Improve Your Writing -- Benefits Of Using Correct Grammar
As a professional writer and editor, I'm one of those annoying folks who notices tiny mistakes. For instance, I once gave my mother a Mozart mug that had a short bio of him on it; we had it for years and I was the only person who noticed that the word "weren't" was spelled "were't" without the "n." I also became annoyed when a nearby restaurant handed us their "menu's" -- yes this is how it was spelled and when an establishment wished an employee "congratulation's" on a billboard.
Granted, I'm not pefect. I make mistakes in my writing all the time (which is why I always have a second person read my work) and I certainly relax when I speak. I also don't correct friends or family, unless they ask for my help.
Still, knowing some basic grammar rules can be very useful on the job, even if your work isn't in writing or publishing. Whether you're a teacher, doctor, lawyer, mechanic, chances are, you're going to have to do SOME kind of writing at work -- for an invoice, memo, recommedation, etc. -- and it's best to make it look as professional as possible. That said, here are 10 grammatical errors that people often make and easy tips on how to correct them.
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Fixing Grammatical Errors: 10 Common Grammatical Mistakes
1. KNOW WHEN TO USE AN APOSTROPHE VERSUS WHEN SOMETHING IS PLURAL
The rules for using an apostrophe are quite simple, but people frequently get confused. Basically, an apostrophe is used to show ownership or to break up a contraction. For example:
CORRECT: The CAT'S fur is white. In this case, the fur is something that the cat owns, so the word cat gets the apostrophe.
WRONG: He has three CAT'S. Here, no apostrophe is needed because the "s" at the end of the word indicates the plural, that there is more than one cat. It should be CATS without the apostrophe.
CORRECT: He went to his SON'S graduation party. Again, the party is something that "belongs" to the son, so there is an apostrophe.
WRONG: He then wished his son CONGRATULATION'S. No apostrophe needed here -- the correct word is CONGRATULATIONS or CONGRATS without the apostrophe.
2. IT'S VERSUS ITS
Again, the rules for this are pretty simple: IT'S with an apostrophe is a contraction for "It is." On the other hand, "Its" indicates ownership. It can be confusing because in this case, the apostrophe is NOT use to indicate that something belongs to something. But this is a rare exception.
CORRECT: IT'S warm outside (short for IT IS warm outside).
WRONG: ITS warm outside (oops, apostrophe needed!)
CORRECT: The rock was warm. Heat radiated off of ITS surface (the surface belongs to the rock, so we use ITS without the apostrophe).
WRONG. Heat radiated off of IT'S surface (no apostrophe needed).
3. ME VERSUS I
It seems that many, many people do not understand when to us "Me" or "I" in a sentance -- and they end up hypercorrecting it. This seems to be a new issue as I'm hearing more young people, often on TV, confusing the two.
A simple way to figure out which is needed is to eliminate everyone else from the sentence and then reverse the statement. For example, "Jack and I are going to the store." Now remove Jack and who's going to the store? "I am!" That said, it is NOT "Jack and me."
Another example: "Dad brought home a gift for Jenny and me." Remove Jenny. Who is the gift for? "Me!" That said, it is NOT "Jenny and I."
Here are more examples:
CORRECT: "Lani and I are friends." Remove Lani and who is friends with her? I am! So it's not, "Me and Lani are friends."
WRONG: "He stayed up late waiting for Lani and I." Remove Lani and who did he stay up late for? ME. It should be "He stayed up late waiting for Lani and ME."
CORRECT: "Bill and I are going skiing?" Remove Bill and who's going skiing. I am! So it's not "Bill and me."
WRONG: "At the ski lodge, David brought hot cocoa for Bill and I." Remove Bill and who got the hot cocoa? ME. It should be "David brought hot cocoa for Bill and ME."
4. WHO VERSUS WHOM
To figure this one out, reverse the sentence and substitute with "them" or "him" or For example, "For whom the bell tolls..." The bell tolls for HIM. "For whom it may concern?" It concerns HIM.
CORRECT: WHO is there? Reverse the sentence: "Him is there." Nope. It's HE is there, so it's WHO.
