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English 101: Helpful Tips

Updated on October 6, 2009

Common Struggles

I've heard so many people tell me they struggle with writing because they are confused about which word spellings or punctuation to use. Common spelling struggles include the following: choose or chose; hear or here; loose or lose; their, there or they're; to, too or two; weather or whether; which or witch; you're, your. When it comes to punctuation such as apostrophe’s or apostrophes, which is correct? Colons (:), semi-colons (;) and commas (,) each have a particular use as well. How about when to use I and me when combining sentences, or when to use the words good or well, healthful or healthy?

Here are some examples:

Choose/Chose: Everyone had the ability to choose (present tense) between the red and the blue, but only some chose (past tense) the red ones.

Hear/Here: I want you to hear (using the ear ~ remember to hear with your ear uses the word "ear") what I'm saying.  Come over here (a place), please.

Loose/Lose: The animals were loose (set free) and we were worried we would lose (to be lost) some of them!

Their/There/They're: All their (meaning people) bikes over there (a place)? They're (meaning they are) not supposed to leave them there (a place).

To/Too/Two: I am going to (before a person, place or thing) the store. I hope I don't buy too (meaning excess) much stuff! Too is also used in place of the word "also": Are you going to the store, too? I think two (quantity) will be plenty.

Weather/Whether: The weather is cool today. Yesterday, I didn’t know whether it would be warm or cool.

Which/Witch: Which (a choice) one is the evil one? I think she is the witch (worker of magic)!

You're/Your: You're means "you are". Your means you own it. For example: You’re saying my hair is too short? I think your hair is too long.

Apostrophes and Plurals: You would use an apostrophe (') when something belongs to someone, something or someplace: i.e. Suzie's bike; everyone's coats. You will also use an apostrophe to combine two words: i.e. Suzie's (Suzie is) going to ride her bike; Everyone's (everyone is) going to the movies. Plurals mean more than one: i.e. bikes (not bike's meaning bike is); stores (not store's meaning store is).

When to use a colon (:), a semi-colon (;) or a comma: A colon is used to preface a list of items (i.e. We bought several fruits: oranges, apples and bananas. Commas are then used to pause or to divide the list of things as shown in this example. Semi-colons separate two ideas or sentences that enforce the original statement (i.e. I love the color green; trees, grass and fresh vegetables are some of my favorite things!)

When to use I and mein combining sentences: It would sound strange if one said, "Her and me went to the store." If you were to make this combined sentence into two sentences, you would then be saying, "Her went to the store" and "Me went to the store". Instead, it should be, "She and I went to the store", because indeed you would be stating, "She went to the store" and "I went to the store". Likewise, you could say, "That never happened to her and me." In this case, you wouldn't say, "her and I" because you'd really be saying, "That never happened to I."

When to use good and well: Well is used to describe how something is done. Well done. She did that well. I feel well. Good is used to describe something: a good book; that movie was good. The food was good!

When is something healthful or healthy? Healthful is used to describe something that is not alive and breathing. So, you don't have a healthy diet. You have a healthful diet. You are healthy (alive and breathing) because of your healthful diet.

MORE TIPS:

1. Whenever you refer to yourself as "i", use a capital "I".

2. There's no such word as irregardless. It's simply "regardless".

3. There's no such word as orientated. It's simply "oriented".

4. There's no degree of uniqueness. Something is not "very unique". It's "unique" or it's not.

5. Nuclear is not pronounced nu-CU-lar; it's nu-CLE-ar.

I love to write. I also love to read! However, sometimes it’s not as enjoyable for me to read material when the author doesn’t utilize correct spelling and usage of punctuation. Writing is a powerful way of communicating, and I hope these tips are helpful and will increase your readership and writing success!  

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