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Use the Right Word - Grammar Errors and Usage

Updated on August 14, 2016
Using the right word will vastly improve your writing.
Using the right word will vastly improve your writing. | Source

Correct Word Usage Is Important

I do a lot of online writing. I’ve also come across many, many articles that are otherwise well-written, but drive me slightly crazy with those tiny little grammar errors.

Well, we’ll leave my own mental stability aside when I address the most common words below that people often choose incorrectly.

I won’t bother either with explaining parts of speech – would you like an adverb with that? Besides, when’s the last time you thought about personal pronouns and intransitive verbs?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a language geek. But I “get” that not everyone appreciates linguaphiles in the way that I do.

So, I’ll just share some linguistical humor…while showing the correct word to use.


Use the Elements of Style - The Ultimate Grammar Source

A lot vs. A lot

When you talk to our British friends, have you ever noticed that they use the word "lot" in various situations?

The whole lot of them had too much ale. It wasn’t the ginger variety, either.

I went to the store and bought the whole lot of purple wigs to prepare for Halloween.

Those sentences wouldn’t work if we substituted in the smashed-together word “a lot”:

The whole a lot of them had too much ale.

I went to the store and bought the whole a lot of purple wigs.

Now you know: lot is a word by itself. You buy a lot for a house, but you can’t buy “a lot” for a house because there is no such thing.

Affect vs. effect

Before I talk about these words, I must ask: Do you have an object of your affection?

When we shower loved ones with our affections, we’re trying to “influence” them with our love, are we not?

To “affect” something is to do the same thing: influence it.

I adversely affected the flavor of the soup by adding 7 cloves of garlic to it. Only later did I realize the recipe said to add 2 cloves. The object of my affection wouldn’t go near me for days.

When you use the word “effect” you’re talking about the result or consequence of something. Think of the phrase cause and effect.

The effects of the love potion were wearing off. The object of his affection realized she was in love with a frog.

The side-effects said nothing about frogs! Hopefully the potion didn’t affect her judgment too badly.

A little grammar humor...

How is your brain holding up on this grammar lesson?

See results

Lose v. loose

When you "lose" something, you misplace it. In that moment, you don’t know where it is and it could be gone forever…or just temporarily. It’s pronounced “lewz.”

I regularly lose my mind. I often remember to look for it under the bed.

The word "loose" means that something isn’t tightly sealed or able to move freely. It also rhymes with goose.

When I’m looking for my mind, I often wonder how loose my screws are.

Be careful of losing your mind! You wouldn’t want to misplace it forever and ever.

Breath vs. breathe

The word ”breath” is pronounced “breth” and rhymes with get. It is the air that comes out of your mouth and nose. It’s also what smells so bad in the mornings.

I can hold my breath underwater for four minutes. I don’t think I've suffered too much brain damage doing that...but I have forgotten what I'm talking about.

The word “breathe” is pronounced “breeth” (the “th” is soft at the end, like in the word “the”)and rhymes with breeze. “Breathing” is the act of taking in or blowing out air.

When I breathe in and out really fast, I see stars. Sometimes I fall over after breathing rapidly for a few minutes.

Thus, when you’re talking about huffing and puffing, you’re breathing big, deep breaths. Now go blow the house in. (Yes, I did just end that sentence with a preposition.)

Fewer vs. less

You use the word “fewer” when comparing things that you can count.

I counted fewer sheep last night than the night before: 457 vs. 992.

The word “less” is used more for things that you’d have trouble counting:

I put less beans in the crock pot for the chili. The house will smell better if everyone eats fewer bowls of beans.

Remember, it’s entirely possible to have too many beans. Less is better in that regard – if you value pleasant aromas, that is.

Healthful vs. healthy

Do you say "healthy food" or "healthful food"?

Well, if we give way to the times, people say “healthy food” far more often than not.

Once upon a time, though, you might have implied that the food itself is somehow live and possessing health - that somehow it enjoyed its own wellness.

“Healthful” would be something that contributed to better health – once upon a time.

Give me the cake and nobody gets hurt. You’ll find it far more healthful to obey my commands; you’ll live long and healthy lives if you just feed me cake.

These days, people seem to want to have their “healthy cake” and eat it, too. I can understand that, as long as I can call carrot cake healthful. (Which, of course, it’s not, but let’s just pretend it is…healthful, you know, for my mental health.)

Practicing my ninja moves.  I definitely don't like to be stationary for too long.
Practicing my ninja moves. I definitely don't like to be stationary for too long. | Source

Stationary vs. stationery

If you’re "stationary", you’re in one spot. You can think of the military, too, when you get "stationed" somewhere.

