Gini Dietrich

Grammar Police: Twelve Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes

By: Gini Dietrich | September 12, 2013 | 

Grammar Police- Twelve Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes

By Gini Dietrich

As more and more organizations join the owned media way of marketing, the grammar police seem to be in greater force.

Poor Sam Fiorella. Every time he writes something, he asks three or four of us to make sure he isn’t going to be crucified by the grammar police. It’s become quite comical and we enjoy giving him a hard time about it.

But he’s not alone. Many business leaders stress about writing anything at all, for fear of having incorrect grammar that will be made fun of across the web.

Between not knowing correct grammar and the text lexicon, it’s no wonder people are fearful of not just writing, but publishing, their work.

While I am certainly no Grammar Girl, I have found there are mistakes nearly everyone makes, particularly when writing for the web.

All Hail the Grammar Police!

  1. Affect vs. effect. The easiest way to remember the difference between the two is affect means “to influence.” So if you’re going to influence something, you will have an affect. If it’s the result of something, it’s an effect.
  2. The Oxford comma. In a series of three or more terms, you should use what’s referred to as the Oxford comma. This means you should have a comma before the word “and” in a list. For instance: The American flag is red, white, and blue. Many people debate this, but I’m a believer in it because there are times when you don’t have the extra comma and the sentence doesn’t make sense. I prefer to err on the side of having the Oxford in there.
  3. Commas, in general. And speaking of commas, slow down when you’re writing and read your copy out loud. You don’t want to make this mistake: Let’s eat grandma vs. let’s eat, grandma. Poor grandma will be eaten if you forget the comma.
  4. Their, they’re, and there. You’d think everyone learned this rule in fourth grade, but it’s a very common mistake. Use “there” when referring to a location, “their” to indication possession, and “they’re” when you mean to say “they are.”
  5. Care less. The dismissive “I could care less” you hear all the time is incorrect. If you could care less, that means there is more you could care less about the topic. Most people omit the “not” in that phrase. It should be, “I couldn’t care less.”
  6. Irregardless. This word doesn’t exist. It should be regardless.
  7. Nauseous. How many times have you said you felt nauseous? This is incorrect. You feel nauseated. Nauseous means something is sickening to contemplate.
  8. Your and you’re. Another mistake you see in people’s social media profiles and in the content they create is not correctly using “your” and “you’re.” If you’re meaning to say “you are,” the correct word is “you’re” (like at the beginning of this sentence). Otherwise the word is “your.”
  9. Fewer vs. less. Another common mistake, “less” refers to quantity and “fewer” to a number. For instance, Facebook has fewer than 5,000 employees.
  10. Quotation marks. Among great debate, people ask all the time whether or not punctuation belongs inside or outside quotation marks. It belongs inside.
  11. More than vs. over. I’m pretty sure the advertising agency created this grammatical error. Instead of saying, “We had more than 50 percent growth” in ad copy, “over” allows for more space. So they say, “We had over 50 percent growth.” Drives. Me. Crazy.
  12. Me vs. I. I was reading something by a big muckety muck the other day and the copy read, “This year has brought a big personal development for my wife and I…” No, no, no! If you were going to say that without the mention of your wife, you wouldn’t say, “This year has brought a big personal development for I.” You would say “me.” So this year has brought a big personal development for my wife and me.

There are so many grammar mistakes made today, The Elements of Style is on its fourth edition. Also check out the AP Stylebook. While most business writers don’t abide by those rules, most PR professionals do.

Having a copy of both (and referring to them) and asking an editor for help (even if it’s informal like Sam does), you’ll never have to worry about the grammar police.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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211 responses to “Grammar Police: Twelve Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes”

  1. Danny Brown says:

    The quotation marks isn’t quite as clear cut. While generally the punctuation will be inside, if you’re quoting as part of a bigger sentence then they’re on their own, or as a question.

  2. In my case, you can blame the AP Stylebook for that Oxford comma issue. It’s the journalist in me… hard to break away.
    –Tony Gnau

  3. bdorman264 says:

    Ha, only 12? I usually can fit at least 12 in one paragraph. Sometimes I struggle with ‘is’ and ‘are’. I’ll write it and read it and put it to the ‘redneck’ test and if it sounds like some hick was writing it then I might change it, but sometimes I think it was probably right in the first place. 
    That’s why I struggled with English, I can talk it but once you want me to dissect and identify it you lost me; in fact, it made me nauseous….:).

