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Common Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

Updated on January 26, 2013

Don't Rely On Your Spell-Checker

Its not very hard too spot the mistake’s in this first sentence of this hub or in it’s title, is it?

You’d think my spell-checker would have picked them all up, yet it would be quite happy for me to publish this as a title:

Sum Common Spelling and Punctuations Mistakes You Shooed Never Make

There is not a red or green wavy line in sight!

Word’s opinion of the first sentence is equally intriguing. It has underlined one word in green to indicate a grammar mistake. (See screen shot below.)

Yes, it has correctly identified it’s as wrong, but the first word: Its is equally wrong, and the grammar checker also ignored too and mistake’s.

The sentence should read:

It’s not very hard to spot the mistakes in this first sentence of this hub or in its title, is it?

Actually, the grammar checker does worse than ignore that first Its – when I made the correction, it wanted me to change it back! And how I wish I could tell you this tale of cyber incompetence ends there, but the sad truth it there is more!

Originally I started the sentence differently. See the screenshot below:

In this version the grammar checker indicated the same mistake as in the version above. I corrected it – and then a wavy green line appeared beneath the first its! (See screen shot below.)

So when it’s was wrong then its was right, but when its was right then its was wrong!

If your head is now spinning, you will be pleased to hear there’s actually a very easy way to remember when to use it’s or its.(People really are more intelligent than computers, because we can learn this but my grammar checker never will.)

Easy After All

An apostrophe is used in two ways only:

1) to show that a part of a word is missing

2) with a NOUN to indicate possession

If you bear this in mind it’s easy to see that using it’s instead of it is requires an apostrophe, but it might be harder to remember why you shouldn’t use it’s to say something belongs to it.

Here’s why:

It is not a noun, but a pronoun.

Pronouns are words used to replace nouns, and include: he, she, they, you and I. You don’t say he’s book, she’s pencil or they’s pens. And you don’t say it’s cover. Don’t trust your computer to pick up those mistakes either: mine has underlined they’s in red for a spelling mistake, and after changing its mind a few times it has settled on letting me know that it’s cover is a grammar error. (The correction it suggests for they’s is they’d – now you guessed that didn’t you? Nope? Me neither.)

I’m fairly certain most people know the correct usage is of course: his book, her pencil, their pens, and now that you realise that, it’s easy to see that the correct usage is also its cover. If you are still in any doubt, notice that in the paragraph above what the computer thinks I’ve written is: he is book, she is pencil or they is pens. That means if you write it’s cover what you are saying is: it is cover.

If You’d Like to Learn More and Have Fun Doing So

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

A witty and fun look at some common punctuation mistakes, and how their mis-use can lead to hilarity and confusion. Lynne Truss also writes about the history of punctuation in an informative and amusing way.

 

Even if you say: “the pencil is hers” you would not include an apostrophe and neither would you if it turned out the pencil was not hers but its. (I’m beginning to see why English might not be the easiest language to learn.)

Now I’ve got that off my chest – but not of my chest – here are a few more common mistakes that commonly drive me crazy.

Gentlemen, if your wife turns out to be a loose woman you may lose her, but you will never loose her nor can she be lose. And ladies, you may well lose your patience with me for writing such a sexist sentence, but it seemed the easiest way to show the difference between loose and lose. Loose is an adjective that means the opposite of tight; lose is a verb that means to part with or come to be without. So you cannot ever loose something though you could loosen it or lose it. For instance, one of those gentlemen previously mentioned, when drowning his sorrows after discovering his wife’s infidelity, could loosen his tie and then later lose it because he’d loosened up too much.

Many years ago I used to be an art teacher. Pupils frequently handed in essays containing such grammatical delights as could of, would of, should of. This would, of course, have been perfectly acceptable if used in the way I just have, but could’ve, should’ve, would’ve must’ve confused as many people over the years as its and it’s.

Still, those essays came in handy when I changed career; I used memories of them to create a scene in my first novel where the main character – an art teacher – finds it hard to know how to mark some essays about Van Gogh. This is what she’s up against:

Van Goff was a syco. He painted chairs. Naebody wants to look at chairs. He couldn’t even paint proply. He didn’t blend his colours and he must of been colour blind because he painted his face green.

And just in case anyone is wondering: could’ve, should’ve, would’ve are contractions for could have, should have … paid more attention to grammar at school. Would have if the teacher had made it more interesting!

Dedication and Homage

This Hub is dedicated to and inspired by a comment I recently read, saying that “we must get our work to it’s best before publishing it”. Please do feel free to point out all my grammar and spelling mistakes – I’ve laid myself open to that by writing this Hub!