I’ve been stationary in this chair for so long, I’ve become like a tree and grown roots, and the branches creak and crack when I try to stand up.

Growing roots, huh? You might want to get one of those little pedometer things and start counting steps. You’ll grow less roots that way.

If you are into "stationery," you probably spend a lot of time at the card shop.

Mark was such a card. He enjoyed the role so well, he founded his own stationery company. Down the halls he’d go and everyone would shout, “Hall Mark!”

What? Haven’t you been called a card before? You need to infuse a little more humor into your life!

Your vs. You’re

The word “your” refers to an object or something that belongs to someone you might be talking to or addressing.

Your trousers are dragging. They're going to fall off."

If you smash the two words “you” and “are” together, you get “you’re.” It’s like an equation: you+are = you’re. Whenever you would use those two words in a sentence, feel free to do some letter-smashing.

"You're underestimating the possibility of your pants falling off if you continue to wear them so low. I'm just trying to be helpful, I promise."

Source

There/They’re/Their

“There” refers to location.

Look up there! It’s a bird, it’s a plane! It’s…a flying squirrel!

“Their” refers to an object or thing that belongs to more than one person.

Oh yes. The people on the thirteenth floor always let their flying squirrels loose this time of day.

“They’re” refers to the two smashed-together words, they and are. They + are = they’re.

They’re quite strange. They also have flying bats, cats and mice. I think one is named Mighty Mouse. Someone said they had a cat named Skippyjon Jones, too.

Indeed, there are three different reasons to use these words, but they’re only going to confuse you if you don’t remember these wacky sentences.

Sight/Cite/Site

Three spellings for one sound? Sure.

If you value beautiful things, then they’re a "sight" for the eyes to see. Sight and eyes sort of rhyme, and they go together because they’re related – a little bit like second cousins or something like that.

What a sight indeed when I saw a talking rabbit and a strange man start to sing about their very merry un-birthday.

When you “cite” someone or something, you quote them (think: “citation”) or you’ve just issued a summons.

The officer cited her for running amok and harassing a caterpillar.

A “site” is a location, most notably on the internet.

Alice in Wonderland’s site is tough to navigate. It’s like going through a maze and these mysterious cats keep popping up.

Who’s vs. Whose

These two words sound just alike, but they can make your writing less confusing by using the correct one.

“Whose” is used to show that a person owns an object or thing, or that it’s in their possession; it’s usually in the form of a question.

Whose smelly shoes are those? They’re so smelly there’s green smoke emanating from them!

Interestingly, no one claimed ownership of those shoes.

The English language has this funny way of smashing words together. The word “who’s” is no exception. Who + is = who’s.

Who’s the one who won the lottery? Surely it wasn’t me!

No, it wasn’t me. Or the 3,998, 124 other people who bought a ticket.

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    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 13 months ago from Western NC

      JPSO138 - haha, thanks! Hope you're well!

    • JPSO138 profile image

      JPSO138 13 months ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

      Very interesting. You are right indeed. Just a slight change and they mean a lot already...

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Chef-de-jour - hehe. I definitely try to make grammar learning a little more fun. ;0) Thank you so much for stopping by and it's fun to learn about our UK comrades and the subtle differences in speech. :)

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 4 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      A welcome addition to the grammar 'shelf' with some very clear examples and lots of wonderful information - for both novice and expert. The video's a humdinger.

      Increasingly here in the UK you'll see your mistakenly mixed up with you're - as in:

      'Your not alone.'

      'You're wish is our command.'

      Hang on, have I got that the wrong way round?

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Thank you, Rahul. I love a good grammar lesson. :) Indeed, knowing grammar and its ins and outs is so impoartant - in any language. :)

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Some very useful tips and examples my friend.

      I wrote a hub about the effects of grammar on the corporate and legal world. You, as per the knowledge and hold you have must be aware already :)

      Proper sentence structuring is the key to all paper work and online/offline writing.

      Your hub lays down the basic essence of such relevance which grammar holds.

      Voted up and shared :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Epigramman - thank you! Hehe. I also send you warm wishes for a wonderful, happy and prosperous 2013!

      And yes, even I fall prey to the whims of the English language, but I have so much fun trying to figure out the perfect grammatical phrases to use - I'm definitely a lover of language. :D Cheers!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      Congratulations Cyndi on your perfect 100 score and you certainly deserve it because you are a world class writer and communicator.

      And I am sending you warm wishes for your continued health, happiness and prosperity in 2013.

      Yes it's true, we all fall prey/victim to grammatical and spelling errors, and I write so darn fast that I really have to be careful (lol) but this is a very handy hub presentation to learn from and I for one will use it as a reference guide .....thank you for your research and your passion about this subject

      lake erie time ontario canada 5:21pm

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Jamie - nah, it's all in good fun. :D I have "a lot" of fun writing these and poking fun. LOL. It's just so fun that you came by.

