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Frequent Writing (And Speaking) Mistakes

Updated on July 3, 2014

Hello, kids. As I've been going about my life's adventures, I've been jotting down mistakes I've heard or read in various public settings. The intent of this article is not to shame or sound pompous, but to get us thinking about language.

1. Next (Day of Week)

I was recently setting up an appointment. It was a Friday when the other person said she could meet me "next Tuesday." In my mind, that was eleven days away; in her mind, that was four days. The nature of 'next,' in terms of an indication of time, seems to confuse people. A passing of a day of week before the appropriate target date must be achieved before 'next' serves its purpose of communicating 'not this upcoming (Tuesday), but the (Tuesday) after. This confusion only exists in days of the week. Next month and next year are commonly understood concepts, as well as the seasons. I write this in the summer. I would not call three months from now next fall. Next fall is approximately 15 months away. The takeaway for this item is to be clear in the use of "next." Unless seven or more days exist between the current date and your intended date of reference, do not throw in 'next!' Just refer to it by its day. To be even more concise, mention the date.

2. "ok"

Seeing "ok" or "Ok" in print is one of my biggest pet peeves. Neither are correct. "OK" and "O.K." are acceptable interjections, best used in informational signs, such as 'Walk-Ins OK.' We get the message; one does not need an appointment to receive service. Sources offer multiple possible origins for the initials. (Orl Korect is my favorite.) What bothers me is when "ok" or "Ok" appear in a sentence. I saw graffiti that read, "We shouldn't be ok with occupying other countries." We shouldn't be ok, which rhymes with clock or dock. Ok is not a word. The word is 'okay.' Two additional letters would have made that statement intelligible. It's okay to take the necessary time to be clear.

3. If I was

Granted, this one is tricky. When the verb 'to be' is conjugated in the past tense, the options are 'was' and 'were.' If a subject has already performed an action, one of these words can be used. For example, I was out of state last month, but I am not now. The pronouns I, he, she, and it connect to 'was.' The verb 'were' belongs with you (singular and plural), we, and they. These rules apply to past tense. It is in future tense where mistakes are often made. Let's start with a phrase that is comfortable to our ears: If we were to go on that trip, how would we travel? The word 'if' suggests a possibility, something in the future. Let's change the subject to "If I were to go..." Does that sound funny to you? It goes against the I-was combination our brains like. Yet, in this situation, it is correct. 'Was' indicates a past event. When mentioning a future (or possible) event, 'were' is used. It is just the rule for conditional sentences, so it applies to he, she, and it as well, such as "If the alarm [it] were to go off..." and "If she were to join us..." As I said, it's a tricky one but can be learned.

4. FAQ's, DVD's, CD's.

Oh, this one. As with most topics, I researched this one to try to find consensus. What bugs me about the use of apostrophe S in these examples is that they indicate a possessive relationship where none exists. Many websites will post an FAQ section; FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Question. Technically, the lowercase 's' is not even needed since the word 'frequently' indirectly states there is more than one. Rarely do situations exist that can be understood by having a single question answered! So, let's move to DVD, which stands for Digital Video Disc. We understand this to be a device that stores and transmits movies and other media, such as "I'm watching a DVD of X-Men: First Class." DVD is a singular acronym. I watch several DVDs per week. "Several DVD" is neither pleasant to our ears, nor correct. We need that 's' sound. The phrase 'two digital video discs' is correct; 'two digital video disc's' is incorrect. For that reason, when simplifying the phrase to its acronyms, do not add the inappropriate apostrophe. The same applies to academic grades of As, Bs, and the like. There may be acronyms where an apostrophe S seems appropriate, but adding a number indicator or putting the entire acronym in a single quotation mark followed by an S makes its plurality clear.

5. "Running Perfect"

I was recently at lunch when I overheard a woman saying that her air conditioner was 'running perfect.' Although I was happy that she has a cool home, her grammatical error irritated me. Many people struggle with adjectives and adverbs. Adjectives modify or describe nouns; adverbs modify verbs. Two examples include, 'That is the perfect outfit for your interview' and 'The car was running perfectly yesterday.' The outfit is perfect; the car operated perfectly. 'Running perfect' does not work. It combines a verb with an adjective. Most adverbs end in 'ly,' so they're easy to recognize. The reverse of these ideas make no sense. 'That outfit is perfectly' makes no sense. Perfectly what? Perfectly hideous? Notice here that an adverb is used to describe an adjective. Fun, huh? For the sake of this part, though, just remember to match adjectives with nouns and adverbs with verbs.

6. 'An' for 'And'

I kept seeing this mistake online I hope it's just laziness and not ignorance that resulted in phrases like "apples an oranges." There's a nice strong 'd' on that word that is often not spoken; now it's not written! The word 'and' should be used when combining two ideas (if that is the word you want to use; there are options.) 'An' should only be used as an article for a single object, such as an apple, an hour, or an F. If any of those examples sound incorrect, you're not alone, but you're also mistaken. 'An' connects to any singular object that has an opening sound of a vowel. 'An apple' clearly follows this rule. The word 'hour' starts with a consonant, but it is silent. The first sound is "ow." The grade of 'F' is thought of as 'a F.' The sound of that letter starts with "eh," as in met or let. Thus, 'an F' is appropriate.

Are you still with me? I have four more categories.

7. Were, We're, Where

These often confused phrases are also one of my biggest pet peeves. As you remember from #3, 'were' is a verb, such as 'We were there, too' or 'The children were sleeping.' When 'we' and 'are' become combined, the small phrase "We're" is formed. This can be seen in "We're meeting for lunch at Olive Garden." The word 'where' is used to indicate a place, such as "Where should we go for lunch?" (Olive Garden!) These are not interchangeable.

8. Im (not kidding)

I truly hope this is just laziness in writing. People meaning to write "I'm" have written Im and im. Neither are logical. Just like other contractions, such as "I've," "don't," and "can't," place that apostrophe and let it do its job of replacing [in this case the space and A of 'am.'

9. That Vs. Who

I wrote an article on this over three years ago. Enjoy! (Or just move onto #10).

10. Your, You're

These are referenced at the tail end of another article written three years ago to the day yesterday! See here:

Okay, kids, I hope that wasn't too painful. I hope your day is productive and more than just okay. Keep writing!


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