How to Write Well - Quick Tips for Avoiding Those Frequently Misused Words

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I have just finished reading several hubs and other online articles that had great information. They were almost well-written.

However, the reading experience for me was diminished, because the authors didn't know how to spell and did not properly proof their work.

I find it annoying to begin reading an interesting article, only to find that the writer didn't spell check or spend any time proofing.

People who don't take the time to proof their own work should not expect to make an income writing, or to gather any online credibility. By publishing work that isn't polished, they are actively damaging their own possibilities.

Using the writing tools normally found in word processing applications to check spelling and grammar, and proofing for readability before publishing are as essential as the writing is.

After you think your piece is complete, there is more work to do.

Proof your work several times, after you've made sure that your writing says what you want it to say.

  • Spell check it - make sure that it has no typos that spellchecker can catch.
  • If you're not sure about your grammar, most spellcheckers can assist you with grammar checking, if the "check grammar" option is also turned on.
  • Set your article aside for at least a few hours, and read it again for additional mistakes.
  • As Sinea Pies says, read your work aloud. That can not only locate errors, but it helps to make sure that the writing flows well.
  • Before you click the "publish" button, proof your copy by using the "preview" option to check for both mistakes and formatting problems.
  • After you've published your article, proof the final copy before you walk away from it.

After noticing some common mistakes in word usage, I've listed examples below of the correct way to use certain words. I haven't given complete instances of when the words below are used, but rather the most common usage.

The most common mistake by far is misuse of the word "your" when "you're" should be used. "Your" is a possessive pronoun. "You're" is a contraction of two words, a pronoun and a verb.

Your = the possessive case of the pronoun "you". If a thing belongs to you, it's your thing.
Example: Your jacket is beautiful.
NOT Your going to the beach tomorrow.

You're = you are
Example: You're going to the beach tomorrow.
In other words, "You are going to the beach tomorrow."

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And there are more...

Another frequent misuse of words shows some confusion about when to use "their", "they're" and "there".

The words "there" and "their" seem to be used randomly as substitutes for each other, and "they're" is left out in the cold.

There = in that place or at that point
Example: There is a car in the parking lot.
Another example: He was reading, but he stopped there, before the story was finished.

They're = they are. "They're" is a contraction of two words.
Example: They're ready to go. NOT Their ready to go. Also, NOT There ready to go.

Their = a thing or trait belonging to them
Example: Their house was close to mine.
Another example: Their attitudes were excellent.

Some people also think that "an" and "and" are interchangeable.

An = indicates a single item that begins with a vowel sound.
Example: An elephant crossed my path.

And = a word that joins two items or concepts.
Example: Dogs and cats are both family pets.

Some writers also think that "who's" is the possessive case of "who". It isn't. "Whose" is the possessive case of "who".

who's = who is This is a contraction of two words.
Example: Who's going to the show?

whose = the possessive case of who.
Example: Whose elbow did I bump?

There also seems to be doubt about when to use "It's" and when to use "Its".

It's = it is This is a contraction of two words.
Example: It's getting late. (It is getting late.)

its = the possessive case of "it"
Example: Its long tail was fluffy.

Notice that when you're looking at a pronoun, there are no apostrophes when it's possessive. my house, your house, his house, her house, its house, our house, their house, whose house

If you are using a contraction, "you are", is "you're". The contraction for "they are" is "they're". The apostrophe exists to represent the combining of two words by eliminating the space between them and a letter. So "they are" loses the space between the two words and the first letter of the second word, and becomes "they're". "You are" loses the space and the first letter in "are", and becomes "you're".

Another point of confusion is when to use "than" or "then". The simplest way to choose between the two is to think of "than" in terms of comparison and contrast, and "then" in terms of time or sequence.

Use "than" when you want to compare things.
Example: This is larger than that.
Another example: The coffee pot was hotter than I thought it would be.

Use "then" when you want to continue with the next thought in line.
Example: I sat on the beach. Then I got up and walked farther down to the pier.
Or if you want to indicate a point in time.
Example: It will be quieter this afternoon. I thought I'd do it then.