    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas

      I have to admit, I am scared right now because I'm afraid I may make a mistake.. LOL! I still make silly mistakes like this and probably more than I realize. For the longest time, I got the your and you're thing mixed up. Yeah, I just admitted that.. LOL! I still use the term "a lot" but have started putting a space between the a and lot.. is it correct to use it that way? I do want to write the correct way and your hub here will help me to be more cautious. Thank you so much for sharing. Voted up, useful :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Julie - hehe, you do fantastic! Fantastic, I tell ya!

      Teaches - You're also such an amazing writer - I don't think I've ever seen you with a grammar error. :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Thanks for the refresher. I have probably made some of this mistakes, please forgive me. Very enjoyable read and your added wit makes it fun to learn. Voted up and useful.

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 4 years ago from Clinton CT

      Excellent! Most of these I do...phew. :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Alocsin - ah, thank you so much! I know "a lot" of these words can be confusing, but I have so much fun writing about them. LOL

      Carol7777 - hehe, I still make mistakes, too - we're only human. But, it's fun to poke fun at these words that trip people up - including me! :D

      Glimmer Twin Fan - Well in short: far = distance and when you talk about something being farther away, you're talking about the distance it is away from you. "Further" is to delve more in-depth, like "explore an idea further" - fun stuff! Thanks for coming by!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Great hub and reminds everyone to be careful when writing. How about farther vs. further? I'm sure I've made some of these mistakes in my hubs. Now I better go back and check. Voted up!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      I also have made many of these mistakes. So I am glad you brought all this out..Makes us better writers. I am bookmarking for future use, voting up and sharing on facebook.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I'm familiar with all these errors except for "a lot." I did not know there was such a word and had been using "lot" for that term. Thanks for setting me straight. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      NateB11 - Haha, thank you so much. Yes, all the different versions of the word "to" and "then" trip people up a lot, don't they? I might have to make a sequel to this hub. :D

      Wetnosedogs - affect and effect can be tricky. LOL.. Thank you for stopping by!

      Joaniebaby - yes, it is that bit of craziness that compels me to write wacky hubs such as this. Ha! Now, I admit, sometimes people make errors because they've been starting at the screen for too long - it's when there are multiple errors that make me more nuts. LOL.

    • joaniebaby profile image

      joaniebaby 4 years ago

      I agree with you. Wrong words drive me a little crazy, too. And misspelled words do also. I don't understand how a hub with all of the very noticeable misspellings and grammar errors can be a "Hub of the Day!" Have you ever noticed how many errors there are in the newspapers these days? Spell check doesn't catch these errors. Thanks for the good info. Voted up and useful.

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

      Affect and Effect always may me think twice and sometimes more than twice. Love this and enjoyed the video.

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 4 years ago from California, United States of America

      This is a very good guide, and I agree the language should be used correctly, otherwise communication breaks down. Often, I see the misuse of "to" and "too", and "then" and "than"; I see these errors being made all over the Internet. Anyway, I'd love to see this guide on desktops or bookmarked on computers across the globe.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Christy - thank you so much! Hehe. Less and fewer, yeah, well I forgive you. :D Thank you for all the votes and shares. I appreciate it! :)

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I have to vote up and awesome for your video alone! I had a huge smile :) I do get 'less' and 'fewer' mixed up sometimes but I hope you tell me if you catch it! Vote up and sharing too

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Ruchira - oh you are a WONDERFUL writer! LOL...I just cringe when I see otherwise good articles hehe...Keep on rockin! :)

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

      Wonderful hub, cyndi.

      I hope I am not the ones that you read and say ummmm ;)

      I also think twice when I am writing its versus it's

      Cheers!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Rose - hehe, yes, I channel my reading frustrations into zany, wacky hubs that hopefully will help others. :D Thank you so much!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Well done as always! I love your grammar hubs. I also do a lot of online writing and READ a lot of online writing from others. It drives me nuts how frequently I come across these errors from very educated individuals. More people need to read this!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      RHW - HAHA! You crack me up. I took a lot of French...and Spanish...and linguistics...and I really, really learned about languages, sentence structure and more than I ever thought I would need to know....I hear liaison! HAHAH. It really is hard to keep it straight. :)

      Aviannovice - good to see you. Oh, I make my fair share. And I always have to poke fun at myself. :D

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I'm sure that I have made a number of errors grammatically, but I sure make my best attempts not to do it.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I am always finding mistakes in my own grammar. I hate it...and I swear my English was first rate (I even too Honors Eng 1 and 11 in college...I think it got worse after I took 4 semesters of French. I sometimes get confused...or when Dave mumbles, I hear liason!

