Common English Errors By Bloggers And Writers
Do you ever hesitate over using peek or peak? Do you type there when you mean their? Pause over it's versus its? Been paid a complement? Then you're with 90% of the English-speaking world - these are the most common English errors. They might not obscure the meaning of what you've written but these mistakes can make people doubt the authority of what they're reading.
This page lists some of the common English errors found on blogs and web pages. It gives correct usage with examples. There are also sections on punctuation and two sections talking about sentence construction. New words and terms will be added as and when I come across them or am asked about them.
Common Errors With English
Homonyms and their relations
What's a homonym? A word that's pronounced the same as another but that has a different meaning. If you've ever peeked at a mountain peak then you've used a couple of homonyms. Alas, if the peak peaked your interest then you need to read on ...
The rich history of England, also known as the number of races and tribes that have invaded/inveigled/impregnated/inhabited the sceptred isle, means that the development of the language has taken many paths. Throw in some dialect words and meanings and you have a smorgasbord of words; you also have a minefield for the unwary.
Homonyms and their cousins are the main causes of confusion and common English errors: I list below the main culprits with examples of correct use. If I've missed your bugbear out, please add it via the Comments section at the end of the page.
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- How do you pronounce "Ghoti"?
And the answer is ...
gh = f, as in tough
o = i, as in women
ti = sh, as in nation
It's Only Words
advice: noun - "give advice to someone", "his advice was to pay up immediately", "we took his advice" means that we did what he'd advised us to do.
advise: verb - "he advised us to pay up immediately".
Note: someone who gives advice is an adviser or advisor. Both are correct. Use either according to taste as long as you're consistent. Do be careful if writing to or about a business where the business's name contains one of the two forms.
affect: Use affect as a verb - eg "how did the medicine affect you?"
effect: Use effect as a noun meaning result or consequence - eg "what were the effects of the medicine?"
There is one sense where you might use effect as a verb, meaning to produce as an effect, to accomplish - "through hard work we effected the transition from Imperial to metric measurements across the store chain".
Less commonly, you can use affect meaning "to assume or pretend" - He affected an air of superiority.
Psychiatrists use affect as a noun, they also use effect with the accent on the first syllable (and having a different meaning to the one above).
any: any is used in questions and negative statements - eg "do you have any money?", "I don't have any money"
some: some is used in positive statements - eg "he gave me some money". Note - "he didn't give me any money."
assure, ensure, insure
assure: assure means to tell or state with confidence - "he assured us that he had enough money to pay for the meal"
ensure to make sure of - eg "he ensured he had plenty of money in his wallet"
insure to guarantee against loss or harm - "the policy insured them against fire and storm damage"
But not koala
bare: unclothed - "bare legs". Various senses of unadorned or open: "four bare walls", "the bare facts", "bare one's soul".
bear: the animal - "bears in the woods", "Brown Bears" (note the capitals because this is the species name). Various senses of carry - "bear the load", "bear a child", "bear fruit". Tolerate - "bear with me for a minute".
bearing: manner, posture, direction. "A regal bearing", "an upright bearing", "bearing 20 degrees south by south west". "Get one's bearings."
koala bear is incorrect - the koala is a marsupial, not a bear.
With bated breath
bate: to restrain or moderate - "given the circumstances we had to bate our pleasure at winning". Also lessen or diminish - "the loss of our guide bated our hopes of returning".
bait: lure or enticement - "he baited his hook with fat earthworms", "they were baited with promises of untold riches".
Common mistake is to put an i in "we waited with bated breath".
bow, bow, bow, bow, bow, bough
Take more than one bow
bow: rhyming with how, incline the head - "he bowed before the king"
bow: rhyming with hoe, what Robin Hood loosed arrows with
bow: rhyming with hoe again, looped or shaped ribbon - eg "she wore a bow in her hair"
bow: rhyming with how, the forward end of a boat. "Land ahoy, off the starboard bow."
bow: back to hoe, what a violinist scrapes across the strings.
bough rhyming with how, a branch of a tree, usually a main or large branch.
buy, by, bye
buy: to purchase, usually for money: "I must buy some coffee beans."
by: a little word with lots of meanings: "I came by bus", "it went by the coffee shop." "The best coffee is made by roasting the beans gently and ...".
bye: Several meanings in sports. Often used to say farewell: "If the coffee's finished, I'm off. Bye-bye."
Expressions: "by-the-by" meaning "incidentally".
caw, cor, core, corps
from birds to ballet
caw: The noise made by crows and ravens
cor: A very old-fashioned English expression of surprise: "Cor, look at the size of that".
core: The centre of something: an apple core, The tragedy struck him to the core of his being
corps: A team or grouping, used mainly in particular circumstances: the diplomatic corps, the Marine Corps, corps de ballet.
chord: Musical term - a group of notes. Used figuratively in "her plight struck a chord with him".
cord: Thin rope or thick string. The umbilical cord. Vocal cords. Plural form cords often used as abbreviation for corduroy trousers.
classic: having long-lasting merit - "Oliver Twist is a classic book" or in the modern vernacular, very good - "last night saw a classic match between ....".
classical: refers to arts and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, or to formal and sophisticated music (as opposed to folk, jazz, pop).
And something free
complement: Something that completes or makes perfect, nowadays more often just makes better. "Pickle makes a good complement to pork pie." Also number of members of group or team: "John joined last week so we now have a full complement of players". You'll also see reference to complementary colours.
Note: supplement does not mean the same as complement - a supplement is just an addition with no sense of improving or completing. "He supplemented his meagre meal with lots of bread and butter but remained hungry."
compliment: to say something pleasant or to congratulate. "Your baby is beautiful." "He complimented the father on the appearance of his baby."
complimentary: given without charge - "all rooms have complimentary soaps and fruit basket".
criteria: noun plural - criterion is the singular form. I've seen criteria wrongly used as a singular noun in everything from lenses to novels to broadsheet newspapers. Actually more misused than media.
Anglo-American relations at stake here
curb: In the USA the curb is the edge of the sidewalk adjoining the roadway.
kerb: In the UK the kerb is the edge of the pavement adjoining the roadway.
All other senses, use curb.
currant: small, seedless raisin used in cooking. Particularly good in Eccles cakes
current: has several meanings. "The current president is ..", "the strong current overturned the boat", electrical current.
data: how many?
data: plural form of datum but the usage now is overwhelmingly as a singular noun. A few holdouts say "data are ..." but even I think it looks wrong.
desert, desert, desert, dessert and deserted
desert: accent slightly on first syllable, a wasteland, often predominantly sand - "the Sahara is a desert"
desert: accent strongly on second syllable, to abandon or leave without permission - "he deserted his post"
desert: same pronunciation as first definition, often used in combination as "a desert island" meaning no human inhabitants. But watch for the next one ,,,
deserted accent on second syllable, "the island was deserted"
dessert accent on second syllable, a pudding or variation thereof, usually the last course of a meal. "We had bread and butter pudding for dessert." Why did I say "or variation thereof"? Because pudding has several meanings. Of course,
Watch out also for "he got his just deserts", pronounced the same way as desserts. This is often written with a double s but shouldn't be. This meaning of "deserts" is usually only seen in the phrase.
