Common grammar mistakes that make a bad impression

Image: Pixabay

When my kids were little, they liked to play an arcade game on our computer. This was before the age of cell phones and tablets for every person over 5, so the family computer was where they played. The game had been a birthday present for one of them and was a low-budget addition to something else they’d received. The first time they played, when the game was over, the results appeared on the screen: “Winner” or, if things didn’t go well, “Looser” – that’s right L-O-O-S-E-R. I’ve always thought it was pretty harsh to call someone a loser, but we had a big laugh over how the makers of the game needed a spelling/grammar lesson. Years later, this little joke still comes up in conversation.

This article on cnbc.com about common grammar mistakes (written or spoken) made me think about that computer game and sure enough, lose vs. loose is on the list. Here are some very basic explanations. Some may be obvious to you, but I like having a refresher!

  • UNNECESSARY APOSTROPES: Resist the urge to add an apostrophe just because a word ends in “s.” Apostrophes are for contractions like can’t or to show possession. “I can’t go to the movies because I have to pick up my sister’s dress at the store.” I don’t usually go wrong with this one, except when showing possession for a person whose last name ends in “s.” Then it seems as if anything goes. Some people put an apostrophe with no “s” and other people put an apostrophe and another s. As in Ross’ book or Ross’s book. Which is it? Is that a regional thing?
  • EVERYDAY VS. EVERY DAY: This one’s not too hard. “These are my everyday shoes, as in the ones I wear every day.”
  • I VS. ME: Use I when it’s the subject of the sentence. Use me after a preposition. “I went to the store.” “Those cupcakes are for Joe and me.” Now, here’s a question for you: do you say, “It is I” when you’re calling someone or knocking on their door? It sounds so formal! I break the rule and say, “It’s me” and hope the grammar police aren’t on the other side of the door!
  • IT’S VS. ITS: For this one, think contraction vs. possession. Back in the days of yore when the landline rang and you were expecting a call, you’d run to the phone before anyone else could get it and on your way you’d call out, “I’ve got it. It’s for me!” Use its with no apostrophe to show possession, as in, “The storm reared its ugly head.”
  • LESS VS. FEWER: The general rule is to use fewer when it’s something that can be counted. Think about the signs at the express lanes in the grocery story. They often say “20 items or less” but that’s wrong. They should say “20 items or fewer.” Use less when the number can’t reasonably be counted (like snowflakes in a snowstorm) or when the number is part of a total unit like “less than 50 percent.” 
  • LIE VS. LAY: I’m not gonna lie 😉, I work hard to avoid using these words altogether, especially lay. But here’s what to do. Say “I want to lie down” if you’re tired and need a rest and “Lay that book on the table” when you’re referring to an object.
  • LOSE VS. LOOSE: Lose refers to a competition or simply misplacing something. Loose means the opposite of tight.
  • THAT VS. WHO: That refers to things and who refers to people. What about book characters? Are they people or things? Does anyone know the rule for that?
  • THEN VS. THAN: Then refers to a period of time. Use than when you’re comparing things.
  • THERE/THEIR/THEY’RE: This one’s easy. There shows direction, their shows possession and they’re is a contraction for “they are.”
  • YOUR VS YOU’RE: Also easy. Your shows possession and you’re is a contraction for “you are.”

I often refer to Grammarly, a free site that helps me set things straight. If you’re looking for more, you can check out this article, “15 Best Online Grammar Checker Tools for 2022” from firstsiteguide.com. Some of these are free but others are paid.

I always had a hard time with grammar and tenses when I studied French. I can’t imagine keeping this straight if I were learning English as a second (or third) language. Have you had the same experience when learning another language?

I’ve made many grammar mistakes over the years, including a recent misspelling in a literacy tweet I did for work. Talk about embarrassing. I think I caught it before anyone noticed, but I’ll never know for sure. If it ever comes up, my plan is to blame it on autocorrect! Would anyone else like to join me on the grammar/misspelling wall of shame? Leave your confession in the comments! And if you see an error in this post, typo or otherwise, let me know in the comments and I’ll fix it!

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Grammar talk: misspelled words and other confessions

Images: Pixabay

Everyone makes mistakes and I’ve made many over the years. Misspelling or misreading words can certainly get us into trouble, but they are also good opportunities to laugh at ourselves. Here are my top five:

  • I went a long time before I knew how to spell Connecticut correctly: it wasn’t until I was nineteen and got a job in a bank on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C. – that’s when the head teller set me straight!
  • I always thought the proper way to describe my neighbors in the next house was to say “next store neighbors.”
  • When I had my own desktop publishing business, I designed a brochure for a small trust company, with a lighthouse as their logo, and misspelled “Beacon” on the cover.
  • Once I took a shower at a summer rental, misread the shampoo label and washed my hair with dog shampoo.
  • Recently, when serving applesauce at dinner, I put the shaker of cumin out instead of cinnamon.

What funny mistakes have you made? Leave your best ones in the comments section!

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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 inc.com, 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:

Shoe-in
“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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