I pay homage to Hubber Mark Ewbie, whose illustrations inspired me to flex my rusty artistic muscles.

Comments

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    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      4 years ago from UK

      Thanks Catherine. Glad you liked it.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 

      4 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Nice. Light with good use of humor.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      5 years ago from UK

      Hi Organised Kaos, thanks for your comment; it's nice to know you enjoyed this.

    • Organised Kaos profile image

      Anne 

      5 years ago from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS)

      Loved this Hub, what a great way to write about a boring topic.

      Appreciate the heads up on the spell checker issue, glad I wasn't the only one it was sending a bit loopy!

      Thanks again!

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Hi JamaGenee,

      Good to see you here again. I will follow your advice re UK vs US spelling. On HP most of my readers are American, so it makes sense to follow US rules, which is what I’ve started doing. Thanks for your comment.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Cracks me up that Hubpages itself will get the red wavy line as misspelled (as it just did now)! However, it's not so amusing when I *know* I've spelled a common word correctly AND have double-checked my memory with a dictionary. As for Brit vs American spellings, I use whichever version is appropriate for the side of the Pond on which I think it'll be read the most. ;D

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Hi Millionaire Tips,

      Glad you enjoyed it. I know what you mean about Word and HubPages not agreeing as I’ve seen that a few times. Since I’m British I also have the added complication of having to choose between British or American spellings. Lately I’ve set Word to US English, but when I get it onto HP it wants to put everything back to the UK spellings. So I probably end up with a very odd mixture at times.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Thanks again jainismus, very much appreciated as this hub has been in the doldrums for a while.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      6 years ago from USA

      I love how you've made grammar fun and funny. I often have fights with Word about my grammar, and it doubly fun when I bring it to HubPages who has a different opinion!

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 

      6 years ago from Pune, India

      I have just voted up and shared this Hub. Let my followers know the useful things you have discussed in it.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Hi jainismus,

      Ha, ha! Yes you got it’s right! Glad you found it useful and thanks for your comment, vote up and share!

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 

      6 years ago from Pune, India

      It's(!) a very useful Hub for the Hubbers and other online writers. Voted up, shared.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Hi JamaGenee, Thank you for your comment. Glad it brought you a laugh. Thanks for the Inspector Lewis story, it gave me a smile.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Melovy, the title alone had me laughing! I knew no one with a degree in Creative Writing would leave that apostrophe in "hubber's" except as a spoof, so I had to come over and read the hub!

      Inappropriate use of a comma that makes a plural possessive is my #1 grammar pet peeve. Apparently it's also a pet peeve of Sgt. Hathaway, partner of Inspector Lewis in the series of the same name. In a recent episode, they had gone to a farm to interview someone, and on the barn at the end of the lane was a sign announcing "Tomatoe's for sale". Hathaway, who was driving, stopped the car and just glared at the sign. Lewis said "I see it, too, but don't let it ruin your day!" (or something like that).

      As for "and" and "an", I know the proper use of each, but often have to go back and remove the "d" that somehow attaches itself to "an" if I'm not paying attention. ;D

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Hi Susan, Thanks for reading it and glad it brought a smile. Hope the trip is going well.

    • profile image

      Susan 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for the smile and the lesson plan!

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      @ DzyMsLizzy

      Thank you for your comment and glad you like it. I think you’re right with what you say about ‘would of’ being mishearing. I was astonished the first time I saw it in an essay, but have since seen it many times - including in my younger daughter’s homework. Needless to say, I told her the correct way to write it. You are probably right that it would make sense to teach children the full version first before introducing contractions. English is a confusing language at times.

      @ Painted Seahorse,

      Love your user name! Thanks for commenting, glad you liked the hub and the doodles. And glad you found it funny. It’s very satisfying to write funny articles, I think.

      @Stephanie Henkel

      And thank you! A wise teacher my daughter had few years ago said that children learn better when they are having fun, and I think we all do, so I hope you are right and I’ve made it easier for people to remember when to use it’s and its.

      And your right with you’re comment about your and you’re - many people do confuse them! :-) Not me of course!! :-)

      (Does anyone know if it’s possible to put proper smiley faces in comments?)

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      @DeborahNeyens,

      Thanks for your comment, and glad you liked the hub.

      @Jackie Lynnley,

      I hadn’t though about and being used instead of an, but now you've mentioned it I have seen that a few times. Thanks very much for your comment and I’m glad you liked the hub.

