NUMBER and AMOUNT, respectively.

    The NUMBER of times people say “the amount of people…” Even Keanu Reeves says it in a movie. It drives me crazy: It’s “the NUMBER of people”, people!

  140. Thanks for the helpful information.

    Any comments on this sentence:
    “A customer can find their own book, or they can ask for help.”
    Do you pick either ‘his’ or ‘her’ and stick with this knowing you are going to be wrong 50% of the time?
    Do you go with ‘his/her’ and ‘he/she’ in the above example? (I call this the Namby Pamby option)
    Or could we all put our heads together and come up with a third person singular neuter pronoun that applies to both a man and a woman? Maybe Tonto had it right by leaving out the pronoun altogether.

  141. Sunny LeSeur :

    In situations such as this (because of our currently limited options), I would change the singular to plural so that everything agrees with each other.

    In your example, I would rephrase it to say, “Customers can find their own books or they can ask for help.”

    There’s no reason to keep the subject singular. Just change it to plural and all’s well.

    In the meantime, we really do need to come up with an alternative to plural when we want to use a singular all-purpose pronoun (besides “it”, that is).

  142. People tend to use the word “Bring” instead of “Take” now. and “brought” instead of “took”. I can remember an English teacher who would get very upset if we got them mixed up. Have the rules been changed and it is now acceptable to use “Bring” when we should be using “Take” now?
    Bring is for when someone “brings” something “here”. Would you please bring the newspaper to me? She brought the newspaper to me.
    Take is for when you “take” something “there”. I am going to take the newspaper to her. I took the newspaper to her.

  143. This makes me so happy! I am a total grammar snob and simply adore infographics. I linked to it on my blog.

  144. “Affect” can also be used as a noun; it is another word for “mood.”

  145. Only two of these are, in fact, errors in grammar. All the rest are errors in spelling (homophone confusion) or in usage.

    Spelling and usage are concerns for every careful writer, naturally, because they can sometimes affect grammar, but spelling and usage *precede* grammar. Grammar concerns itself with the conventions that govern the structure of language–syntax and sentence formation. When you’re looking at words in isolation, as you are when you consider spelling and usage, grammar seldom comes into play. Whatever individual word you choose, wrong or right, generally has no effect on the word’s function in a sentence.

    Simple problems like the ones listed here are easy to identify and to explain. In contrast, errors in grammar (such as the misuse of “whom” and the neglect of the subjunctive, for example) are usually more complex and, for those who are prone to them, harder to comprehend.

    Moreover, “literally” is often used these days in a hyperbolic sense, whether the user realizes it or not.

    And an apostrophe is occasionally used to form a plural.

  146. You’ve made an error in your top 20 in the rule about myself. In fact, it’s one of my pet peeves. You say, ‘I thought to myself. . .” Unless you can communicate by thought alone, there is no else to whom you can think. You wouldn’t say, “I thought to George.”

  147. Great info! I must admit I didn’t read all the comments, but I hope you will add the proper forms of the words lie and lay. I cringe when I read “I laid on the bed and rested.”

  148. Beautiful! But you guys forgot one of the most common errors in even professional publications:
    The difference between DISCREET and DISCRETE :)

    Discreet means subtle or unnoticeable, while discrete means separate or distinct. I’ve seen it misused in popular novels, in formal papers, in god-knows-what-else.

  149. I think all of these are good except the one about “literally.” According to the dictionary, the word has two legitimate and basically opposite meanings (as in “actually” and “virtually”). I know people have strong opinions about this, but watch this video from Merriam Webster: http://youtu.be/Ai_VHZq_7eU

  150. This should be a bulletin board set for my classroom!!

  151. PLEASE add lay/lie/laid to the mix. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves, mostly because its SO prevalent today and people don’t realize they’re wrong. It doesn’t help that TV writers (see: Grey’s Anatomy) propagate it and pretty much legitimize incorrect usage of “lay”.

    E.g. “I’m gonna lay down for a bit”.

  152. thanks for tips. i am really messed up between it’s and its.

  153. God D… I made ​​mistakes! I really need to improve my writing skills. Thanks for the corrections ;)

  154. PLEASE add lay/lie/laid to the mix. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves, mostly because its SO prevalent today and people don’t realize they’re wrong. It doesn’t help that TV writers (see: Grey’s Anatomy) propagate it and pretty much legitimize incorrect usage of “lay”.

