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11 Common Grammar Mistakes You’re Probably Making

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.”

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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.

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.”

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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:

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  • 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?”

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.”

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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_photography via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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