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Use the Right Word - Grammar Errors and Usage

Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially languages, art and culture.

Using the right word will vastly improve your writing.

Using the right word will vastly improve your writing.

Correct Word Usage Is Important

I do a lot of online writing. I’ve also come across many, many articles that are otherwise well-written, but drive me slightly crazy with those tiny little grammar errors.

Well, we’ll leave my own mental stability aside when I address the most common words below that people often choose incorrectly.

I won’t bother either with explaining parts of speech – would you like an adverb with that? Besides, when’s the last time you thought about personal pronouns and intransitive verbs?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a language geek. But I “get” that not everyone appreciates linguaphiles in the way that I do.

So, I’ll just share some linguistical humor…while showing the correct word to use.


Use the Elements of Style - The Ultimate Grammar Source

A lot vs. A lot

When you talk to our British friends, have you ever noticed that they use the word "lot" in various situations?

The whole lot of them had too much ale. It wasn’t the ginger variety, either.

I went to the store and bought the whole lot of purple wigs to prepare for Halloween.

Those sentences wouldn’t work if we substituted in the smashed-together word “a lot”:

The whole a lot of them had too much ale.

I went to the store and bought the whole a lot of purple wigs.

Now you know: lot is a word by itself. You buy a lot for a house, but you can’t buy “a lot” for a house because there is no such thing.

Affect vs. effect

Before I talk about these words, I must ask: Do you have an object of your affection?

When we shower loved ones with our affections, we’re trying to “influence” them with our love, are we not?

To “affect” something is to do the same thing: influence it.

I adversely affected the flavor of the soup by adding 7 cloves of garlic to it. Only later did I realize the recipe said to add 2 cloves. The object of my affection wouldn’t go near me for days.

When you use the word “effect” you’re talking about the result or consequence of something. Think of the phrase cause and effect.

The effects of the love potion were wearing off. The object of his affection realized she was in love with a frog.

The side-effects said nothing about frogs! Hopefully the potion didn’t affect her judgment too badly.

A little grammar humor...

Lose v. loose

When you "lose" something, you misplace it. In that moment, you don’t know where it is and it could be gone forever…or just temporarily. It’s pronounced “lewz.”

I regularly lose my mind. I often remember to look for it under the bed.

The word "loose" means that something isn’t tightly sealed or able to move freely. It also rhymes with goose.

When I’m looking for my mind, I often wonder how loose my screws are.

Be careful of losing your mind! You wouldn’t want to misplace it forever and ever.

Breath vs. breathe

The word ”breath” is pronounced “breth” and rhymes with get. It is the air that comes out of your mouth and nose. It’s also what smells so bad in the mornings.

I can hold my breath underwater for four minutes. I don’t think I've suffered too much brain damage doing that...but I have forgotten what I'm talking about.

The word “breathe” is pronounced “breeth” (the “th” is soft at the end, like in the word “the”)and rhymes with breeze. “Breathing” is the act of taking in or blowing out air.

When I breathe in and out really fast, I see stars. Sometimes I fall over after breathing rapidly for a few minutes.

Thus, when you’re talking about huffing and puffing, you’re breathing big, deep breaths. Now go blow the house in. (Yes, I did just end that sentence with a preposition.)

Fewer vs. less

You use the word “fewer” when comparing things that you can count.

I counted fewer sheep last night than the night before: 457 vs. 992.

The word “less” is used more for things that you’d have trouble counting:

I put less beans in the crock pot for the chili. The house will smell better if everyone eats fewer bowls of beans.

Remember, it’s entirely possible to have too many beans. Less is better in that regard – if you value pleasant aromas, that is.

Healthful vs. healthy

Do you say "healthy food" or "healthful food"?

Well, if we give way to the times, people say “healthy food” far more often than not.

Once upon a time, though, you might have implied that the food itself is somehow live and possessing health - that somehow it enjoyed its own wellness.

“Healthful” would be something that contributed to better health – once upon a time.

Give me the cake and nobody gets hurt. You’ll find it far more healthful to obey my commands; you’ll live long and healthy lives if you just feed me cake.