After much poring over dictionaries I can't see any difference between the two other than that there are a couple of meanings where it would be incorrect to use despatch. The main sense where "i" is always used is "mentioned in dispatches", a UK Army term meaning a soldier has performed an act worthy of special praise and so the act has been added to reports sent to senior commanding officers.
Hence, for simplicity, always use dispatch.
Get out the Latin primer
eg:: exempli gratia - meaning "for example". I don't like small yapping dogs, eg Pekinese.
ie: id est = meaning "that is, in other words". I don't like small dogs, ie any breed under a certain size.
Common mistake is to use ie when you mean eg.
Should you use periods after each letter, so e.g. and i.e.? Theoretically yes but modern usage says no, eg ie is valid. But don't use a construction like the one I just have!
No difference, though enquire is more common in the UK, inquire more common in the USA.
Interestingly, the UK is swinging towards "inquire" - several major media have altered their style guides to indicate a preference for that form.
Fare Thee Well, My Own True Love
and fur in Liverpool
Why Liverpool? In my home city we pronounce all word endings of an err sound as "urr" - it's a hangover from the days when all Liverpudlian kids had adenoid problems.
fair: Light coloured, often in combination - eg "fair-haired". Attractive - "a fair maiden". Free from bias: "a fair fight".A gathering for entertainment and/or commerce - "the church Christmas Fair". Lots of other meanings ...
fare: The amount paid to travel on, for example, a bus. A taxi driver may refer to a passenger as a fare. Food - eg "the fare in the restaurant was good". To travel, hence "fare thee well" in the video above. Farewell used to be fare well, a wish for safe and prosperous travel - now it's almost synonymous with goodbye.
fayre: Fake Olde Englishe version of "fare" often seen on the front of overpriced tea shops in English tourist traps.
fur: Skin of an animal used for making coats for owners of Pekes.
father, farther, further
father: male parent
farther: some pronounce it with an "ar" sound, some with a "ur", This means at a greater distance or point. "The pub is farther than the church." "We'll take the matter no farther."
further: same meanings as farther given above. Also sense of improve - "further one's career" or additional - "further conversation seemed pointless".
Sometimes used interchangeably - wrongly!
fewer: Not as many in number - used when you can put numeric values on the items being compared. "You have three dogs, I have one, I have fewer dogs than you."
less: A smaller amount, unquantified. "I eat less broccoli than I should."
flare: Use this for fire and trousers. "The forest fire flared up as the wind rose." "He always wore flared jeans and a Grateful Dead Tie Dye T-Shirt.." You can send up a flare if you need rescuing at sea.
flair: Aptitude or style. "He had a flair for the dramatic." "She danced with flair and grace."
flaw: an error or defect. "There was a flaw in the diamond." "Your reasoning is flawed."
floor: one of those words that everyone knows so it sounds daft to define it. One online dictionary has "that part of a room, hallway, or the like, that forms its lower enclosing surface and upon which one walks."
The usual confusion is using flawed incorrectly in things like "he floored me with one punch".
floe: a piece of floating ice
flow: to move, to circulate. "The river flows into the sea." "Blood flows through the body." Various other meanings, most with a sense of movement.
gib: a castrated cat (yes, really). Various other meanings, none of which a casual writer is ever likely to use.
jib: one of a particular set of sails.
I'm including these words as a common error is "I like the cut of his gib". Remember the castrated cat when you use g instead of the correct j.
hanged: versus hung: Both actually mean the same but the former is nowadays only used by judges delivering a death sentence: "You shall be taken away to a suitable place and on the morning of the 12th of June you shall be hanged by the neck until dead. And may God have mercy on your soul."
By the same logic, "hung, drawn and quartered" is incorrect or at least non-customary usage.
Not that it really matters - any lens delving deep into capital punishment would probably need to be R rated. If you do have a morbid bent, have a look (caution - nasty) at Hanged by the Neck Until You be Dead, Or, Why the Death Sentence Should be Abolished.
No, I'm not risking the other one
hoard: accumulate, store. "The squirrel hoards nuts for the winter."
horde: a large group: "A horde of soldiers came over the hill."
Anyone thinking of a third homonym - it means "misbehaved for monetary gain".
"Horde" is the collective noun for hamsters.
i before e, except after c
The rule that we all learn in about year 2 of school. Alas, there are so many exceptions that we end up thinking weird looks odd and our brains seize up.
See Exceptions to the rule for discussion and lists of exceptions.
I: the nominative singular pronoun, used when you're describing something you've done yourself. "John and I were playing football too close to the house and I broke the window". Often wrongly used as an object - "He punished John and I for breaking the window." (see me:).
me: the objective case of I - so the correct form of the last example is "He punished John and me for breaking the window." If in doubt, try your sentence without the "John and" - "He punished I for breaking the window" is clearly wrong.
Note: good manners say you should always use "and I" rather than "I and"
The perennial favourite ...
it's: contraction of it is - "It's a long and dusty road, with a hard and heavy load"
its: the the possessive form of it - "What has it got in its pocketsessss?"
let's is a contraction of "let us" - "let's go to the cinema tonight".
lets is the plural of let . It's difficult off the top of my head to think of an example other than from tennis - "his service games were littered with lets".
Common mistake is to omit the apostrophe in the first sense.
licence: UK noun - permission or freedom: "James Bond: Licence To KIll".
license: US noun and other forms use license with an "s".
literal: means true to fact, exactly as stated, without exaggeration. "I was literally walking on air after winning [insert name of reality TV show]" is a common error. An Olympic gold medal winner stated "I literally couldn't breathe for an hour after the race," which rather makes me think that blood doping has got a lot better!
littoral: means of or pertaining to the shore of a lake, sea, or ocean. For use in specialised context only.
loose: free, unfettered - "she wore her hair loose", "the prisoner has escaped: he is loose in the castle". Also fire in the sense of "he loosed off an arrow".
lose: to fail to keep possession of - "if you lose that one I'm not buying you another". Also be defeated - "Lose the fight and you're out of the tournament".
Odd that these two get confused - perhaps it's because the oo sound of lose is longer than that of loose.
martial: of or related to war or the military - "martial music" such as that heard on the Black Watch marching
marshal: usually, a US lawman - "Marshal Wyatt Earp". Can mean gather as in "marshalling forces for war".
Marshall, proper noun with two l's is a surname, most commonly seen in The Marshall Plan.
I won't do a detailed breakdown here: I think we all know about things in the middle and people who channel Pocahontas. The one error I'd like to see eradicated is the use of media as a singular noun. It isn't! Media is the plural of medium.
If you're a painter your medium is oils or whatever. If you're a broadcast journalist your medium is television or radio. If you're a print journalist and you refer to "the newspaper media" then you shouldn't be a print jourmalist.
