We’ve already written about the most common grammatical mistakes, but to find out what word-related wrongdoing really irks people, we turned to the Internet.
1. Using “it’s” instead of “its”
“I see it so much that I now expect to see it. I will be reading an article, distracted by the dreadful anticipation of knowing it’s coming. Then wham, I read a sentence like, “[T]he fire department said that it’s equipment is outdated,” and I will be brought to a rage,” Michael Wolfe wrote as Quora’s top comment.
Use “it’s” as a contraction to replace “it is.” Use “its” as a possessive pronoun to show ownership.
Example 1: It’s raining.
Example 2: The dog wanted its bone.
Note: The top comment on Reddit actually corrected the original question, which asked about “grammar errors.” “Grammatical errors,” in reality, is proper, as user A40 wrote.
2. Using “I” and “me” in the wrong spots
“I” will always be the subject of a sentence or clause, whereas “me” will be the object. “Me” should follow any preposition (of, in, on, etc.) and function as both the indirect and direct object in a sentence.
3. “I guess using an apostrophe for plural’s,” Reddit user wekiva joked.
Only possessive words (and contractions) require apostrophes.
4. Improper ellipses
Surprisingly, this appeared high on both sites’ threads.
“Ellipsis. Ellipses are three dots. Three. Not two, not four. Three,” Tzuwei Chen wrote on Quora. There should also be a space on either side.
And using four dots — a period follow by an ellipses — is actually correct at the end of a sentence, as Reddit user wethrgirl noted.
5. Using “than” instead of “then”
“Then” conveys time, while “than” is used for comparison.
Example 1: We left the party and then went home.
Example 2: We would rather go home than stay at the party.
6. Confusing homophones
Homophones — words that sound the same but have different meanings — weren’t explicitly mentioned in either site’s list, but we wanted to categorize these complaints.
The homophones include:
- They’re, their, there
- You’re, your
- could have, could of; should have, should of; would have, would of
- affect, effect
For the first, “they’re” is a contraction of “they are.” “Their” is a possessive pronoun. And finally, “there” is a location.
Similarly, “you’re” is the contraction of “you are,” while “your” is a possessive pronoun.
You should eliminate “could of,” “should of,” and “would of” from your vocabulary entirely.
The last, using affect or effect, deserves its own section.
7. Using “affect” instead of “effect”
Use the acronym AVENUE to determine when to use the different forms. “Affect is a verb and effect is a noun, unless it’s one of the rare exceptions.”
These exceptions are: when someone “effects change” and “affect” as a psychological symptom.
8. Using “less” instead of “fewer”
“If you can count it, it’s ‘fewer,’ if you can’t count it, you use ‘less,’ Reddit user bigbangtheory_ wrote.
“It’s fewer marbles and less jam. One counts marbles but not jam,” Quora user Roderick Chow wrote.
9. Using “over” instead of “more than”
“Over is a spacial comparison. ‘The bird flies over the house.’ More than is appropriate for volume comparisons. ‘She makes more than he does per hour,'” Reddit user geaster wrote.
A lot is two words — no exceptions. You wouldn’t write “alittle,” so why write “alot?”
“Every time I see ‘a lot’ written as ‘alot’ I experience a fleeting, but very real homicidal urge,” Quora user Emma-Francis Rutherford admitted.
11. Using adjectives instead of adverbs
“Let’s walk quiet.” “I’ll do it careful” “Make sure to stir it gentle.” I grit my teeth every time I hear it,” Quora user Jim Seidman wrote.
Some people praise these “flat adverbs” though.
Traditionally though, if you’re describing how you do something (a verb), you need an adverb, which will likely end in “-ly.”
Example: Let’s walk quietly.
12. Improper comma use
“Far too many people seem to think that punctuation use is a personal choice as opposed to a part of grammar. Were I not opposed to murder, I would hunt down Cormac McCarthy and kill him,” Quora user Ara Ogle said.
Check out BI’s complete guide to using commas without looking like an idiot. Our style guide dictates we use the Oxford comma (the last comma in a series), but some of our reporters vehemently disagree.
This isn’t an accepted word. Never use it.
14. Using “to” instead of “too”
“To” is either the start of an infinitive or a preposition. “Too” is an adverb to express excess.
15. Confusing “loose” and “lose”
“Loose” is an adjective that means “not tight.” When you “lose” something, however, it’s no longer in your possession.
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