If you're unsure of how to use a word, you can check for proper word usage by typing the word in Google, preceded or followed by the word "definition" or "grammar".

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Comments about How to Write Well - Quick Tips for Avoiding Those Frequently Misused Words 13 comments

LisaKoski profile image

LisaKoski 4 years ago from WA

I'm so glad when I read hubs like this by people who have the same issue I do with hubs that are obviously not proofread. I find it insulting to those of us who take our writing much more seriously. It's also disrespectful to readers because it's just a waste of time and makes my head hurt as a reader when I try to skim through.

This is why I have also written a hub on this issue with some advice before. You have a lot of great advice here that I didn't include in my own article. I hope one of those writers who don't proofread check this out and take this into consideration for their next hub!


Healthy Pursuits profile image

Healthy Pursuits 4 years ago from Oregon Author

Thank you, Lisa. It sounds like we have the same issues.


colpolbear profile image

colpolbear 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

I also published an article about grammar, which I add an item to daily. If I see a page that has more than a few errors in the first paragraph, I simply skip it and move on. I do this because if a person can't bother showing intelligence in this respect, I expect nothing of his or her Hubs. Thank you for posting this. It is well written, and hopefully will carry on a clear message to many writers.


Healthy Pursuits profile image

Healthy Pursuits 4 years ago from Oregon Author

Great! I knew there were other hubs out there about this topic, but I hadn't found yours. The daily updates are especially nice. Thanks for the information.


Fennelseed profile image

Fennelseed 4 years ago from Australia

Thank you Healthy Pursuits, for your clarification on the correct use of these words.

I see hubs like this one from time to time and think I really should come back to that. This time I stopped for a read and I am glad I did. I get frustrated with bad spelling and grammar in hubs and I am ashamed to say there have been a few occasions where I have re-read a published hub of my own and have been horrified to find a mistake or two that I missed. I will bookmark this hub to come back to and will check your links to others hubs on this topic.


DonnaCosmato profile image

DonnaCosmato 4 years ago from USA

This is excellent advice and spot-on! I'm an editor on another online site, and it never ceases to amaze me at the substandard work some writers submit in expectation of receiving payment for their "work."

It is a real waste of time for everyone because the writer has to re-do their work (when they could be writing another article and earning more money), and the editor has to read/proof the entire thing a second time. Kudos to you for putting this together!


EuroCafeAuLait profile image

EuroCafeAuLait 4 years ago from Croatia, Europe

Amen brother! or sister! I remember on the very first hub I read I was making spelling corrections (poor thing, he probably hadn't expected that...) Like you said, the subject matter was right on but the poor spelling was really a distraction. OK. Said my piece! LOL :)


Healthy Pursuits profile image

Healthy Pursuits 4 years ago from Oregon Author

Thank you, Fennelseed. There are some very good hubs on how to use words and how to proof. It's too bad that the people who really need to read these don't read them.

I know what you mean about finding mistakes and being horrified - after multiple passes through work proofing, that little gremlin can still be there.


Healthy Pursuits profile image

Healthy Pursuits 4 years ago from Oregon Author

Donna, isn't the poor writing a shame? I was grading some master's level papers as a graduate assistant, and was amazed at the poor quality of writing people had. This degree was in a field that would require a lot of writing, too. Thank you.


Healthy Pursuits profile image

Healthy Pursuits 4 years ago from Oregon Author

Thank you, EuroCafeAuLait - from a sister writer. I'm glad to see so many other writers agree with me.


daisynicolas profile image

daisynicolas 4 years ago from Alaska

We have the same concerns. I'll follow your hub from now on.


alisha4u profile image

alisha4u 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

I appreciate you showing concerns for all the spellings and usage of proper words... And i agree with you.

There are a few not having good command over the language...But, some of them admit it and are willing to seek assistance from other Hubbers.... and I really appreciate them as well.


Healthy Pursuits profile image

Healthy Pursuits 4 years ago from Oregon Author

Thanks, alisha4u. I read your hubs earlier and also enjoyed them.

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