"Can I use mediums?" you ask. "Carefully," I reply. Mediums is indeed correct as the plural of the Pocahontas channellers or for size reference - "large shirts on the right, small shirts on the left, mediums in the middle."
meat, meet, mete
meat: animal flesh,
meet: to come together: "we agreed to meet on Platform 14".
mete: to give out or apportion: "the teacher thought it wise to mete out punishment equally to all of the schoolboys".
moot: open to discussion, debatable (in the sense of dubious distinction) - "It's a moot point whether execution by electric chair or by lethal injection is worse." Moot is pronounced with an oo sound.
mute: silent, not speaking through choice or inability. Causing volume of sound to be dampened, as in a trumpet mute. Mute is pronounced with a you sound.
The Mute Swan is so called because it makes less noise than other species of swan.
pale: lacking in colour - "a pale complexion". A stake in a fence. Limits or bounds - "the pale of the sheriff's jurisdiction" - hence "beyond the pale" - beyond the limits of decency or acceptability.
pail: bucket - "Jack and Jill ran up the hill to fetch a pail of water."
paw, poor, pore, pour
paw: the foot of an animal. Can be used as a verb: "the cat pawed the floor anxiously".
poor: lacking in material wealth, unfortunate, not good. "Being poor, he could not afford the asking price." "The poor chap lost his job last week." "Being a poor shot, he couldn't hit a barn door with a banjo."
pore: a tiny opening such as the pores in human skin. To study intently - "she pored over her books for hours before the exam".
pour: to cause a fluid to flow - "he poured the water carefully into a glass". Movement of great numbers: "the audience poured out of the hall".
Common mistake, I know not why, is to use pour when meaning study intently.
And pawpaw? Another name for papaya, the tree or the fruit thereof.
peak, peek, pique
and perhaps even Peke
peak: the top of a hill or mountain, Can also be used in the sense of most important point - "the peak of his sporting career was the gold medal won in 2007".
peek: look quickly. "He peeked through the window and drew back before they could see him".
pique: arouse (interest or curiosity). "The brief glance into the room piqued his interest." Can also mean irritation: "she flounced out of the room in a fit of pique".
Peke: abbreviation of Pekinese, small, yapping breed of dog owned by women who wear fur.
pedal: a foot-operated lever used to control or propel various mechanisms - "a brake pedal", "a bicycle pedal". Pedaling or pedalling: both one "l" and two are correct.
peddle: to carry small and mixed wares from place to place to sell or to sell drugs (alas, the more commonly seen use these days).
The rain in Spain
plain: clear, unadorned, obvious, simple. A flat area. "The grassy plain was plain to see."
plane: abbreviation of aeroplane. A flat surface: "the planes of a cube".
One of the most confused pairings, this. I blinked a few times whilst writing this short section!
Note: plain is capitalised in "the Great Plains".
pole: a long cylinder, usually thin, of wood, metal or plastic. Telephone pole, fishing pole.
poll: sampling of opinions or voting
Maypoles, pole dancers and polecats, straw polls and pollen. Just testing with that last.
poo: polite euphemism for excrement.
pooh: an exclamation of disdain.
Note: you pooh-pooh a bad idea, you do not poo poo it!
practice: noun - train or repeat to improve proficiency - "She put in long hours of practice on the piano before the concert".. A professional's work and circle of clients - eg a doctor's practice.
practise: verb - "She practised the piano for long hours".
There seems to be a tendency in the USA to use "practise" as a noun when talking about a doctor's "practise". This is incorrect.
pray: to beseech or to offer worship to a deity - "I pray to God for your redemption".
prey: an animal hunted for food or a person who is the target of a hunter with malign intentions. "The lion stalks his prey for hours before pouncing." "Con men often prey on the elderly."
Note the praying mantis waits for its prey and captures it as it goes by.
principal: chief in importance, head of an educational establishment. "The principal reason for the selection of Mr Jones as school principal was his ginger hair."
principle: an accepted rule of conduct: "Mr Jones is a man of sound moral principles". Also fundamemtal law or truth - "the principles of modern biology".
prise: to force open ore to extract with difficulty. "The gun had to be prised from his dead hand."
prize: something you win.
rain, reign, rein
rain: water that falls from clouds. Can be used in the sense of a strong and continuous episode: "punches rained down on the unfortunate boxer".
reign: Period of rule by a monarch: "The reign of Henry VIIIth was marked by plundering of the monasteries of England.". Also the sense of dominating or controlling: "fear reigned over the trapped men."
rein: Usually plural, straps forming part of a horse's harness. Often seen with the meaning controlling "the reins of power".
The usual mistake is to confuse reign and rein. Think of the longer word as showing a longer period of control.
raise: lift up
raze: knock down: common phrase is "razed to the ground" - completely demolished.
rest, wrest, wrestle
rest: remainder, stay - "we rested awhile at the inn", Used in polite euphemism for "bury" - "she was laid to rest in the corner of the church cemtery".
wrest: rarely used other than with meaning "seize by force". "He wrested the knife from the villain", "he wrested control of the company from its founder."
wrestle: what large, hairy men do in a wrestling ring. To struggle: "he wrestled with his conscience".
A mistake creeping into use is "wrestled control" - actually seen recently in a so-called quality English newspaper.
retch: unproductive effort to vomit: "After days of seasickness, he could only retch painfully".
wretch : someone who is low, unhappy, despised. "You miserable wretch," intoned the judge, "I sentence you to be hanged by the neck until dead."
Note wretched, used in the sense of "very miserable", pronounced as two syllables: "After days of seasickness, he felt wretched."
rites of spring
right: good, proper, correct, appropriate, the most desirable - "the right man for the job".
rite: formal or ceremonial process, usually plural: "the rites of Baptism"
role: a part played by an actor - "Lindsay Lohan will take the title role, Justin Bieber will appear in the role of Mr Darcy". Normal function - "the role of the teacher in society".
roll: to move along by turning - "the wheels rolled", "the snowball rolled down the hill". By extension, round things such as bread rolls. By wilder extension, "a roll in the hay".
A sportsman winning several matches consecutively is said to be "on a roll".
root, rout, route
root: part of a plant that grows downwards into growing medium. Various uses implying basic/fundamental - "the root of all evil". Also uses such as "the truffle pig rooted through the undergrowth", "she rooted through the drawer in search of ...". Some slang meanings best not explored.
rout: rhyming with shout. To defeat heavily. To hollow or furrow, especially in woodworking.
route: rhyming with root - course, way, paths of travel - "what's the route to Uncle Will's from Crosby?" Often in the sense of a regular journey - "the 53 bus route".
router: rhyming with shouter the tool you rout with
router: rhyming with shooter a piece of computer equipment.
sight: the power of seeing. Can also be used in the sense of glimpse - "we caught a sight of Lindsay Lohan meditating."
site: location, position or scene. "camp site", "site of the crime", "the site of a Roman settlement". Also means website or web site (see below).
cite: Taking this out of alphabetical order as it's not that common. To quote or mention as an authority - "he cited the Medical Board's ruling in 1997 ...". Also a military term - to mention or commend for bravery. Nowadays often used in the sense of credit - "cite the owner of the picture".
spring, summer, autumn, winter
Do you capitalise the names of the seasons? No, unless part of a proper name. "I hope to spend winter in Colorado." "I will watch some of the Winter Olympics."
