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Professionals' Mistakes in Writing and Speaking British English: Writers' and Presenters' Errors; Keeping up Standards

Updated on September 15, 2018
annart profile image

Ann is a retired teacher of literacy and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) to multi-national & dyslexic students, having a DipSpLD

Professionals Shouldn't Make Mistakes

I don’t jump down the throat of everyone I see or hear making the occasional mistake with the English language but one thing guaranteed to make me seethe is a professional writer or presenter making such errors. Professionals should know their trade. If they don’t match up to the job, they shouldn’t be there.

Let’s look at some of these errors which crop up time and time again and have me screaming at the screen, the page, the television or the radio.


Letters Make Words - Let's Make Words!
Letters Make Words - Let's Make Words! | Source

Abbreviation of could have = could've NOT could of!

There is no such phrase as ‘could of’, it doesn’t exist, it’s not correct English. It comes from the way we pronounce the contraction of ‘could have’ which is written ‘could’ve’. The ‘ve’ part can sound like ‘of’. Please, please don’t say or write ‘could of’! It was said by someone today; I could’ve screamed when I heard it!

This applies equally to ‘should’ve’ and ‘would’ve’.

Is it less or fewer?

This couldn’t be simpler.

We should try to use fewer plastic bags. (implying fewer than we’ve used so far)

There was less traffic on the roads tonight. (implying less than, say, last night)

How do you know which one to choose? Simple!

Can you count plastic bags? Of course you can. Therefore you use ‘fewer’.

Can you count traffic? No, you can count the cars, buses, etc but not the abstract word ‘traffic’. Therefore you use ‘less’. You don’t know how many there were.

Things like sugar, money, sand, love....; we can’t count these things. You’re going to tell me you can count money. No, you count the notes or the pounds or the coins. You don’t count the abstract word ‘money’.

There was a pile of money on table 1.

Table 2 held less money; there was a smaller pile.

Much, Many, Lots, Few......


Comparative and Superlative

Oh and by the way, you need only two comparatives (things to compare) when using the ‘’ comparative adjective.

More than two and you need the superlative, the ‘...est’ words. e.g. Out of these five cars, this is the prettiest (or prettiest one).

good (adjective), better (comparative adj.), best (superlative adj.)

pretty (adjective), prettier (comparative), prettiest (superlative)

There are, of course, irregular endings for some. Sorry, that’s English for you!

Verb after the word 'none'

So often I hear presenters on television or radio saying something like, ‘None of them were travelling by train.’ Wrong! ‘None of them was travelling by train.’

Although ‘none’ has no apostrophe, it’s a contraction (a squeezing together) of ‘not one’; the ‘t’ and the second ‘o’ have been dropped. A contraction is usually due to a word constantly being uttered quickly, lazily, so becoming shortened. 'None' can also mean 'not any', also from an Old English contraction.

Therefore ‘none’ is singular and must take the third person singular part of the verb.

None of the cars is expensive.

If you’re not sure, trying substituting ‘not one’ each time and you will have your answer.

None of this Makes Sense!
None of this Makes Sense! | Source

Do we try to.. or try and..?

‘So what’s the problem?’ I hear you ask.

Look at these sentences:

I’m going to try to sort this out. The sorting out is the bit you’re trying to do.

I’m going to try and sort this out. You’re trying something and you’re sorting out something but not the same thing! There is no question that you’ll sort out something, whereas if you’re trying to sort it out then you might not succeed.

However, the following has a different meaning:

I’m going to try and see if I can do it. You’re going to try, say, to assemble a flat-pack table and at the same time see if you’re able to do it. It might not work. One effort is being made and at the same time, an observation.

Most of the time you should say, ‘I’m going to try to do this.’ It implies you’re not sure if you can do it.

I’m trying to help you but it might not work!


Try to Ride This!
Try to Ride This! | Source

What's the Difference between who's and whose?

Please, please understand that these words mean different things!

They sound the same but have different spellings and different meanings.

Who’s = who is or who has (the apostrophe indicates the missing letter ‘i’ or letters ‘ha’)

Who’s making that noise? (Who is making that noise?)

Who’s been eating my porridge? (Who has been eating my porridge?)

Whose = who does this belong to?

Whose car is this? (Who does this car belong to?, or if you want to be really picky ‘To whom does this car belong?’)

Who's / Whose

Whose Writing is That?!!
Whose Writing is That?!! | Source

Same Sound, Different Spelling: there/their/they're

Isn't it annoying when they all sound the same? Such is English but you can rise to the challenge!

there (in that place)

This is easy to remember - ‘here’ and ‘there’, both are places and correspond in spelling.

their (belonging to them)

It’s only the ‘ei’ part which causes the problems, but it’s easier to remember if you think of the ‘hei’ part. You have a brother (yes you do!). You can say ‘he’ and ‘i’ are their children (i.e. your parents’ children). Easy, eh?

they’re (short for ‘they are’)

This is the easiest of the three. If you can substitute ‘they are’ then you’re laughing.