  4. One space after end punctuation, not two. That one drives ME crazy. 😀

  5. There’s also a conversation to be had about clarity vs. correctness. Strict and unwavering adherence to the rules of grammar can render the most well-crafted prose unreadable. See: the grade school rule that one should never end a sentence with a preposition.

  6. Matt_Cerms says:

    The use of dashes really gets to me. The timing, look, and spacing is so inconsistent.

  7. samfiorella says:

    Leave, me, and, alone.

  8. The Chicago Manual of Style has been a preferred reference.

  9. RebeccaTodd says:


  10. The more than vs. over drives me crazy too. Whoever decided that using a preposition in place of an adjective to describe a numerical value is insane. INSANE I tell you!

  11. NancyDavis says:

    The one i hate is the mistake of “your” instead of “you are” or “you’re.” If I had a dollar for every idiot on dating sites who sent me the message “your sexy” I would have a lot of dollars. I was always tempted to answer back, “my what is sexy?” I figured they would not get the joke though.
    The other mistake I hate is alot. That is incorrect. It is two words not one. A LOT of stupid people think it is one word!
    Rant over. 🙂

    PS – Will there be cake?

  12. XanPearson says:

    Yes! These drive me crazy. I always want to say “well at least you still care” when someone says “could care less”. The constant misuse of me and I is the worst though. “Me and ____ went to the concert” just makes me cringe.

  13. Lara Wellman says:

    I learned to use the oxford comma in school and people argue with me all the time.  I may have even given it up a bit because of that…
    So few people know about nauseous/nauseated but it seems a bit rude to inform someone they’re saying it wrong when they’re nauseated 🙂

  14. sokieny says:

    Can we add “it’s versus its” to the list? That one drives me crazy. I see this only becoming more of a problem in the future. They don’t teach good old-fashioned English class to our children (at least not in our schools). Remember diagramming sentences and all that fun (or am I showing my age)? Thanks for the post!

  15. ericswain says:

    Yeah, but my modern linguist friends would say that as long as your meaning is comprehensible, grammatical mistakes are inconsequential.

  16. What’s been getting my grammar/usage goat for quite a while now is the use of “everyday” instead of “every day.” They are two different concepts. Everyday means a commonly occurring or ordinary event; every day mean each and every day. “Every day I see this everyday mistake.”
    It’s been going on for a long time, at least since Morrissey incorrectly sang, “Everyday is like Sunday.” But it seems to be getting worse.
    One more: the past tense of the verb “lead” is spelled “led,” not “lead.” This is one that is not only wrong but creates actual confusion, which is the mark of a true grammar foul.

  17. My AP Style Guide is always right by my side.

  18. Communic8nHowe says:

    Good reminders Gini! Though I intentionally never use the Oxford comma and advocate against it. My personal challenge is “its” vs. “it’s”. No matter how many times I look it up I need to look it up again to make sure I’ve used it correctly!

  19. susancellura says:

    Another post I should print out and tape to the walls outside offices!! Just this morning, my boss sent an email that said he was going to be offsight today. I literally had to sit on my hands so as not to respond to him. Agh!!  🙂

  20. Word Ninja says:

    My colleague calls me the Comma Queen. (I’ve been called worse.) 
    In school, we used Oxford; in journalism, we didn’t; at my current job, I use Oxford; in my freelance, I don’t. What, ever.

  21. belllindsay says:

    I read an incredible quote awhile back from some famous writer – can’t remember who said it but it described me to a TEE!! “I don’t know all the rules of grammar, but I know when I read something if it’s right or wrong.”

  22. Almost every day, I start to share a blog post by someone, get to the second sentence, and see a glaring grammatical error. Unless it’s the greatest content ever written, I don’t share it. It’s the curse of starting my career as a technical writer. (And may God have mercy on your soul if I see you use “it’s” incorrectly.)

  23. AmyEricsonBuhrow says:

    I was expecting to see a rant against that!  It’s been twelve years since I wrote for you and I still try to edit them out of my writing!