Note: only as part of proper name. so: "I think that winter football is slower than games played in the spring."
stationary: Not moving, eg "The car was stationary when the cyclist hit it."
stationery: Writing materials, such as pens, paper, envelopes.
I was taught to remember the difference by the "a" in the first - stationary, standing, Knuckles rapped with a ruler if we got it wrong - that helped.
tales of floors
storey: (British) One floor of a building: "The London office building has twenty storeys."
story: (USA) One floor of a building: "The New York office building has twenty stories."
I won't go into the narrative/tales definitions but I will mention the derivation: "[C14: from Anglo-Latin historia, picture, from Latin: narrative, probably arising from the pictures on medieval windows]" Thank you, my favourite online dictionary.
that which we call a rose
I'm going to take the easy way out here and just link to a page that explains the differences between that and which.
Or perhaps "a page which".
there, their, they're
there: in or at a place - "put the catapult down over there".
their: possessive case of they used as an attributive adjective, before a noun - "their catapults".
they're: contraction of they are - "they're disarmed but watch them closely".
threw, through, thru
threw: past tense of the verb throw - "he threw the ball at the stumps".
through: various meanings all with a sense of passing along or going from one end to another - "go through a tunnel", "look through a window". "drive on through the storm". Less often used in the sense of completely - "he read the letter through before speaking".
thru: variant of through, chiefly US.
Note: if anyone's a bit taken aback at throwing a ball at stumps, it's a cricket term - another word for wicket!
to, too, two
to: preposition implying direction or movement towards = "he walked over to the table", "he looked to the left".
too: in addition - "I too have a catapult". Excessive - "the music is too loud". More than desirable - "that was too close for comfort".
two: the number or amount - "I have two catapults" "I have two pounds to spend". "I too have two catapults to attack you with."
toe: digit at the end of the foot. To touch with the toes - "he toed the ball".
tow: pull or haul - "a friend towed my dead car to the garage".
The common mistake is the expression "toeing the line" - many people wrongly use towing.
and a real trouper
troop: a band of people, often military - "a troop of cavalry". As a verb, to move in unison - "the crowds trooped through the turnstiles".
troupe: a group of singers, actors, or other performers.
Common error is use trooper instead of trouper in the expression "a real trouper" - someone who continues to perform though ill or unfit,
Many tourists go to London to watch The Trooping Of The Colour. This is a ceremony held on the Queen's official birthday - one of the Household battalions troops its colours. The battalion trooping its colour in any given year is No. 1 Guard. During the parade; they are referred to as 'Escort for the Colour' (and, once they have collected their colour during the ceremony, as 'Escort to the Colour').. Clear?
ware, wear, we're, were, where, whirr
And wares and where's
ware: a class of merchandise - "Denby ware"
wares: general merchandise - "the stallholder packed up his wares at the end of the day".
wear: to have about one's person as a covering - "do you wear gloves when the weather's cold?".
we're: contraction of we are -"we're both wearing gloves".
were: to quote dictionary.com 2nd person singular pt. indicative, plural past indicative, and past subjunctive of be. "We were about to leave when ...." "If I were you I'd take my gloves."
where: question about place or location - "where is it?", "where are you going?, "where's my catapult?".
where's: contraction of where is- "where's she going?". . Note the apostrophe.
whirr: (make a) low buzzing sound - "the whirr of the distant helicopter's rotor blades".
weal, we'll, wheel
weal: a raised mark on the skin, caused by a blow or disease, eg hives. Rare: can be spelled wheal.. weal can also mean wealth or prosperity, as in "for the common weal".
we'll: contraction of "we will".
wheel: a circular frame which revolves, either directing motion "a steering wheel" or enabling it - "the wheels on the car go round and round".
weather, wether, whether
weather: wind, rain, snow and sunshine. Not to be confused with climate as, sadly, many Republicans do.
wether: a castrated sheep. Usually seen in bellwether, a catrated ram with a bell round his neck, leading a flock - more usually, a person or thing that shows the existence or direction of a trend.
whether: Used to introduce two alternatives: It matters little whether we vote or not, they're all the same.
web site, website
Whichever you prefer - just don't mix the two on one page. I tend to use web site for no particularly good reason other than I also use site.
If you wanted to be really pedantic you could argue that if you use website and also site that you should have an apostrophe - but 'site would be ridiculous!
wet: moistened, eg "wet hands". In a liquid state "wet paint".
whet: to sharpen - "he whetted his knife before going hunting". To make keen - "the trailer whetted her curiosity about the movie".
The common mistake is "wetted the appetite".
When I was a kid we sang a hymn each year which contained the line "Their banner the cross which they glory to bear". Unfortunately some of the line was repeated and our childish squeaks used to ring out with:
"Their banner the cross witch
Their banner the cross witch
Their banner the cross witch ..."
Okay, preamble done ...
which: what one - "which cake do you prefer?"
witch: a person, usually a woman, who professes to practise magic.
yaw, yore, you're, your, yours
yaw: of a ship, deviate suddenly from straight course; of a plane, turn about the vertical axis. Also a nasty lesion from the bacterial disease yaws
yore:time past, long ago - "in days of yore, when knights did deeds of derring-do".
you're: contraction of you are - "you're reading a lens at the moment".
your: possessive case of you - "your other glove is on the table".
yours: pronoun - "is this glove yours?" Also that which belongs to you - "yours was the first comment I received?"
I've put yours in as I've seen the dreaded apostrophe creeping in -, as in your's. Eeeugh.
Some Other Common English Mistakes
And some Latin
average and mean: Average in the statistical sense means the total of a set of numbers divided by the number of members of the set. The average of 1,2,3, 4 is 2.5. Mean is the value in the middle, so having equal number of members above and below. A Conservative MP once stood up in Parliament and tried to complain that Labour's education policies weren't working because 50% of the country's children were below the mean ...
hear, hear: Muttered in Parliament and various crusty meetings when you approve of what someone has said. A common error is "here, here".
lo and behold: Note there is no "w" on "lo".
per se: The Latin for "by itself", means literally that or "intrinsically". "He wasn't a bad man per se but could be violent when drunk."
refute: means to disprove with evidence. It does not mean "to deny" - politicians please notice.
sashay: "she sashayed along the catwalk" - not to be confused with chassis, in meaning or pronunciation
shoo-in: as in "a shoo-in for the post of manager". Common mistake is "shoe-in".
wrack: damage, most often in the phrase "wrack and ruin". Also "wracking my brains".
