- Books, Literature, and Writing»
- Commercial & Creative Writing
Worst Grammar Mistakes
Bad grammar reflects poorly not only on the person speaking it, but also on whoever tried teaching them in the first place. More and more, Americans are descending into a chasm of improper literary terms. What follows is a list of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to grammar in the English language.
THERE / THEY'RE / THEIR
This one drives me absolutely nuts. It's so easy to remember which is which, and just throwing whatever term into a sentence can completely change its meaning.
- THERE - As an adverb, it tells location, telling WHERE. See? The two rhyme, giving you a big clue as to how to use this word. As a pronoun, it tells a point or introduces a clause.
- THEY'RE - This is a contraction, meaning THEY ARE. If you aren't sure which to use, try saying the sentence aloud replacing "they're" with "they are". Does it still make sense? If not, you might be using the wrong one.
- THEIR - Possessive form of THEY. No exceptions. If you're talking about something possessed / owned / et cetera by a collective group, then this is the word you want to use.
Example: They're over there, upset that their grammar is just plain bad.
ITS / IT'S
Another common mistake, this one only takes about two seconds to figure out with this quick trick. IT'S only ever means "it is" and ITS only ever shows possession. Try replacing either one with "it is" and if it works, then you mean IT'S and if it doesn't then you mean ITS.
Example A: It's time for the grammar lesson to begin.
Example B: The class groaned when its grammar lesson began.
YOUR / YOU'RE
As with the above, YOUR shows possession, while YOU'RE is a contraction meaning YOU ARE. You can use the same replacement trick, using "you are" to replace either one before. If it works in the sentence, you're using the right word! And if it doesn't, then you probably aren't.
Example A: Your dog keeps peeing on the rug.
Example B: You're going to clean the pee from the rug.
OF versus HAVE
Contractions ending in "ve" are the bane of English grammar and why some people habitually write it just as they say it, using OF where they should use HAVE. There is never a right way to use the word "of" after any of the following: should, could, and would. Any time you see "should of" or "could of" or "would of" it's being used wrong. Each instance of "of" in those cases needs to be replaced with the word "have" to be considered proper grammar.
FOREWORD / FORWARD
They sound the same, and almost look the same, but FOREWORD is an introduction to a book. Books have words. Foreword has the word WORD in it. Tada! Meanwhile, FORWARD means to go forth in a direction towards something.
Example A: The foreword message complemented the book's subject matter.
Example B: The horses pulled the sleigh forward, away from the barn.
THEN / THAN
THEN is a word that refers to time or sequence. THAN is a conjunction meaning except, or an adverb showing difference.
Example A: First I went to the bank, and then I went shopping.
Example B: I would rather be shopping than working.
LOSE / LOOSE
These two aren't even pronounced the same. LOSE is a verb that means being without something, while LOOSE is both an adjective and an adverb meaning not bound together.
Example A: When did you lose your dog?
Example B: If your dog did not run loose, maybe it would not be lost.
Hearing young people, especially children, use proper grammar pleases me to no end but when I hear grown adults -- especially professionals, and those in education-related fields -- use poor grammar, I find it had to take them seriously. Instead of concentrating on the content, I end up mentally correcting and nitpicking what they're saying. Using proper grammar is important because it helps get across basic ideas in a way that educated people can understand. Following the standard rules of grammar lends an intelligent elegance, whether in speech or literature. If you aren't sure if grammar in your written work is up to par, try running it through an online service like Polish My Writing. It not only checks spelling, style, and grammar but also lends suggestions to improve your writing.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing your comments on this article!
AFFECT / EFFECT
AFFECT is an action verb, and the letter "A" begins each one. EFFECT is a noun, meaning the result of something. There is no way to interchange them. These two words are a primary example of why it is necessary to know the parts of speech and basic sentence structure if you hope to use proper grammar.
Example A: Drinking too much soda carries the potential effect of high blood sugar.
Example B: Drinking too much soda can affect the body by raising blood sugar levels.