These days, people seem to want to have their “healthy cake” and eat it, too. I can understand that, as long as I can call carrot cake healthful. (Which, of course, it’s not, but let’s just pretend it is…healthful, you know, for my mental health.)

Practicing my ninja moves.  I definitely don't like to be stationary for too long.

Practicing my ninja moves. I definitely don't like to be stationary for too long.

Stationary vs. stationery

If you’re "stationary", you’re in one spot. You can think of the military, too, when you get "stationed" somewhere.

I’ve been stationary in this chair for so long, I’ve become like a tree and grown roots, and the branches creak and crack when I try to stand up.

Growing roots, huh? You might want to get one of those little pedometer things and start counting steps. You’ll grow less roots that way.

If you are into "stationery," you probably spend a lot of time at the card shop.

Mark was such a card. He enjoyed the role so well, he founded his own stationery company. Down the halls he’d go and everyone would shout, “Hall Mark!”

What? Haven’t you been called a card before? You need to infuse a little more humor into your life!

Your vs. You’re

The word “your” refers to an object or something that belongs to someone you might be talking to or addressing.

Your trousers are dragging. They're going to fall off."

If you smash the two words “you” and “are” together, you get “you’re.” It’s like an equation: you+are = you’re. Whenever you would use those two words in a sentence, feel free to do some letter-smashing.

"You're underestimating the possibility of your pants falling off if you continue to wear them so low. I'm just trying to be helpful, I promise."

use-the-right-word

There/They’re/Their

“There” refers to location.

Look up there! It’s a bird, it’s a plane! It’s…a flying squirrel!

“Their” refers to an object or thing that belongs to more than one person.

Oh yes. The people on the thirteenth floor always let their flying squirrels loose this time of day.

“They’re” refers to the two smashed-together words, they and are. They + are = they’re.

They’re quite strange. They also have flying bats, cats and mice. I think one is named Mighty Mouse. Someone said they had a cat named Skippyjon Jones, too.

Indeed, there are three different reasons to use these words, but they’re only going to confuse you if you don’t remember these wacky sentences.

Sight/Cite/Site

Three spellings for one sound? Sure.

If you value beautiful things, then they’re a "sight" for the eyes to see. Sight and eyes sort of rhyme, and they go together because they’re related – a little bit like second cousins or something like that.

What a sight indeed when I saw a talking rabbit and a strange man start to sing about their very merry un-birthday.

When you “cite” someone or something, you quote them (think: “citation”) or you’ve just issued a summons.

The officer cited her for running amok and harassing a caterpillar.

A “site” is a location, most notably on the internet.

Alice in Wonderland’s site is tough to navigate. It’s like going through a maze and these mysterious cats keep popping up.

Who’s vs. Whose

These two words sound just alike, but they can make your writing less confusing by using the correct one.

“Whose” is used to show that a person owns an object or thing, or that it’s in their possession; it’s usually in the form of a question.

Whose smelly shoes are those? They’re so smelly there’s green smoke emanating from them!

Interestingly, no one claimed ownership of those shoes.

The English language has this funny way of smashing words together. The word “who’s” is no exception. Who + is = who’s.

Who’s the one who won the lottery? Surely it wasn’t me!

No, it wasn’t me. Or the 3,998, 124 other people who bought a ticket.

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun

Comments

jitu on February 08, 2020:

A.K.M. is the right word or A.K.M is the right word

KonaGirl from New York on July 29, 2019:

I grit my teeth every time I see the misspellings of bloggers. They're talking about picking up their kids over there at the playground but haven't got a clue which is which (spelled witch). Hahahaha.

Jack Prickitt on July 23, 2018:

How about "way," 'weigh," and "whey?"

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on July 30, 2016:

JPSO138 - haha, thanks! Hope you're well!

JPSO138 from Cebu, Philippines, International on July 27, 2016:

Very interesting. You are right indeed. Just a slight change and they mean a lot already...