And many, many more
I'm not going to add brake/break - any car driver should know the difference. Osculate and oscillate - well, experiment to see which you prefer. Hoes and hose would take me to a classic Two Ronnies sketch (or worse, in the US).
If you do think I should add anything, please say so in the comments below.
Doubling consonants before ing and ed
I like treading on battered shopping. No, not a new hobby, just a few examples that sprang to mind. Words that end in a vowel/consonant: when do we double up the consonant for past participles etc?
Simple rule: if the vowel isn't stressed or if the vowel itself is preceded by a vowel, don't double up. Thus:
"Pleasantly simple," you think. Sorry, this is English so there are some exceptions. One such set is:
Words ending in ip with second syllable unstressed: British English doubles up, American doesn't: so find out if someone worshipped or worshiped and you know where they're from.
Words ending in vowel c: add k, so "frolic/frolicked, picnic/picnicked".
Acronyms And Initials
Capitals and periods
Acronyms: words formed from the initial letters in a set phrase, eg NATO for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
Several major media have begun showing acronyms with a single capital, eg Nato. I'd say this is a matter of personal preference (I think it looks daft) so use whichever you prefer.
Where an organisation or other body is commonly referred to by its initials in non-acronymic form, eg "the UN" for the United Nations", the custom nowadays is to not use periods - UN rather than U.N.
Owning up to an omission
Here's an example. Note the example's use of the apostrophe.
In Place Of Omitted Letters
Can't, for cannot. Haven't for have not. And note ain't for are not (there's a few of these in Dickens).
Not the revolving head and pea soup projectile vomiting possession, but showing ownership. The man's gloves. The people's choice. The children's nanny. The car's wheels (one car), the cars' wheels (several cars). Mr Banks's children.
Main point to note is with plural owners - if the plural form doesn't end in "s" then use "apostrophe s". If the plural form does end in "s" just add an apostrophe.
The Odd Special Case
In time expressions: "a year's time", "in two years' time". "In four days we will ..." No apostrophe on the last one.
Plurals of abbreviations: "In a busy day for the police, they issued forty APB's."
The Unwanted Apostrophe
She had four dog's. She had four dog's whats? We've all seen these on shop signs: - "Fish And Chip's" - and cringed.
Mind you, to set you thinking: "The old man had been a great hunter in his day. Amongst the trophy heads on his walls were four lion's." Correct or not?
All over the place
One simple little punctuation mark that causes a lot of difficulty, the comma actually has several well defined uses. The main things to remember are not to scatter them too liberally and not to use them just because you think a sentence has gone on long enough so it must be time to bung one in.
Where the start of a sentence is a bridge between that sentence and the previous sentence. I learned to play the violin at school. However, it wasn't until I took private lessons that I was allowed to play in public. Note the comma after "However". Note also that running the two sentences together is wrong: I learned to play the violin at school, however, it wasn't until ...
With Quotation Marks
I said, "Stop that at once." Note that the capital letter at the start of the quoted remark does not necessitate a preceding full stop (period).
He famously wrote, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." There is a school of thought that says use a colon instead of a comma if the quotation is longer than six words. I'd say it's completely up to you..
"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here," is perhaps his most famous quotation. Note that the comma goes inside the quotation marks if the quotation precedes the rest of the sentence.
Use a comma after an introductory phrase, however long that phrase. Yesterday, I decided to learn the violin. Having learned to play the violin, I can now play "Frere Jacques". (By the way, why haven't I put a comma after "play" in that last example?)
Use commas to separate items in a list. I like apples, oranges, plums and damsons. You might choose for stylistic reasons to drop the "and", in which case you use another comma: I like apples, oranges, plums, damsons.
Bracketed Clauses (And Unbracketed)
John, a self-made man, lacked certain social graces.
However, he was still a generous host, pressing food and drink on his guests.
The use of commas that people usually think of first, separating the parts of a sentence. The bracketed clause is obvious in the first of the two sentences above; the unbracketed less so in the second. A simple rule to follow is: if the phrase is both relevant and subordinate or ancillary, use a comma. Beware tortuous constructions though:
John, a self-made man, who liked dogs, lacked certain social graces.
If you find yourself writing things like that then you need to reconsider what you're trying to say in one sentence. Note that this fails the relevancy test - dogs have nothing to do with the rest of the sentence. Consider though: John, a self-made man who liked dogs, allowed his corgis to beg food at the dinner table.
Is that It? Of course not, that would be too easy, but if you want to go and read up on some more specialised uses, see Grammar Monster.
Sentence Construction: Basics
When I was naught but a child, many years ago, in a primary school in Liverpool (North West England), we were taught that a sentence, to be correct that is, should express a complete thought and begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop or period as you say in the USA. where the rules are the same even if the mode of expression is a bit different (for example in the use of -ise versus -ize).
Okay, hands up anyone who cringed at that sentence. Not that long but truly horrible, albeit a valid sentence. Why is it bad? The criticisms I'd make should cast some light on how to write a good sentence.
- It's too long (but see The Longest Sentence in Literature)
- Too much extraneous information - eg where I grew up is irrelevant in this context
- Too many clauses - sections delineated by commas or brackets
- Too much information; it's indigestible
- Too much non-information; eg the to be correct that is, serves no useful purpose
- Inappropriate stylistic flourishes, eg naught but
Let's delete accordingly and see what we're left with:
When I was a child, we were taught that a sentence should express a complete thought and begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop or period.
That's a lot better but we can probably go a bit further. Consider the a complete thought. Stress the "a"; in other words, singularity of thought. Let's try two sentences:
When I was a child, we were taught that a sentence should express a single complete thought. It should begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop or period.
Much better. Only one thing remaining to be done (and I'm sure some of you have been scowling at it for a while) the full stop or period implies wrongly that the two terms refer to different things:
When I was a child, we were taught that a sentence should express a single complete thought. It should begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop (period).
Sentence Construction: Clauses
Okay, I've stripped down all my sentences and it looks horrible. Too many short sentences. I want clauses.
(a) The man went to the barber. His hair was long and scruffy.
(b) The man, whose hair was long and scruffy, went to the barber.
Consider example (a): syntactically correct but sounds a bit awkward. Also, the second sentence is ambiguous - I could be talking about the barber's hair. Example (b) is much neater and more precise. It works because the clause is relevant to the whole.
(c) The man, whose trousers were pink with small bells, went to the barber.
Clearly poor, and it would frustrate your readers - you're waffling on about barbers but the pink trousers sound much more interesting.
(d) The man whose hair was long and scruffy wore pink trousers.
(e) The man, whose hair was long and scruffy, wore pink trousers.
What's the difference between examples (d) and (e)? "Commas," says a voice from the back of the room. A subtle distinction - (d) identifies one man amongst many while (e) is correct if we've previously identified which man we're talking about. The latter is still awkward as the subclause isn't relevant to the main part of the sentence, though it would work if accompanied by more information in adjoining sentences.
Keep that notion of relevance in mind and expand to aptness:
(f) The man, long hair flowing in the breeze, rode towards the horizon.
