Grammar check – don’t make these embarrassing mistakes!

We all make grammar mistakes and it’s important to keep in mind that communication is the goal, no matter how you get there. But it’s always good to learn the rules, right? So here are a few mistakes we make and how to fix them.

I got this list from an article on, entitled “43 Embarrassing Grammar Mistakes Even Smart People Make” by Christina DesMarais. Check out the article for the full list. Here are a few of my favorites:

“Shoo-in” is what you really want to write when you’re trying to say that someone is a sure winner. It’s because when you “shoo” something you’re urging it in a certain direction.

The first-year anniversary
The use of the word “year” is redundant. “The first anniversary” or “the 50th anniversary” suffice.

Hot water heater
If anything, it’s a cold water heater. Just use “water heater.”

Given free reign
It’s easy to see why this one looks correct, considering that “reign” is something that kings, queens, and other sovereigns do. Yet the correct idiom refers to the reins which control a horse. When you give a horse “free rein” you let it go where it wants to go.

Tow the line
To “toe the line” means to follow the rules. It comes from runners who put their toe to the line before running a race.

I’m guilty of making some of these mistakes. Are you?

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32 thoughts on “Grammar check – don’t make these embarrassing mistakes!

  1. Thank you for your service to clear writing! Back in the mists of time when I worked as a secretary (this was before administrative assistants), I had a boss who liked to sprinkle the letters he had me type for him with the phrase “various unsundry.” It fell to me to turn it into “various and sundry.” Oy.

  2. I do see some of these and other similar errors, Barbara. I must admit that they are easy to make when typing quickly. One that wasn’t on the list but really annoys me is when people are introducing a speaker and say, “Now without any more adieu” instead of ‘ado’. I think some of these errors occur, in part, because they are part of the oral rather than written tradition. They wouldn’t occur if they were ever seen in print. And the ones that do occur in print reflect carelessness or lack of editing. Mostly.

    1. Hi Norah, oh I’ve never heard the “adieu” one before – wow that would get to me! But I think you’re right that many of these are part of the oral tradition. Some others I’ve heard more recently (from my kids, and adults in the youth sports world) are “out of balance” instead of “out of bounds” and “versing” to describe two teams playing each other. These two phrases are so widely spoken around here that I don’t believe anyone is even thinking about what they’re saying! Oh well, Communication is the key, right? Thanks for reading and commenting, Norah.

      1. ‘Out of balance’ for ‘out of bounds’. Wow, I don’t get that. I probably shouldn’t start on things that annoy me, but another one is the use of ‘imply’ instead of ‘infer’. Our news reporters are notorious for that. They also often say that ‘a car lost control’. I’d like to see that. 🙂 They obviously don’t like to implicate the driver. I probably shouldn’t say too much more or I might implicate myself as well. 🙂

  3. I love this! Yes, we definitely refer to the “hot water heater” — I’ve never even stopped to think about it. 🙂 I can only imagine the look on my husband’s face if I called it a “cold water heater”, which is so much more descriptive of its actual function!

  4. Such a helpful post! I came across one I’ll share and almost used wrong and it’s ‘mother lode’. At one point I made the mistake and put ‘mother load’ lol. So silly! 🤣❤

    1. Haha! I remember using the word “rococco” in a college paper. I had been searching my thesaurus for an interesting word, used in wrong and was called out for it! Thanks for reading!

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