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 23, 2013:

Chef-de-jour - hehe. I definitely try to make grammar learning a little more fun. ;0) Thank you so much for stopping by and it's fun to learn about our UK comrades and the subtle differences in speech. :)

Andrew Spacey from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on January 23, 2013:

A welcome addition to the grammar 'shelf' with some very clear examples and lots of wonderful information - for both novice and expert. The video's a humdinger.

Increasingly here in the UK you'll see your mistakenly mixed up with you're - as in:

'Your not alone.'

'You're wish is our command.'

Hang on, have I got that the wrong way round?

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 11, 2013:

Thank you, Rahul. I love a good grammar lesson. :) Indeed, knowing grammar and its ins and outs is so impoartant - in any language. :)

Jessee R from Gurgaon, India on January 11, 2013:

Some very useful tips and examples my friend.

I wrote a hub about the effects of grammar on the corporate and legal world. You, as per the knowledge and hold you have must be aware already :)

Proper sentence structuring is the key to all paper work and online/offline writing.

Your hub lays down the basic essence of such relevance which grammar holds.

Voted up and shared :)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 07, 2013:

Epigramman - thank you! Hehe. I also send you warm wishes for a wonderful, happy and prosperous 2013!

And yes, even I fall prey to the whims of the English language, but I have so much fun trying to figure out the perfect grammatical phrases to use - I'm definitely a lover of language. :D Cheers!

epigramman on January 06, 2013:

Congratulations Cyndi on your perfect 100 score and you certainly deserve it because you are a world class writer and communicator.

And I am sending you warm wishes for your continued health, happiness and prosperity in 2013.

Yes it's true, we all fall prey/victim to grammatical and spelling errors, and I write so darn fast that I really have to be careful (lol) but this is a very handy hub presentation to learn from and I for one will use it as a reference guide .....thank you for your research and your passion about this subject

lake erie time ontario canada 5:21pm

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on November 04, 2012:

Jamie - nah, it's all in good fun. :D I have "a lot" of fun writing these and poking fun. LOL. It's just so fun that you came by.

Jamie Brock from Texas on November 03, 2012:

I have to admit, I am scared right now because I'm afraid I may make a mistake.. LOL! I still make silly mistakes like this and probably more than I realize. For the longest time, I got the your and you're thing mixed up. Yeah, I just admitted that.. LOL! I still use the term "a lot" but have started putting a space between the a and lot.. is it correct to use it that way? I do want to write the correct way and your hub here will help me to be more cautious. Thank you so much for sharing. Voted up, useful :)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on November 02, 2012:

Julie - hehe, you do fantastic! Fantastic, I tell ya!

Teaches - You're also such an amazing writer - I don't think I've ever seen you with a grammar error. :)

Dianna Mendez on November 01, 2012:

Thanks for the refresher. I have probably made some of this mistakes, please forgive me. Very enjoyable read and your added wit makes it fun to learn. Voted up and useful.

Blurter of Indiscretions from Clinton CT on November 01, 2012:

Excellent! Most of these I do...phew. :)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on November 01, 2012:

Alocsin - ah, thank you so much! I know "a lot" of these words can be confusing, but I have so much fun writing about them. LOL

Carol7777 - hehe, I still make mistakes, too - we're only human. But, it's fun to poke fun at these words that trip people up - including me! :D

Glimmer Twin Fan - Well in short: far = distance and when you talk about something being farther away, you're talking about the distance it is away from you. "Further" is to delve more in-depth, like "explore an idea further" - fun stuff! Thanks for coming by!

Claudia Mitchell on November 01, 2012:

Great hub and reminds everyone to be careful when writing. How about farther vs. further? I'm sure I've made some of these mistakes in my hubs. Now I better go back and check. Voted up!

carol stanley from Arizona on November 01, 2012:

I also have made many of these mistakes. So I am glad you brought all this out..Makes us better writers. I am bookmarking for future use, voting up and sharing on facebook.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on October 31, 2012:

I'm familiar with all these errors except for "a lot." I did not know there was such a word and had been using "lot" for that term. Thanks for setting me straight. Voting this Up and Useful.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on October 31, 2012:

NateB11 - Haha, thank you so much. Yes, all the different versions of the word "to" and "then" trip people up a lot, don't they? I might have to make a sequel to this hub. :D

Wetnosedogs - affect and effect can be tricky. LOL.. Thank you for stopping by!