(g) The man, long hair flowing in the breeze, walked along the pavement.
In example (f) we can easily envisage a man on horseback galloping towards the sunset. Example (g), on the other hand, just sounds a bit daft.
(h) The man, heedless of other pedestrians, strode along the pavement.
Example (h) reads okay - the subclause is relevant to the sentence and the change of verb is an improvement.
One final example, a construction I hate, "comma this":
(i) Canonical has just released Ubuntu 11.10, this is the latest version of the popular Ubuntu distribution ...
I've tried to find or construct an example with "comma this" that looks and sounds good - I can't. Consider either of the alternatives:
Canonical has just released Ubuntu 11.10, the latest version of the popular Ubuntu distribution ...
Canonical has just released Ubuntu 11.10. This is the latest version of the popular Ubuntu distribution ...
So then, how to sum up? Keep clauses relevant and apt. Don't write overly long sentences. Don't have too many subclauses in any one sentence.
email versus e-mail
Do you write email or e-mail? Do you go in for e-Commerce or E-Commerce? And if the latter, why not E-mail?
Most of the e- constructions are too new for traditional bodies (eg the OED) to decide. I go by my own rule:
- lower case "e" and no hyphen if the second part has one syllable, hence email
- hyphen if two or more syllables, hence e-Commerce
It's up to you but, as with other areas where there's doubt, make sure you're consistent.
To hyphenate or not to hyphenate?
Cliches And Redundant Words
Basically, horrific murders
What have horrific murders got to do with blog writing? Junior reporters used to be shouted at by sub-editors when they used the adjective, on the grounds that it was clichéd and redundant - all hacks used it and all murders were horrific anyway. Whilst we can be more relaxed on our blogs, we should still beware lest we sound like writers on a Murdoch tabloid.
Redundant expressions do occur more frequently in speech (listen to any sports reporter) but they sound worse in print. Notwithstanding that, basically avoid and dodge phrases like "in a hospital situation". "In hospital" will probably serve better. And yes, ""Notwithstanding that, basically " is an awful way to start a sentence and why do I need "avoid and dodge?" You'll get the added bonus of catering for all those visitors who skim pages quickly or visit fleetingly. (Yes, I did it again - annoying when you're thinking about it, isn't it?)
Great Reference Books
Some Useful Links
The Guardian style guide - facts, pronunciations, usage guide
On wikipedia, a set of pages showing commonly misspelled words
Rules may obviate faults, but can never confer beauties
— Samuel Johnson
Have I caught all of the common errors? Anything you can think of missing? Would you reword that second question?
English like wot it should be wrote
Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on February 22, 2016:
Paul, I was telling my daughter about this article, so came by again to share the link with her. It should be included in any class on English usage. Well done.
Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on August 12, 2015:
Paul, my editor's heart jumped for joy as I read this article. I love your ability to inject your (in)famous dry wit into the explanations and examples without sacrificing clarity. I even learned a new word (littoral). Thanks!
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on July 17, 2015:
Wonderful list of reference for common errors.
Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on January 16, 2015:
Oh my! How people do make all these mistakes, and so often. I, of course, refrain from using those incorrect forms as much as possible!
Paul (author) from Liverpool, England on January 16, 2015:
Ah, but errors don't matter in comments :)
Carol Fisher from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK on January 16, 2015:
You've covered all the most common and many of the less common grammatical errors. I think the problem is that English grammar isn't taught in schools in the way it was when I was young. Gosh - I hope there are no errors in this comment.
Diana Burrell-Shipton from Hubbard, Ohio, USA on January 16, 2015:
Oh, my !
You covered so many of my pet peeves.
I too have been known to use the wrong form of a word or the wrong word entirely when I'm in a hurry. Reading the facebook posts of others does not help matters either :)
I have always tried to instill the love of words and language in my children which has sometimes been tough as they hear/heard slang and misuse of the language by most of their friends and many of their teachers as well. We had many "discussions" over the reasons why they should learn to speak and write as intelligently as possible. My reasoning went something like this: "It is important to learn how so that you do not embarrass yourself when speaking with teachers at school and so that you can write well-formed papers." and "I know, many of your teachers use slang all day and set a poor example. I'm sorry about that, but I still insist that you learn to speak and write properly as someday, you may wish to go to college and/or work at an office where these things will be very important." and, on the most frustrating days "You will learn and you will speak and write to the best of your ability around me because I said so. You may understand why I enforce this - someday. If not, it doesn't matter as I said to do so and I'm your Mother."
It has paid off. My girls are very well-spoken and my son does well despite having Asperger's Syndrome.
Sadly, I am out of practice as using full sentences and correct words is not encouraged any longer.
Thank you for this page. I added this page to my bookmarks.
RaintreeAnnie from UK on January 16, 2015:
Wow! Wonderful review about common English errors. Worth keeping as a reference.
Marion Reads from Canada on November 28, 2014:
This was an excellent review for me. Thanks for writing it. Marion Reads.
Paul (author) from Liverpool, England on November 06, 2014:
Sadly, there are indeed errors in places where there shouldn't be. However, I'm not "picking on bloggers" - as I say at the start of the page.
liuzhou on November 06, 2014:
I don't know why you picking on bloggers. I see many of these mistakes (and some worse) every day on highly respected newspaper and other media sites.
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on September 12, 2014:
This is a great reference page and I will refer back to it often. I have always had a problem with effect and affect for some reason.
Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on September 11, 2014:
Being a word nerd myself, I can appreciate this long list of correct usage of our puzzling English language. Great job, Paul!
Frischy from Kentucky, USA on May 07, 2014:
I am glad you have put this down for all to see. Many bloggers need some help in this regard. Hopefully, they will find their way to this very useful reference. Your hard work is to be applauded!
Paul (author) from Liverpool, England on April 19, 2014:
@TravelsWithAunt: Good point - I 'm trying to be fairly succinct on this page but that is worth pointing out. Thank you.
Paul (author) from Liverpool, England on April 19, 2014:
@Lionrhod: Several cans of worms there!
You might like http://www.eophtha.com/eophtha/words.html
Lionrhod from Orlando, FL on March 29, 2014:
This lens should be required reading for at least half the bloggers on the planet! And ALL the writers on Smashwords. Of course I'm the granddaughter and niece of two English teachers. I think I do mix up ie and eg sometimes, so thanks for setting me straight. Now I have to go through all my writing to look for things to correct and see if I got it right. I considered writing this in incorrect English but it hurt my brain.
As my grandma was a Phonics First (Rudolph Flesch) teacher I'd say I have to disagree on the pronunciation of ghoti, But it was fun anyway.
You might want to add in Pa and Paw as colloquials for "Dad."
That said, I love making up words. And words that were made up. I only recently learned that Shakespeare was the first person to put eye and ball together as a compound.
Also you might want to approach captialization. For instance, "my grandma" as a possessive, but, "Grandma" when I am calling her by the name I use for her. Hmm and I probably needed more commas there, but less commas feels cleaner.