    E.g. “I’m gonna lay down for a bit”.

  155. #2, pet peeve of mine, followed by #6…
    #10, often referred to as interchangeable by native speakers but somehow I had a feeling they weren’t and it looks like I was right!
    Nice infographic – congrats :-) making the message visual is a huge help in burning the concepts into memory :-)

  156. I’m amazed at how many people here are making grammatical errors while commenting on grammatical errors. There is some kind of disconnect going on there.

  157. As harsh as this post may sound like to other people, I find this very very helpful (especially with the use of images). I’m not good with grammar myself but I think most of those errors above are committed due to laziness in proofreading. MS Word simply cannot just detect those errors you know. :-)

  158. I recently came across this.

    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/inquire-vs-enquire/

    We had an issue in spellings for “inquiry” which was a general way I write. One colleague asked me if there is a difference between the English way and the American. Found this link.

  159. This is fabulous. Correcting other people’s grammar can be such a thankless job. You’ve created such a wonderful solution!

    • Indeed, Vicki! It’s especially thankless when all you want to do is smooth the way for the other person in the future so that there is less possibility for embarrassment or unintentional sabotage.

      Supportive suggestions for clearer and easier communication for all seems to catalyze resistance and sometimes outright hostility. This always puzzled me. My intention (and I’m sure yours, also) is to engender harmony and prevent war based on misunderstanding and miscommunication whenever possible. Even so, I’m usually viewed as an enemy somehow.

      • Sunny, you mean, “Supportive suggestions for clearer and easier communication for all SEEM to catalyze,” no?

        • Good catch, Don. I didn’t change the verb when I added to the sentence.

          I originally wrote, “Communication about clearer sentences seems to catalyze”. Then I added the bit about supportive suggestions and basically rewrote the sentence — except I didn’t change the verb (which you eagle-eyed).

          Thanks for that.

  160. My personal pet peeve is mixing up “Gone” and “Went”. As in “If I had known that Billy was going to be there I never would have went”. Ughhhhhhhh, it kills me

  161. Susan S. Schearer :

    Don’t omit the usage of “only.” ONLY cats eat fish: (nothing else does); Cats eat ONLY fish: (no meat, veggies, etc.); Cats ONLY eat fish: they don’t play with them or communicate with them. “only” is probably the most misused word in the English language.

  162. Great job. Love No. 11. I see this one messed up all of the time. Mercedes even messed this up in an ad recently. You can see it at http://youtu.be/t5fzQRO4V_w.

  163. Ha ha… feel like these are the simplest mistakes to make and sometimes, I unfortunately make them. Then again, now that there’s auto-corrections in my Mac and iPod, it’s even worse and I have to watch what I type. ai..

  164. How can I print this in poster form to hang in my middle school speech/language classroom? I love it!!

  165. Hi,
    My name is Gilmar and I have a question.
    After the sentence ” I would like to introduce myself” I shoul use colon, comma or period?

  166. The wrong use of “your” and “you’re” is very prevalent in some of the websites and written material that I have proofread.

  167. Please add these other offenses to the list:

    “alot” vs. “a lot”
    any pronoun misusage… “Jane Doe and Him did this or that” vs. “he and Jane did this or that”

    “got a / gotta” is terrible while “get” is fine… You “have” or “need” or “must” instead please.

    “May” vs. “can/would/could”

  168. It’s not really grammar, but one of my pet peeves is when writers use the phrase “quantum leap” to describe an event of huge proportions or a giant change. In reality, quantum theory describes the mechanics and action of ‘quantii’, which are tiny, infintessimally small packets of light. A quantum leap, would be a change in the energy state of one quantum packet to the next, which is barely noticeable. It’s a cool-sounding scientific word which is almost always used incorrectly, even by otherwise knowledgeable people. Such is the power of a mildly amusing sci-fi TV show. Literally.

    • In fact, “quantum leap” refers to a change happening in a non-linear way, involving a direct “leap” of a given quantity or magnitude vs a gradual and continuous evolution. This non-linear change is what actually happens with “quantii”. The phrase “quantum leap” basically refers to the *nature* of a given evolution rather than specifically to its *magnitude*, hence the shift in meaning towards a “change of larger magnitude”, which is I admit a very free *interpretation* of the scientific fact :-)