Joaniebaby - yes, it is that bit of craziness that compels me to write wacky hubs such as this. Ha! Now, I admit, sometimes people make errors because they've been starting at the screen for too long - it's when there are multiple errors that make me more nuts. LOL.

joaniebaby on October 31, 2012:

I agree with you. Wrong words drive me a little crazy, too. And misspelled words do also. I don't understand how a hub with all of the very noticeable misspellings and grammar errors can be a "Hub of the Day!" Have you ever noticed how many errors there are in the newspapers these days? Spell check doesn't catch these errors. Thanks for the good info. Voted up and useful.

wetnosedogs from Alabama on October 31, 2012:

Affect and Effect always may me think twice and sometimes more than twice. Love this and enjoyed the video.

Nathan Bernardo from California, United States of America on October 30, 2012:

This is a very good guide, and I agree the language should be used correctly, otherwise communication breaks down. Often, I see the misuse of "to" and "too", and "then" and "than"; I see these errors being made all over the Internet. Anyway, I'd love to see this guide on desktops or bookmarked on computers across the globe.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on October 30, 2012:

Christy - thank you so much! Hehe. Less and fewer, yeah, well I forgive you. :D Thank you for all the votes and shares. I appreciate it! :)

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on October 30, 2012:

I have to vote up and awesome for your video alone! I had a huge smile :) I do get 'less' and 'fewer' mixed up sometimes but I hope you tell me if you catch it! Vote up and sharing too

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on October 30, 2012:

Ruchira - oh you are a WONDERFUL writer! LOL...I just cringe when I see otherwise good articles hehe...Keep on rockin! :)

Ruchira from United States on October 29, 2012:

Wonderful hub, cyndi.

I hope I am not the ones that you read and say ummmm ;)

I also think twice when I am writing its versus it's

Cheers!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on October 29, 2012:

Rose - hehe, yes, I channel my reading frustrations into zany, wacky hubs that hopefully will help others. :D Thank you so much!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 29, 2012:

Well done as always! I love your grammar hubs. I also do a lot of online writing and READ a lot of online writing from others. It drives me nuts how frequently I come across these errors from very educated individuals. More people need to read this!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on October 29, 2012:

RHW - HAHA! You crack me up. I took a lot of French...and Spanish...and linguistics...and I really, really learned about languages, sentence structure and more than I ever thought I would need to know....I hear liaison! HAHAH. It really is hard to keep it straight. :)

Aviannovice - good to see you. Oh, I make my fair share. And I always have to poke fun at myself. :D

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on October 29, 2012:

I'm sure that I have made a number of errors grammatically, but I sure make my best attempts not to do it.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on October 29, 2012:

I am always finding mistakes in my own grammar. I hate it...and I swear my English was first rate (I even too Honors Eng 1 and 11 in college...I think it got worse after I took 4 semesters of French. I sometimes get confused...or when Dave mumbles, I hear liason!

I tell you...I can't keep it all straight!

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on October 28, 2012:

Austinstar - ya know, after staring at a hub for hours on end, I'm surprised I don't miss more little things than I do. Hehe.

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on October 28, 2012:

I have my own spelling errors occasionally and I rely on others to find them. My eyes are not as good as they used to be.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on October 28, 2012:

Alecia - hello, friend! Thank you for your thoughts and insights - that's great feedback to hear and see. :) Cheers!

Rusticliving - HAHAHA. "Excellerating" Ha! I love it! :D Jobe Wellll Dun 2 U! Love you back, my hummingbird! :)

Austinstar - I had a chance to see your comment earlier (I left almost right after publishing to see the in-laws) but I corrected that "ON" LOL. What would I do without eyes as good as yours? :D Thank you, thank you!