TravelsWithAunt on March 24, 2014:
Great lens! As an English teacher I often cringe when reading published articles.
BTW you can use "any" in affirmative and "some" in a question.
Help yourself - you can take any book in this pile.
Would you like some (more) tea?
Donna Cook on February 14, 2014:
Thanks for a terrific lens! You've hit on one of my pet peeves. My grammar and punctuation may not be perfect, but there is so much dreck even in respected newspapers and Web sites. More people should check the AP Stylebook.
Marti Lawrence from Grain Valley, Missouri on December 19, 2013:
This was an excellent guide - thank you!
Colin323 on December 08, 2013:
The words 'that' and 'which' are often misused - I have problems with them myself, hence my point. Very useful reminder of correct word usage and puncuation. I still see student CVs (plural) used with an apostrophe: CV's.
Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on December 07, 2013:
Wow, you've really got this covered! One other homonym that comes to mind is "capital" and "capitol." The way I remember which is which is that the "o" is in "dome," like the domes in most capital buildings. Funny because that notable city or town where that capitol building is located used the "a" form: capital.
Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on December 05, 2013:
well this page is a great tool for teachers! A little story; many decades ago, my dad and mother were playing scrabble (my dad, as successful as he was, wasn't the best speller)..so, he puts his letters on the board ..'t.u.f.f.' My mom asks...ummm ..what's that? - he of course he says tough, just the way it sounds. That story is one of our treasured family classics. He also put Sox on the board, lol. Yup socks.
Brian Stephens from France on November 18, 2013:
So easy to go wrong, it's always worth reading your articles back when you think you have finished.
EasySpeakEnglish on October 27, 2013:
Excellent, thoroughly enjoyed the read.
Sharon Bellissimo from Toronto, Canada on October 20, 2013:
Great reference and review!
Martina from Croatia, Europe on September 27, 2013:
Thank you, It is very helpful!
Diana Grant from United Kingdom on September 02, 2013:
@Lady Lorelei: : Thank you for your message which will be dealt with as soon as possible.
This is an automated reply.
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on September 02, 2013:
I was here to visit this list of common english errors awhile ago. My writing has hopefully improved a bit since then lol.
EpicEra on July 15, 2013:
I agreed, just like wot it should be wrote!
Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on July 01, 2013:
I noticed you've added my error with "complement" and "compliment," good thing too! If I'm ever in doubt I can come to this lens! Good job!
Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on May 29, 2013:
@annieangel1: Hear! Hear!
Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on May 29, 2013:
Poor little apostrophes have a bad time, I saw a sign in a supermarket last week for "Pear's"
Ann from Yorkshire, England on April 08, 2013:
@annieangel1: opps no you didn't
Ann from Yorkshire, England on April 08, 2013:
what about here here or hear hear when you agree with what someone said? still trying to puzzle that one out :) ;)
Barbara Walton from France on April 03, 2013:
This is great - going to add it to my lensography as a 'text' lens. Can recommend a book called 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves' by Lynne Truss. A grammar book that reads like a cross between a joke book and a novel - I couldn't wait to go to bed to read about commas!
Rose Jones on March 28, 2013:
Came to find the recipe link, and I was able to do so. I hope I punctuated that sentence properly. I have found that blogging and being on the Internet in general has contributed to a huge decrease in my grammar, and especially spelling abilities. If I didn't fall asleep in the middle of a page like this; or if there was a deadline with a big penalty assigned to it like April 15 to learn grammar or else I guess I could do it. Hmmm, that made me hungry. I have some old bread in the house, maybe I will make some bread and butter pudding!
Gardener Don on March 05, 2013:
Excellent article. I'm a Kiwi , so raised on British English, but live in Canada (a hybrid of British & US English) so I get stuck on a lot of the little differences. I actually don't mind a few errors in my Lens's as I find it adds some realism to the tale (tail!) I'm telling. Too many lenses are pretty sterile.
anonymous on March 01, 2013:
This is an awesome lens. I love it!
There's one you haven't caught and that's "without further adieu" :) In the "wet whet" what about mentioning "wed" and maybe "weed"?
goldenrulecomics from New Jersey on February 25, 2013:
Nice job here. The one I see wrong the most is compliment when complement is needed!
Titia Geertman from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on January 15, 2013:
I've been here before I got my Angel Wings, now I have them, so I came back to bless this very helpful article of yours.
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on January 07, 2013:
The english language really is very confusing. I have fond memories of many of these words. Lol NOT. Oh how they have tormented me over the years.
victoriahaneveer on January 07, 2013:
OK I understand the ghoti thing now lol
Monica Lobenstein from Western Wisconsin on December 23, 2012:
I've always been pretty good at grammar and usage, but I still get a little hung up on ensure vs. insure and affect vs. effect. So, thanks for the clarification!
poppy mercer from London on December 17, 2012:
Dear Paul, I think I use too many semi colons; it's a bad habit of mine. Perhaps you might find the time to add a section on them.
Sharon Bellissimo from Toronto, Canada on December 16, 2012:
Yikes, I'm glad this is my native language! After seeing the language presented this way I wouldn't want to have to learn it. As a Canadian, I am caught between British and American grammar and spelling. British english is still dominant here but I was surprised with the "kerb". It has always been curb here but I didn't know this was considered an American version.
Carol Fisher from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK on December 16, 2012:
I enjoyed reading this page but now I'm worried about my sentence construction and punctuation in this comment.
Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on December 16, 2012:
Fantastic lens! Informative and easy to read all the way through. I will be passing this lens on to the Homeschool Club here on Facebook and linking to it on my grammar lenses.
Squid Angel Blessed!
anonymous on December 05, 2012:
Generally speaking I am OK, my biggest problem is tpyos through hitting the wrong keys on the keynoard.
marsha32 on December 02, 2012:
Great grammar and English lessons here for sure!
I'm pretty good, at least I think so.....I'm sure I do make mistakes along the way.
I know sometimes I catch myself putting in the homonym.
BestRatedStuff on December 02, 2012:
A very good resource. Enjoyed reading it, and learned (I hope), a thing or two.
victoriahaneveer on November 12, 2012:
Hang on, ghoti is pronounced "fish" ??! I need to re-read this!
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 15, 2012:
Came back to read this again and bless it. This is very useful.
John Dyhouse from UK on October 15, 2012:
I think I am happy with the use of most of these but have to admit you caught me out on a couple. One was whet/wet and the other I have forgotten after reading through the lens. I will have to read it again now or it will play on my mind. Cheers.
anonymous on October 04, 2012:
I came here for relief from seeing one more instance of "peaked my curiosity" and you delivered! Some notes-
In average/mean, "mean" *is* synonymous with average. "median" is the value at the middle of the set. Complement and supplement also have precise geometric definitions as well (in case anyone cares!)
In the U.S. I've never heard [network] router pronounced "rooter", and I'm in tech.
