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28 Common Grammar Mistakes Editors Want You To Realize

28 Common Grammar Mistakes Editors Want You To Realize

Your words are the most powerful weapons, and yet it’s easy to undermine yourself in written communication by violating simple rules of punctuation. It takes a single tweet or text for you to reveal flaws. Homophones – words that sound alike but are spelled differently are particularly tricky.

These are 28 of the most common grammar mistakes:

1. Periods and commas

Almost never do this: “Almost never do this”. A period or comma goes inside the quote, “like this.”

2. Commas and semicolons

Use a semicolon when you want to link two independent clauses; otherwise, you probably want to use a comma. By virtue of definition, a semicolon links two independent clauses that are related in thought.

3. Spaces

If using a typewriter (or if specified), use two spaces after a period. Otherwise, a single space will do.

4. ! – exclamation point

One is more than enough. Sometimes the saying goes, “quality is more important than quantity.” Same applies here.

5. :) or emoticons

Emoticons are definitely cute, but are not punctuation. Do not use this in an essay. You will probably fail!

6. It’s and Its

“It’s” is a contraction of it is. “Its” on the other hand signifies that “it” possesses something.

Ex # 1: The dog chewed on its bone.

Ex # 2: It’s raining.

In general, if you can rewrite the sentence to say “it is” then “it’s” is suitable. Otherwise, you want to use “its”.

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7. Then vs. Than

“Then” conveys time. “Than” is used for comparison.

Ex # 1: We left the party and then went home.

Ex # 2: We would rather go home than stay at the party.

9. Close-minded, and closed-minded

This is a trick question. “Closed-minded” seems logical. It is considered a correct spelling but the original spelling of this word is “Close-minded.” The same goes for “close-lipped” and “close-mouthed.”

10. Affect vs. Effect

“Affect” is a verb. “Effect” is a noun.

There are however, rare exceptions. For example, someone can “effect change” and “affect” can be a psychological symptom.

Example: How did that affect you?

Example: What effect did that have on you?

11. Your vs. You’re

“Your” is possessive; it is a possessive pronoun. On the contrary, the latter is a contraction of you are.

Example 1: You’re pretty.

Example 2: Give me some of your whiskey.

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In general, if the sentence can be rewritten to say “you are” then “you’re” is appropriate. Otherwise, “your.”

12. Which and That

This is one of the most common mistakes out there, and understandably so. “That” is a restrictive pronoun. It’s vital to the noun to which it’s referring. e.g., I don’t trust fruits and vegetables that aren’t organic. Here, I’m referring to all non-organic fruits or vegetables. In other words, I only trust fruits and vegetables that are organic. “Which” introduces a relative clause. It allows qualifiers that may not be essential.

Example:

I recommend you eat only organic fruits and vegetables, which are available in area grocery stores. In this case, you don’t have to go to a specific grocery store to obtain organic fruits and vegetables. “Which” qualifies, “that” restricts. “Which” is more ambiguous however, and by virtue of its meaning is flexible enough to be used in many restrictive clauses. Example:

The house, which is burning, is mine. e.g., The house that is burning is mine

13. Moot

Contrary to common misuse, “moot” doesn’t imply something is superfluous. It means a subject is disputable or open to discussion.

Example:

The idea that commercial zoning should be allowed in the residential neighborhood was a moot point for the council.

14. Envy and jealousy

The word “envy” implies a longing for someone else’s good fortunes. “Jealousy” is far more nefarious. It’s a fear of rivalry, often present in sexual situations. “Envy” is when you covet your friend’s good looks. “Jealousy” is what happens when your significant other swoons over your good-looking friend.

15. Continual and continuous

They’re similar, but there’s a difference. “Continual” means something that’s always occurring, with obvious lapses in time. “Continuous” means something continues without any stops or gaps in between.

Example: The continual music next door made it the worst night of studying ever.

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Example: Her continuous talking prevented him from concentrating.

16. Nor

“Nor” expresses a negative condition. It literally means “and not.” You’re obligated to use the “nor” form if your sentence expresses a negative and follows it with another negative condition. “Neither the men nor the women were drunk” is a correct sentence because “nor” expresses that the women held the same negative condition as the men. The old rule is that “nor” typically follows “neither,” and “or” follows “either.” However, if neither “either” nor “neither” is used in a sentence, you should use “nor” to express a second negative, as long as the second negative is a verb. If the second negative is a noun, adjective, or adverb, you would use “or,” because the initial negative transfers to all conditions.