So there you have it. They’re words which present their own difficulties but you can overcome them. Well done!

Which One Do I Choose?

their = he + I
their = he + I | Source

Two Words: a lot

There is no such word as ‘alot’; ‘a lot’ has not yet been contracted into one word. It can mean many or it can mean an item up for auction.

Technically, like ‘none’, it is single and therefore should also take the singular corresponding part of the verb.

‘A lot’ is followed by ‘of’; a lot of money, a lot of laughter....

In the plural, it becomes ‘lots of’ and, guess what? Yes, the verb corresponds. ‘There were lots of people in the room.’ ‘There were many people in the room’ is, though, better English.

Apostrophes and Other Punctuation

Did you mention ‘apostrophes’? Can you see me cowering, warding off the devil against such bug-bears? I can’t bear to go there at the moment. I have to be really calm and composed before even thinking about them and it’s my bedtime. Let me sleep on it. I might be in a calm enough mood tomorrow to tackle their misuse or even their lack of use.

Make sure you have commas, full stops, question marks, exclamation marks in the right places! Don’t write long sentences without any punctuation - I get out of breath too quickly.


One more thing; please, please give my eyes a rest! Proof-read your work! You might be amazed but even I make mistakes; they’re only typing errors of course. Just in case, I proof-read each article more than once. I’ll do that for this hub. If I’ve missed any then you can shout at me, ok?

I don’t expect perfection but neither do I expect consistent mistakes where they shouldn’t occur.

If, after that, you’re still not sure, get a reliable person to proof-read for you. It’ll pay dividends and you’ll learn in the process.

Check, Check and Check Again

Proof-reading is Important
Proof-reading is Important | Source

Spread the Word!

I hope those of you whose writing is excellent aren’t offended by my pointing out all this. Who’s going to do it if I don’t?

Well, ok, several hubbers have pointed out quite a few common errors already but I’m giving you some revision. I’m still seeing basic mistakes left, right and centre so the message obviously needs reinforcement. When the errors stop, I'll stop nagging.

I’m not saying that you personally, dear reader, are guilty of any of these errors but even if just one person reading this has learnt anything, I’ll sleep more easily in my bed and we’ll all have a good read.

Proof-reading & Checking

How often do you check your work?

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© 2014 Ann Carr


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    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      12 months ago from SW England

      Thanks for your added comment, Doris.

      We generally view 'none' as a singular, though it does spark some argument here too! In the spoken word it's each to his own, I think, but when it comes to writing I stick to the basic rules. It's become much loser here and that's fair enough as, of course, language evolves. I know I'm old school but I feel that if we lose some of the roots then the whole thing risks crashing to the ground. There is much more influence from so many languages now but then English has always been a wonderful mixture of all the historical influences.

      It's an interesting discussion but not worth getting into a tizzy about! I'm a purist, yes, and language is my passion, but I'm prepared to live and let live.


    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      12 months ago from Beautiful South

      Ann, I read this before I realized that this was an older hub and that I had already read and commented, but it brought one thing to mind that I didn't bring out in my original comment. I worked for over 20 years with a couple of retired English teachers. Apparently in U.S. English our authoritative grammarians just can't make up their minds. There was a period of time when we diagrammed sentences, and we were taught that words like "none" and "all" when used in a sentence like "None of the boys was present, "None" was the subject of the sentence and "of the boys" was a prepositional phrase modifying "none". One teacher insisted that "boys" was the subject and "none" was its modifier, therefore it took a plural verb. I took it to the boss (a very good grammarian) for his intervention. He had been taught that "none" was the subject, and to use a singular verb. That is what he instructed us to do. I would be interested to know how the British view "none".

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      12 months ago from SW England

      Aaron: I totally agree with your premise that language is about sound, rhythm and readability, especially with words such as 'a unicorn'. However, I do feel that the basic rules give us a good grounding. Sadly, much of what is written on line as being 'good grammar' is far from it. I also agree that we move with the times, but for me it should not be as far as some seem to be happy with!

      There is also often a difference between the British English and American English rules, which I accept of course. I was taught the 'none' rule at primary and it was reinforced at secondary school so that's what I go with. I don't want to offend anyone or tell anyone he or she is wrong. Language is a personal thing, always. Variety is the spice of life!

      Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your input.