      I tell you...I can't keep it all straight!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Austinstar - ya know, after staring at a hub for hours on end, I'm surprised I don't miss more little things than I do. Hehe.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      I have my own spelling errors occasionally and I rely on others to find them. My eyes are not as good as they used to be.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Alecia - hello, friend! Thank you for your thoughts and insights - that's great feedback to hear and see. :) Cheers!

      Rusticliving - HAHAHA. "Excellerating" Ha! I love it! :D Jobe Wellll Dun 2 U! Love you back, my hummingbird! :)

      Austinstar - I had a chance to see your comment earlier (I left almost right after publishing to see the in-laws) but I corrected that "ON" LOL. What would I do without eyes as good as yours? :D Thank you, thank you!

      Vicki - someone had the gaul to say "who's" is not a word! Oh my! Did you slug 'em with grammatical rhetoric? Hehe, just kidding. :D

      Sunshine - "I seen that" word before. Drives me up the wall. LOL. Thank you so much for comin' by! Cheers!

      lrc7815 - My pet peeves definitely drive me to write batty, wacky grammar hubs, Hehe. Thanks for coming by!! Cheers!

      lmKarn23 - nah, I feel your pain. I mean if a man can't spell, are ya really going to be able to have an intellectual conversation with him? Hehe. Thanks for your feedback!

      Bill - Big Bro! Ya know, it's the blogging. Really. I was feeling a little fried from all that "serious" writing I was doing and had my "release" writing freely and with reckless abandon. Now, I got my humor back! Hehe. Hugs, big bro!!

      Lovedoctor926 - oh this is just the tip of the iceberg, lol. Nauseous and nauseated are two others that drive me batty. Hmm, maybe there will be a sequel to this hub. Ha!

      Janine - oh, thank you so much! You're an excellent writer - I look forward to reading your blogs and hubs because they always entertain and have so much insight. :)

      tinamariemiller - thank you so much! :)

    • tinamariemiller profile image

      tinamariemiller 4 years ago from Peoria, AZ

      Excellent!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      I have always been fairly good with grammar, but even I have my moments and do doubt myself. You compiled a nice list and am pinning to refer to, thanks. Have also voted up and shared too!

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 4 years ago

      Excellent! The examples that you have provided are commonly misused by writers. Principal and principle is another one as well as went and gone.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This is the Cyndi I grew to love; the video is a classic. My biggest peeve as a teacher was grammar....and the constant misuse of "affect" and "effect." Hopefully this hub will help a great deal of writers. :)

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 4 years ago

      ones vs one's, two - i mean also...lol..

      Awesome hub..i laughed from the title on down!

      When i used to be on a dating site (sight?cite?) i wouldn't even chat with anyone who's spelling or grammar was sloppy or bad..

      that's terrible, really - judging a man by his spelling - but - can you imagine what other things he does badly or sloppily?

      Yeah - so could I...lol!

      lol

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

      You have covered my pet peeve extremely well. I hope I haven't made any of those mistakes in my hubs. lol Voted up and awesome.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I often use "seen" instead of "saw," it bugs the heck outta my daughter who is a kindergarten teacher! OK, I use it on purpose with her because I know it bugs her. I just do NOT like the word saw...it's just not an attractive word. I tell her, it could be so much worse! :) Excellent grammar tips!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Speaking of "who's," I got a comment in a grammar hub once that "who's" is not a word. Heck, yeah, it is! haha. It's a weird smashed up contraction, though, isn't it? Like "there's." Anyway, I love this hub, of course, being a grammar geek myself. I feel your pain and annoyance. Where did you find that video? LOVE IT!!!

    • Austinstar profile image

      Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      While I did not spot any grammatical errors, there is a spelling error:

      "Do you have on object of your affection?"

      Perhaps I have on the object of my affection, but I think you mean "Do you have an object of your affection?"

      Whose object would that be? I wonder a lot. There is no way of knowing if they're going to that place there on the map as she pointed to the spot marked X.

      That cite I got from the cop was such an impressive sight that I posted it on my web site.

      Seriously, I love the way you use that grammar stuff. Voted up, useful and funny.

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 4 years ago from California

      HAhahahahaha.. I am reading this hub and listening to your video.. I can't stop laughing.. Regardless of how I may spew at the screen from over exerting my apostrophes, I find this hub excellerating, exhilarating?.... well, all I can say is Jobe Well Dun! Love you, my little Butterfly! Thumbs up and definitely sheered!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Writing online has made me a better grammarian overall but there are moments when I doubt myself. Your tips are not only useful but well-organized. Voted up, useful, and shared!