Example: He won’t eat broccoli or asparagus. The negative condition expressing the first noun (broccoli) is also used for the second (asparagus)

17. Nauseous

Undoubtedly the most common mistake I encounter. Contrary to almost ubiquitous misuse, to be “nauseous” doesn’t mean you’ve been sickened: it actually means you possess the ability to produce nausea in others. e.g., That week-old hot dog is nauseous. When you find yourself disgusted or made ill by a nauseating agent, you are actually “nauseated.” e.g., I was nauseated after falling into that dumpster behind the Planned Parenthood. Stop embarrassing yourself.

18. Irony and coincidence

Too many people claim something is the former when they actually mean the latter. For example, it’s not “ironic” that “Barbara moved from California to New York, where she ended up meeting and falling in love with a fellow Californian.” The fact that they’re both from California is a “coincidence.” “Irony” is the incongruity in a series of events between the expected results and the actual results. “Coincidence” is a series of events that appear planned when they’re actually accidental. So, it would be “ironic” if “Barbara moved from California to New York to escape California men, but the first man she ended up meeting and falling in love with was a fellow Californian.”

20. Fewer and less

Another common mistake, “less” refers to quantity and “fewer” to a number. For instance, Facebook has fewer than 5,000 employees, but I got less sleep than you last night.

21. Whether and if

Many writers seem to assume that “whether” is interchangeable with “if.” It isn’t. “Whether” expresses a condition where there are two or more alternatives. “If” expresses a condition where there are no alternatives. e.g., I don’t know whether I’ll get drunk tonight. e.g., I can get drunk tonight if I have money for booze.

22.  Run-on sentence or comma splice

A run-on sentence is a sentence that joins two independent clauses without punctuation or the appropriate conjunction. A comma splice is similar to a run-on sentence, but it uses a comma to join two clauses that have no appropriate conjunction.

Fixing a run-on sentence or a comma splice can be accomplished in one of five different ways:

Separate the clauses into two sentences.
Replace the comma with a semi-colon.
Replace the comma with a coordinating conjunction–and, but, for, yet, nor, so.
Replace the comma with a subordinating conjunction–after, although, before, unless, as, because, even though, if, since, until, when, while.
Replace the comma with a semi-colon and transitional word–however, moreover, on the other hand, nevertheless, instead, also, therefore, consequently, otherwise, as a result.
For example:

Incorrect: Rachel is very smart, she began reading when she was three years old.
Correct: Rachel is very smart. She began reading when she was three years old.
Correct: Rachel is very smart; she began reading when she was three years old.
Correct: Rachel is very smart, and she began reading when she was three years old.
Correct: Because Rachel is very smart, she began reading when she was three years old.
Correct: Rachel is very smart; as a result, she began reading when she was three years old.

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23. Misplaced modifiers

To communicate your ideas clearly, you must place a modifier directly next to the word it is supposed to modify. The modifier should clearly refer to a specific word in the sentence. For example:

Incorrect: At eight years old, my father gave me a pony for Christmas.
Correct: When I was eight years old, my father gave me a pony for Christmas.

24. Pronoun Errors

Pronoun errors occur when pronouns do not agree in number with the nouns to which they refer. If the noun is singular, the pronoun must be singular. If the noun is plural however, the pronoun must be plural as well. For example:

Incorrect: Everybody must bring their own lunch.
Correct: Everybody must bring his or her own lunch.

Many people believe that pronoun errors are the result of writers who are trying to avoid the implication of sexist language. Although this is an admirable goal, correct grammar is still important.

25. Impactful

It isn’t a word. “Impact” can be used as a noun (e.g., The impact of the crash was severe) or a transitive verb (e.g., The crash impacted my ability to walk or hold a job). “Impactful” is a made-up buzzword, colligated by the modern marketing industry in their endless attempts to decode the innumerable nuances of human behavior into a string of mindless metrics. Seriously, stop saying this. Impact is a noun, not a verb. A plane can crash on impact. You can have an impact on something. But you cannot impact something. (When you are tempted to use “impact” as a verb, use “affect” instead; see #1.)

26. Care less

The dismissive “I could care less” is incorrect. If you could care less about it, then you’re saying you could care less about the topic, and you’ve lost the impact you meant to have. To use this phrase correctly, insert the word “not” after the word “could,” as in, “I could not care less.”

27. Irregardless

This word doesn’t exist. The word you should use is “regardless.”

28. Apostrophe usage

Apostrophes are used to show possession. However, you do not use an apostrophe after a possessive pronoun such as my, mine, our, ours, his, hers, its, their, or theirs. For example:

Incorrect: My mothers cabin is next to his’ cabin.
Correct: My mother’s cabin is next to his cabin.

In the case of it’s, the apostrophe is used to indicate a contraction for it is. For example:

Incorrect: Its a cold day in October.
Correct: It’s a cold day in October.

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Ramanpreet Kaur

Currently a student but don't know what direction to go in: Let us see if writing gets me anywhere :)

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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