    • profile image


      12 months ago

      I'm afraid I disagree with your 'peeve' about the use of none. It doesn't 'sound' right to use none in the singular in all cases and language is about sound, rhythm and readability. A unicorn defies the rule of a and an because of the sound the vowel makes. Language is fluid and changes and while I don't know the history of the teaching behind none and the singular verb, a quick google search would debunk your teaching of none as much as your article promotes it. Even your example of none being a contraction of not any shows this. Any implies one or some. The rest agrees with my understanding of grammar and knowledge - always good to reinforce.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      sujaya: Thanks for reading.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      peachpurple: Yes, it doesn't hurt anyone to have a grammar book or online info to hand when writing. We all make mistakes and we should all proof-read to make sure our writing is accurate and of a high standard.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Good to see you, Kenneth! I have no problem with you talking to Mary via my hub but did you realise that?! I'm glad you liked the hub and found it useful. I'm still chuckling.

      Happy Valentine's Day to you too!


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, Mary! I'm glad you found it useful. Sometimes it's difficult to write such hubs clearly, so I'm glad you found it so.

      Thanks for the votes too.


    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 

      4 years ago

      very true

    • peachpurple profile image


      4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I guess this is where grammar checkers are important

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Feb. 12

      Dear tillsontitan,

      Long time. No see.

      How are you? Hope you're good. (apostrophy use). I am still enduring Fibromyalgia and Neurothopy, but that isn't my main topic.

      Loved this hub. Voted up and all but funny. You touched on all of the things in writing that give me fits.

      But thanks to fine mentors like you, I am learning. Thank you.

      Keep up the great work and keep in touch with me.

      Happy Valentine's Day!

      Your Friend for Life, Kenneth

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      4 years ago from New York

      Rant or helpful information, either way this hub hits the mark on every count. Easy to read, understandable explanations, and a lot of common sense.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      aesta1: You are so right about the different takes on our language; it all adds to the richness but it also adds to the confusion! You're bound to make mistakes but the exciting thing is that you can learn from them and write all the better for it.

      Thank you so much for your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed this.


    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Collective nouns always confuse me. Sometimes, there are different spelling for English or American. English, I noticed, has been given local twists in some countries where it is widely used. When these expressions or words are used somewhere else, they don't make sense at all. For years, however, this seemed to have enhanced the language. I often have grammatical errors but I just keep trying and I am happy to read articles such as these.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Arun Kanti: Thank you so much for reading this. I like your writing very much and I think you're brave to write in your second language. Your style has charm. You occasionally have a few minor mistakes but they don't detract from your message.

      I appreciate your visit to my hub.


    • ARUN KANTI profile image


      5 years ago from KOLKATA

      Although English was my second language and studied it up to the school leaving examination I like the language very much and enjoy writing in it. I try to write flawless stories or essays(36 hubs) by proofreading several times but you can only judge my quality of writing.

      I look forward to reading many more hubs from you on proper usage of words. Thank you.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thank you Artois52. Don't worry, I'm forever proof-reading my own work in case I've made silly mistakes, especially in this one!

      Thanks for the visit and your comment. Much appreciated. Ann

    • Artois52 profile image


      5 years ago from England

      Really informative hub. I'm scared to write a comment now in case I make a mistake!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      You're welcome, teaches. Thanks for the visit and for commenting. Ann

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      I think I need to tack this on my wall! Great information for all writers to have on file. Thanks for the refresher course.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Jodah: It's best if you stick to what you feel the most comfortable with, I think. Thanks for reading and for your kind comment. Ann

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      5 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for writing this Ann. We all need to be as vigilant as possible to try and make our writing as good as we can. We can all make the odd typo. I often find mistakes in my comments but usually reread them and edit them before the time is up. I have trouble seeing a spelling mistake or typo in a hub and not say anything, but don't want to appear rude. My greatest problem is deciding whether to write using US English or UK( and Australian) English. It seems to vary depending on the person I'm talking to. Anyway, voted up.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      What a lovely compliment, Petsku! Thank you so much. I'm glad it's of use to you. I was slightly worried that it might be a bit ponderous to read - not a light subject to treat but you've put my mind at rest! Much appreciated. Ann

    • Petsku profile image


      5 years ago

      Great hub! I see there has been a lot of time and dedication put into this.

      It's light to read, not a huge wall of text to strain your eyes on, but it isn't a flip book of pictures either.

      I will definitely try to improve my hubs by keeping these in mind! Thanks!


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      I did wonder what the 'z's were for but thank you! I did sleep well.

      Not sure that you want to see a photo of me all kitted out on my bike though! When I collect it, I'm sure they'll be a few pics taken nonetheless.

