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11 Common Grammar Mistakes You're Probably Making

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It doesn’t matter if you have a degree in writing or if you would rather communicate through mathematical equations, being able to write effectively can open doors for you. In the digital age, grammar mistakes are more apparent, and can really hold you back professionally (or maybe even personally). It’s all about how you present yourself, and from social media to emails to web chats, you have ample opportunities to make an impression. Be sure your writing is on point with these grammar tips:

1. Alot vs. a lot

Spellcheck is a great asset as well as a constant hindrance. Many people have written “alot” over and over again, but here’s the truth: alot is not a word. Nope. The proper form is “a lot.”

2. Which vs. that

This one is pretty common, but “that” is restrictive while “which” is qualitative. This means you will use “which” when the proceeding clause qualifies your statement. Use “that” when you want to restrict that statement. For example, you would say, “I only walk paths that are well lit.” You wouldn’t say, “I only walk paths which are well lit.” If you wanted to use “which” in the above statement, you could word it as, “I only walk paths that are well lit, which can be found on the west side of the city.”

3. Me vs. I

Let’s start with the example on this one: “Can you call Meredith and I when you get done?” Using “I” in this sentence is wrong. To figure out if you are using the right form, take the other person out of the sentence, “Can you call I when you get done?” This doesn’t sound right on its own, because “I” is being used as an object, and it shouldn’t be.

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4. Saw vs. seen

“Saw” is the simple past tense of the word “see,” while “seen” is only a participle of “saw.” This means “seen” cannot be used without a helper verb in the sentence. For example, “I seen her the other day” is incorrect because it does not have an extra verb to help make sense of the sentence. “I had seen her the other day,” or “I saw her the other day,” would be correct.

5. Lay vs. lie

The easiest way to remember this one is that you can lie yourself down, but other, usually inanimate things you lay down. “I need to lie down.” “Please lay the book on the coffee table.”

6. Its vs. it’s

Use the apostrophe form of this word only when the sentence makes sense if you say “it is” or “it has.” For example, “It’s a nice day out” still sounds right if you say, “It is a nice day out.”

“The butterfly lost its wing,” doesn’t sound right if you say, “The butterfly lost it is wing.” Use an apostrophe for the contraction form of the word only.

7. Their, There, They’re

Okay, here is the simple way to remember:

  • There refers to a place. “Please place the fruit basket over there.”
  • They’re is the contraction of “they are.” “They’re trying to get tickets for the concert on Friday.”
  • Their is possessive. “The couple is picking out new furniture for their living room.”

8. Who’s vs. Whose

“Whose” is the possessive of “who.” “Who’s” is the contraction for “who is.” Whenever you’re writing about something belonging to someone, you’ll use “whose.” For example, “Whose jacket was left at my house last night?”

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9. Accept vs. except

To “accept” is to receive something or to come to terms with something, whereas to “except” indicates an exception or exclusion. For example, “She accepted an award for her service to her college.” Except is used in this way: “He’s ready to go, except for his shoes.”

10. Then vs. Than

Use “than” when you want to compare something. For instance, if you are comparing who is taller, you’ll state it as, “Mary is taller than Adrian.”

Use “then” for numerous reasons:

  • In addition to. “My mother and I were talking about having dinner, and then she mentioned the party.”
  • Next, afterward. “Please clean the bathroom and your bedroom, and then I’d like you to wash the car.”
  • In that case. “If that is how you are going to act then you are grounded for a week.”
  • This point in time. “If you will be done with work at noon, I will call you then.”

11. Effect vs. Affect

In most cases, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. This will help you when writing. Affect is used for the cause of something, whereas effect is what happens after that cause. Here are some examples:

  • “Brain training affects a child’s ability to stay on target in the summertime.”
  • “The general effect we are trying to produce is awe.”

Are there other common grammar mistakes you can think of? List them in the comments below.

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Featured photo credit: writing in the journal/erink_photographyvia flickr.com

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