*Note - this little trick doesn't work 100 percent of the time, but it often helps.
5. YOUR VERSUS YOU'RE
For some reason, many people seem to confuse the two. YOUR means that it belongs to you, i.e. "That's YOUR necklace." YOU'RE is short for "You are." Example, "You're coming over, right?"
CORRECT: Eat your dinner!
INCORRECT: What is you're name? (should be "What is YOUR name?")
CORRECT: You're driving me crazy!
INCORRECT: Your a nice girl (should be "YOU'RE a nice girl.")
SO, SO INCORRECT: "Ur." Save that for texts ONLY!!!!
6. EVERYDAY VERSUS EVERY DAY
An everyday event is something that happens on a daily basis, i.e. "an everyday dictionary." In this case, "everyday" describes something. And this is confusing, but if you're speaking about how frequently you do something, you use, "Every day."
CORRECT: I think of my late wife every day.
INCORRECT: He talks to me everyday (should be EVERY DAY here).
CORRECT: I'll never get sick of apples, an everyday food.
7. FEWER VERSUS LESS
Fewer is used when you can actually count something and get a quantifiable amount. It doesn't matter if it's a huge amount, but if you can, in theory, count it, it's fewer. "There were fewer people in the crowd." "He has fewer zits on his face." Less is used when something is more ambiguous, i.e. "I'm feeling less pain today."
CORRECT: "There are FEWER people at the party."
INCORRECT: "That has less calories." (should be FEWER calories. As a side note, there are many commercials that mention, "Less calories" and I want to reach through the TV and punch the actors. Ahem. Anyway...
CORRECT: "He was feeling less love for her before the breakup."
8. WAS VERSUS WERE
Was refers to something that's already happened: I WAS at the store. Were is used by something that might happen or you wish could happen: If I WERE a rich man...
CORRECT: If I WERE an ant, I'd be small.
INCORRECT: If I was going to do that... (should be If I WERE)
CORRECT: He WAS at the science museum earlier today. He wondered what life would be like if he WERE an alien from Jupiter.
9. BRING VERSUS TAKE
"Bring" is generally used when you're going somewhere; "take" when you're leaving. For example, "Don't forget to BRING your bathing suit to the pool party. And make sure you TAKE it back home."
CORRECT: TAKE a goody bag on your way out.
CORRECT: BRING a jacket outside because it's cold.
10. THERE VERSUS THEIR VERSUS THEY'RE
There refers to a location: He is over THERE. Their means that something belongs to a group: It is THEIR dog. They're is short for They are. They're over here! These three words are NOT interchangeable.
CORRECT: THERE is my house.
INCORRECT: THEIR nice people (should be THEY'RE in this case).
CORRECT: Their restaurant is lovely.
INCORRECT: I like they're cat (should be THEIR in this case).
thearbiter0808 on February 02, 2012:
You got it right that these are the most common errors. I even get mistakes with whom and who and bring and take. My partner is a grammar nazi (some term I picked up in the internet), and would scorn me to death with my mistakes. Thank you for this hub, I should be reading this over and over again until I can master this. Voted up and SHARING!
Prickly Flower from Netherlands on September 30, 2011:
Very, very useful! The 'their, they're, there' and 'your, you're' mistakes are ones that I have seen countless times when teaching English. I guess because they're all pronounced the same way. Really liked your clarification of the 'who/whom' mix up. Especially for non native speakers this is a tricky one.
richtwf on January 14, 2011:
A very useful hub and thanks for sharing these great reminders.
Giselle Maine on January 13, 2011:
Superb hub! I'll have to bookmark it. Your who vs whom section is very helpful. I'd love to see a 'which vs that' guide someday too! Although, I'm quite at home with 'me vs I' rule... it's amazing how many times it can be used incorrectly... especially in songs - which drives me crazy. I cannot bring myself to actually sing lyrics that get this one wrong (I'll substitute the grammatically correct word even if it spoils the rhyming!)
Anyhow, thanks for the great hub & I'll definitely be back again to consult your 'who vs whom' section.