      Thanks for revisiting. Ann

    • Ebonny profile image


      5 years ago from UK

      Hello again Ann,

      In my previous comment I was trying to display a smiley face, with lots of z's in a diagonal line going up to indicate you having a restful sleep having done your bit helping others with their writing.

      Unfortunately, on-line it didn't display as it did on my screen but hope you're sleeping well anyway. Plus you'll need lots of energy for your bike rides. Can't wait to see a photo of you all kitted out on your your new motorbike!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      DDE: Thank you so much for your comment. Try reading aloud if you're still finding mistakes; I find that helps. Vary the length of sentences and introduce commas etc where you would take a breath.

      Trying to catch up on some of your hubs as I've had a busy week or so!

      Hope you have a good weekend. Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Ebonny. Good to see you. Hope you're doing well with the articles. Your writing isn't one of those subjected to the mistakes above! You write and compose well.

      The others on apostrophes etc will be ready within a day or so.

      Thank you so much for the votes. Enjoy the sunny weekend! Ann

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I check my work more than once and your hub has shown me so much more in making mistakes and sill I manage to find errors. thank you

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I check my work more than once and still manage to find mistakes you r hub showed me so much more to writing thank you voted up!

    • Ebonny profile image


      5 years ago from UK


      Hi Ann z


      I'm bookmarking this one so please sleep easy tonight :-) z - and I look forward to reading more from you on apostrophes and the rest. Voting up, USEFUL and more.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, Frank, for your great comment! I'm flattered you think it deserves hub of the day. That's made my day in itself!

      If it proves useful to someone then I've done my job.

      Have a great day, Frank! Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Faith, thank you so much for your comments and your votes. Much appreciated.

      Yes, educational establishments who make mistakes like that should be shot! I often hauled the 'powers that be' over the coals at the school where I worked - more than any, those people should get it right! Unfortunately, I've seen many letters and documents with basic mistakes, one of which was from a publisher. The managing editor wrote, "The company was took over." Aaagh!!

      Have a wonderful day, Faith! Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      MizBejabbers, thank you so much for your kind comment. Yes, I'm knocking the professionals and I certainly give the benefit of the doubt to ESL/EFL writers. I teach them still, now and then. However, all of those should realise that commas are needed occasionally!!

      There are so many more common errors to write about; these are the ones I keep coming across at the moment. A few more hubs on this subject in the making.

      Enjoy your day! Ann

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      5 years ago from Shelton

      a very good hub ann.. so useful and academically scribed.. yeah useful and should get voted hub of the day :) Frank

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      5 years ago from southern USA

      Hi Ann,

      Thank you for these reminders and keeping us on our toes! I once saw a published book from a college which should have been titled "Mathematics" ... but they had "Mathmatics" and they did not even care that they were a place of higher learning! LOL That is scary for sure.

      Enjoy your new ride there! Exciting and great there you share such fun with your daughter.

      Up and more, tweeting and pinning.


      Faith Reaper

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      5 years ago from Beautiful South

      As an editor I say “This cannot be emphasized too much!” OK, so my punctuation is off a little, but that is for creative emphasis. You have done a great job with your examples. As an editor I cringe when I see these mistakes, but I do give a little wiggle room for HP writers for whom English is a second language. I have only admiration for their courage to tackle such a difficult language professionally. However, I have a real problem when these all-too-common mistakes are made by media professionals. That reminds me, people who should know better use “to” for “too” altogether too frequently. Another new trend that is driving me batty is the use of the subjunctive mood when the past tense should be used, but that is for another hub. Good stuff, Ann. Keep it up!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      You're welcome, Jamie. Hope it proves useful! Appreciate your input very much. Ann

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      5 years ago from Reno NV

      Thank Ann for this great resource. It never hurts to be reminded of grammar and such. Jamie

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Well, thanks, bill! I know you have advocated such things for a long time. I have a long list too but I don't want to bang on about everything at the same time, though I see and hear it all on a daily basis. I have a horror that English is going to disappear into the mire and become a mish-mash of slovenly behaviour!

      I believe that my dyslexic students could write better English than many others who should know better.

      Thanks for your continuing support. I always appreciate your uplifting comments, bill.

      I'm feeling great today. My younger daughter was 30 yesterday and we celebrated together by a good burn-out on motorbikes (a refresher for both of us on a local disused airstrip), then today I bought myself a new motorbike (like the one above!!). I pick it up in a couple of weeks' time. I'm like a kid with a new toy. Actually, that's exactly what I am!

      Enjoy your evening, bill! Ann

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't often stand and applaud after reading an article, but I am right now. Bravo, Ann! We need more people standing up and demanding that standards be maintained. I have been singing this song for quite awhile. It's as though in the year 2014 the laws of English have been suspended, and it drives me crazy.

      And my rant is over.

      Thank you!



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