      @K. Burns Darling,

      Thanks very much for your comment. I know what you mean about noticing the typos a few weeks later. I’ve been going through a draft of my second novel today (after leaving it for weeks to concentrate on hubs) and it’s amazing the typos that I’ve found. It would probably be a good idea to leave articles a while before publishing them, as I do with fiction, but I’m usually in too much of a hurry to press that ‘publish’ button!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      6 years ago from USA

      Thank you, thank you! I love the way you addressed one of my pet peeves to make the lesson fun and funny. It's and its are so often used incorrectly, but I think that anyone reading your hub will remember the correct usage. Another of my pet peeves is the use of you're and your. It's so easy to mistype these words, even when you know the correct usage - a great case for proof reading as well as learning correct grammar. Rated up across the board!

    • Painted Seahorse profile image

      Brittany Rowland 

      6 years ago from Woodstock, GA

      Great help to people who have trouble with grammar and punctuation, and quite funny! Apostrophes seem to give people lots of trouble, because people throw them in everywhere--"Banana's for sale!" I liked the little doodles too.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      6 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Great job! You've covered some very common, yet annoying errors that occur frequently.

      That blamed spell-checker is worse than useless at times. It is marginally helpful at times if I should suddenly draw a blank about a particular spelling (e.g., does the machine used for sucking the dirt from the carpet have 2 c's; or one c and 2 u's?--ah--it's the latter--"vacuum!")

      You've hit on a couple of my own pet peeves as well, the "would of" phenomenon being a major one. I believe these kinds of errors originate with the constant use of the contraction form, and subsequent mis-hearing of same.

      Perhaps we should begin the education of our youth with teachers in elementary school avoiding the use of such potentially confusing constructions, saying instead the full "would have," and leaving the contractions for a later year or two down the road.

      Food for thought, indeed--voted up, interesting and useful.

    • K. Burns Darling profile image

      Kristen Burns-Darling 

      6 years ago from Orange County, California

      Great hub, with a lot of useful pointers. I am always amazed and a little horrified when I go back and read one of my hubs a few weeks or months later and find simple spelling, grammar, punctuation and typos that I missed. Voted up, useful, interesting.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      6 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Great hub and I think the biggy here at hubs is using and for an. (I had me and apple instead of an apple!)Some of the top writers do that and I suppose it was just never a problem for me although I am sure I make some mistakes, (plenty then!) that is the one that drive me crazy to see! Spell check is not to be trusted for sure!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      6 years ago from Iowa

      Love this hub! There is nothing that bugs me more than a misplaced apostrophe.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      @Akune, I love your examples. Glad you got a laugh.

      @Billabongbob, thanks for the compliment

      @Sunshine625

      It can be fun seeing what the spellchecker comes up with, and it’s definitely best to re-check. I was surprised at what it ignored. Thank you very much for your comment and for sharing.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I have a habit of re-checking spellchecker, it changes words that can cause problems! lol Thanks for the hub...im going to share it with others! :)

    • billabongbob profile image

      billabongbob 

      6 years ago from South Wales, UK

      Great Hub, should be required reading for many ;)

    • akune profile image

      akune 

      6 years ago from Surrey, England, United Kingdom

      Ha ha.

      I get the best samples of mutated language. Samples such as brang for brought and 'We done it' for 'We did it'.

      Re our writing, I agree proof-reading is as necessary as petrol/fuel/gas.

      ... mmnhh, I live environmentally-friendly.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Hi Marellern, and thanks for your comment. The hub was a lot of fun to write too, and you are right - we all make mistakes. My main one used to be inserting commas where semi-colons were required, and I’m not sure I always get it right yet.

    • profile image

      marellen 

      6 years ago

      Fun and interesting hub. I think we all have made mistakes in hubland.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Thanks, though of course I had a lot of help from Word’s spelling and grammar checker - it’s the real comedian!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      As soon as I saw the clever title I knew that I had to read the whole hub. You did a great job of making a dry topic interesting and fun.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      Hi Happyboomernurse,

      I’m so pleased it made you laugh! Laughing is such fun. And thank you for picking up the error - I asked for it and you are absolutely right - about it and how hard proof-reading is. I guess we read what we think is there instead of what is there. It wasn’t helped today by repeated errors when I tried to upload my screenshots!

      Thank you for your comment. I’ll go change that that now!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      Great hub with clever examples that made me laugh and sometimes shake my head in disbelief.

      However, I did find one error in the following phrase: "to show that that a part of a word is missing".

      I am continually amazed by how hard proofreading is and how easy it is to miss some errors.

    • Melovy profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne Spence 

      6 years ago from UK

      HI Cousin Fudd, and thanks.

    • profile image

      Cousin Fudd 

      6 years ago

      Great hub

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