Vicki - someone had the gaul to say "who's" is not a word! Oh my! Did you slug 'em with grammatical rhetoric? Hehe, just kidding. :D

Sunshine - "I seen that" word before. Drives me up the wall. LOL. Thank you so much for comin' by! Cheers!

lrc7815 - My pet peeves definitely drive me to write batty, wacky grammar hubs, Hehe. Thanks for coming by!! Cheers!

lmKarn23 - nah, I feel your pain. I mean if a man can't spell, are ya really going to be able to have an intellectual conversation with him? Hehe. Thanks for your feedback!

Bill - Big Bro! Ya know, it's the blogging. Really. I was feeling a little fried from all that "serious" writing I was doing and had my "release" writing freely and with reckless abandon. Now, I got my humor back! Hehe. Hugs, big bro!!

Lovedoctor926 - oh this is just the tip of the iceberg, lol. Nauseous and nauseated are two others that drive me batty. Hmm, maybe there will be a sequel to this hub. Ha!

Janine - oh, thank you so much! You're an excellent writer - I look forward to reading your blogs and hubs because they always entertain and have so much insight. :)

tinamariemiller - thank you so much! :)

tinamariemiller from Peoria, AZ on October 28, 2012:

Excellent!

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on October 28, 2012:

I have always been fairly good with grammar, but even I have my moments and do doubt myself. You compiled a nice list and am pinning to refer to, thanks. Have also voted up and shared too!

lovedoctor926 on October 28, 2012:

Excellent! The examples that you have provided are commonly misused by writers. Principal and principle is another one as well as went and gone.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 28, 2012:

This is the Cyndi I grew to love; the video is a classic. My biggest peeve as a teacher was grammar....and the constant misuse of "affect" and "effect." Hopefully this hub will help a great deal of writers. :)

Karen Silverman on October 28, 2012:

ones vs one's, two - i mean also...lol..

Awesome hub..i laughed from the title on down!

When i used to be on a dating site (sight?cite?) i wouldn't even chat with anyone who's spelling or grammar was sloppy or bad..

that's terrible, really - judging a man by his spelling - but - can you imagine what other things he does badly or sloppily?

Yeah - so could I...lol!

lol

Linda Crist from Central Virginia on October 28, 2012:

You have covered my pet peeve extremely well. I hope I haven't made any of those mistakes in my hubs. lol Voted up and awesome.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on October 28, 2012:

I often use "seen" instead of "saw," it bugs the heck outta my daughter who is a kindergarten teacher! OK, I use it on purpose with her because I know it bugs her. I just do NOT like the word saw...it's just not an attractive word. I tell her, it could be so much worse! :) Excellent grammar tips!

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on October 28, 2012:

Speaking of "who's," I got a comment in a grammar hub once that "who's" is not a word. Heck, yeah, it is! haha. It's a weird smashed up contraction, though, isn't it? Like "there's." Anyway, I love this hub, of course, being a grammar geek myself. I feel your pain and annoyance. Where did you find that video? LOVE IT!!!

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on October 28, 2012:

While I did not spot any grammatical errors, there is a spelling error:

"Do you have on object of your affection?"

Perhaps I have on the object of my affection, but I think you mean "Do you have an object of your affection?"

Whose object would that be? I wonder a lot. There is no way of knowing if they're going to that place there on the map as she pointed to the spot marked X.

That cite I got from the cop was such an impressive sight that I posted it on my web site.

Seriously, I love the way you use that grammar stuff. Voted up, useful and funny.

Liz Rayen from California on October 28, 2012:

HAhahahahaha.. I am reading this hub and listening to your video.. I can't stop laughing.. Regardless of how I may spew at the screen from over exerting my apostrophes, I find this hub excellerating, exhilarating?.... well, all I can say is Jobe Well Dun! Love you, my little Butterfly! Thumbs up and definitely sheered!

Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on October 28, 2012:

Writing online has made me a better grammarian overall but there are moments when I doubt myself. Your tips are not only useful but well-organized. Voted up, useful, and shared!

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