Paul (author) from Liverpool, England on September 23, 2012:
@FanfrelucheHubs: It very much depends on how you learn - I took French and German at school and so a lot was book-based - which means my vocabulary is good but my accent is abysmal.
LisaDH on September 22, 2012:
Excellent guide. And the next time I'm in England, I'll be sure to watch for the Trooping of the Colour (now that I know what it is and how to spell it!).
barbiefashionistas on September 19, 2012:
A great lens, especially a blondie like me needs such a resource to come back and check in times. Thank you for sharing.
Srena44 on September 19, 2012:
moonlitta on September 09, 2012:
Strangely I make really many mistakes and I can't think of one to share here:) "Writer's" block- oh, just comment's block maybe?
Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on September 09, 2012:
I had to look up "ghoti". 3which" is a word I have to look up every single time, I just can't remember how to spell it.
Browsing this list of common English errors made me realized that, as a second language, I don't make most of these mistakes, but I make many others. Maybe it has to do with the way we learn English as a second/third language?
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on September 09, 2012:
I need to bookmark this page so I can return anytime I have a question. Affect and effect are two of the ones that always give me a hard time. Thanks so much for this great resource page on Common English Errors.
anonymous on September 08, 2012:
Good to know all the things you have described here. Wonderful information which are not known to me before .Thanks for sharing ....Well done
Beverly Rodriguez from Albany New York on September 07, 2012:
My sticking point was always effect and affect. I think I got it now. Very thorough information and interesting lens.
Camden1 on September 06, 2012:
As a Southerner, I would like to point out that "y'all" is a contraction of "you all" and should not be spelled "ya'll". It's up to a higher English authority to decide if the word "y'all" is proper English at all.
KimGiancaterino on September 05, 2012:
Wonderful reference! I've often debated "email" vs "e-mail" and am glad you brought that up. Your solution makes perfect sense. I like to be consistent in my own writing, but consider nearly all of the forms correct.
Neeznoodle on September 05, 2012:
This has excellent information. But I was hoping you would explain the difference between lay and lie. Is it, "I'm going to go lay down on the bed for a while," or "I'm going to go lie down on the bed for a while"? I can never remember which is correct.
Paul (author) from Liverpool, England on September 05, 2012:
@anonymous: I have been tempted to write a module on dashes, em dashes, hyphens etc ...
anonymous on September 04, 2012:
A brilliant lens - thank you (thought I'd hyphenate for the hell of it!)
Lynne Schroeder from Blue Mountains Australia on August 14, 2012:
I wonder if you should include the third person present tense form of let as in "that use of their when it should be they're really lets you down" or "if she lets down the hem of my skirt it will look odd"
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on August 14, 2012:
I think ya'll got it a little funny here. English ain't got no funny words like ya'll is saying ;)
piedromolinero on August 14, 2012:
I bookmarked this awesome explanation to have it handy whenever needed. I wonder, if native English speakers make all these mistakes, how can a foreigner avoid them. Well, I think your lens will help to improve at least.
OrlandoTipster on August 06, 2012:
This is lens is good I'm bookmarking this for future reference!
robertzimmerman2 on July 29, 2012:
This is one of the best Lenses I've read, thanks!
Wanda Fitzgerald from Central Florida on July 26, 2012:
This is great. I've bookmarked it because I always get tripped up on commas. One of my pet peeves is the misuse of they're their there.
bernie74 lm on July 05, 2012:
Great Lens Paul, you got me on Ghoti, I often find myself stumbling with the English Language, It is known as the hardest language of all to learn.
Thanks for sharing
Paul (author) from Liverpool, England on July 05, 2012:
@EMangl: It's there, in the "i before e" section.
melissiaoliver on July 05, 2012:
Great lens! I found a wonderful poem really listing the absurdities of the English language, with lines such as
"Finally, which rhymes with enough, Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?"
Surely having a less eccentric language would be less fun though.
Paul (author) from Liverpool, England on July 04, 2012:
@EMangl: It's in the "i before e except ..." section,
EMangl on July 04, 2012:
miss "weird wierd" in your lens, often see it wrong
ismeedee on July 04, 2012:
Great lens! My little boy just learning to read keeps getting frustrated and I keep telling him, 'well, that's our language, it's crazy. You should learn French.' haha!
Terry Lomax from Rep. of Ireland on June 12, 2012:
Have you heard of the pond inhabited by several 'fishes', each of several 'fish'?
Deadicated LM on June 10, 2012:
I love this Lens; good stuff! I write online; I'm sure I'm guilty of a few (although I do try hard not to be). I'm not too bad for someone with a GED(uh). Lol
antoniow on June 10, 2012:
Nice lens, well done! Squidlikes
mel-kav on May 29, 2012:
This is a great lens. I am bookmarking it now!
Pics4merch on May 25, 2012:
Just came across this lens of yours. Thanks for pointing out and correcting two of my mistakes :)
I bookmarked the lens, I'm sure it will come in handy on a pretty much daily basis!
lclchors on May 22, 2012:
I back linked you from my lens My journey through squidland
anka05 on May 20, 2012:
Very useful lens. Thank you for sharing!
BarbaraCasey on May 17, 2012:
Seriously good lens. You left my own spelling lens in the dust. Great job.
JoshK47 on May 16, 2012:
Awesome work on this lens - blessed by a SquidAngel!
April Wier on May 14, 2012:
Maybe - "Anything missing, that you detect?" Tricky one. If you say, "Anything missing, that you can think of?" you end with a preposition, awkward. Anyway, I am guilty of the "insured for/against" infraction. Great Word Nerd Lens.
HenkWillemse on April 14, 2012:
Great info, I'll sure use some of the tips.
anonymous on April 14, 2012:
Good Job, quite an informative lens you've made here.
gregoryolney lm on April 07, 2012:
Oh and another - there's no such word as "momento", it's "memento", or "momentum" ! Sorry I could hog these comments for hours to come - no more I promise !
gregoryolney lm on April 07, 2012:
I get so bloody annoyed at some very common errors ! "I'm doing real good !" "Are you ? To whom ?" "Please bare with me" Sounds like fun ! Are children not taught the difference between adjectives and adverbs ? I could go on and on......
Great lens !
Titia Geertman from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on April 01, 2012:
Can't imagine I missed this lens, it's clearly written for me, the Dutchie who's always messing around with the proper use of English words. Even being known for inventing words LOL
VeseliDan on March 27, 2012:
This lens is very useful for me because I have some problems with English.
anonymous on March 26, 2012:
Awesome lens! I admit I have some problems with some of those words, I still have to look up 'affect' and 'effect'! The main problem I have right now is a tendency to use the word 'irregardless' instead of 'regardless'.
Pmona LM on March 25, 2012:
Ghoti, pronounced like 'fish'? Hah! (I got that one wrong.) Oh well, time to go eat my baked ghoughphtheightteeau.
anonymous on March 21, 2012:
you've explained it very well,Sir Paul. It's a good tool to improve our writing,I'm bookmarking it and 'share' with others :]