  24. duongsheahan says:

    These are great tips Gini, I just downloaded the Element of Style on Kindle for .99 on Amazon. 🙂

  25. Sarah Ranck Layton says:

    This one didn’t make the list, but maybe it’s a local thing…Even our PA state slogan uses it… “You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania.” No, no, no!! “You HAVE a friend…”!

  26. teamccloud says:

    Here’s my take: If you’re an educated communicator who tries to improve himself or herself and stays on top of a variety of blogs, and you’re still making these mistakes, I have to wonder about your professionalism. It seems that I read these same tips once a month on one blog or email newsletter or another.

  27. Great tips as unlike lucky (not poor) Sam Fiorella I don’t have 3-4 people to ask. I am always staring at those commas wondering if I have messed up or got them right.
    And ‘nauseous’ – Nauseating how many times I have made that mistake. Not anymore. Thanks Gini.

  28. dharrison says:

    A fun read: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

  29. EricPudalov says:

    Excellent tips, Gini!  Many of these grammar mistakes that I see *constantly* on the web drive me up a wall.  The “you’re” vs. “your” and “they’re, their, and there” mix-ups are my personal pet peeves.  I think it generally pays to re-read what you’ve just written, or have someone look it over for you if it’s important…right?

  30. bradmarley says:

    Great post, Gini. This needs to be shared, oh, every three months. 
    For more than vs. over, I always think of how a plane flies over the ground, and that helps me remember to use “more than” in most cases. It’s simple but, hey, it works.

  31. ryanruud says:

    GINI! You are my favorite person right now. 🙂 Aside from making me burst into uncontrollable cackles, yes cackles, that rattled office-wide when I read # 3 (poor, poor grandma) this list is great. It’s always good to have reminders. And yes, #11, I blame ad folks trying to get some more white space into their copy for replacing ‘more than’ with over. I see it and I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I think my cat taught me that trick.  Thanks for the great post!

  32. Unmana says:

    I make the “over” instead of “more than” quite often, I’m afraid, because at my first “real” job, that was in the style guide!! and I still have trouble getting rid of the habit. I also make the “less/fewer” mistake, but I care less (hee!) about that.
    But now that everyone’s “allowed” to use “literally” to mean “figuratively”… 
    Your poor grandma reminded me of “Eats, shoots and leaves.” Have you read that?
    By the way, for punctuation, you use question marks and colons outside the quotes, correct? (And the British sometimes put punctuation marks outside the quotes, I think, depending on the context.)

  33. JefferyBialek says:

    Another fabulous post…and grandma will now be safe for awhile. But did you have to go picking on Katy Perry with the chosen image? I wonder how Robin Thicke’s grammar would stand up to some scrutiny. 🙂

  34. ryancox says:

    So I’m 0/12. What does that mean ginidietrich? Did I win something? #perfectscore

  35. KevinVandever says:

    These are good Gini, but I am shocked that “nearly everyone” still makes these mistakes (except the nauseous/nauseated one) since they seem to be posted on FB a couple times a day. I found a list of less (not fewer) published examples and where the Grammar Police should spend more time crackin’ skulls.
    Although, don’t let the name of the above URL fool you. These aren’t mistakes that almost everyone gets wrong, that would mean that almost everyone avoids these grammar mistakes, wouldn’t it? The actual title of the article is 20 Common Grammar Mistakes That Almost Everyone Makes.
    Oh, and next time you visit a grocery store, take a look at the sign above the express checkout lane(s). You can probably makes a citizen’s arrest.

  36. jeanniecw says:

    I agree with everything (especially #11 – drives me nuts, too!) but I’m not convinced in the Oxford comma assessment. Because I was trained using the AP Stylebook, I learned to omit it and still do it today. There is a continued debate. 

    Another I’d add to this list – adding a comma before “too.” As in: I would like to go, too! Many billboards and ads omit this!
    I’m fascinated by the ways we evolve. Language is an evolving thing, and we will continue to use it in awesomely varied ways.  Nice reminders, good lessons and excellent comments. (See what I did there??)

  37. jolynndeal says:

    The one I love is what you hear on the reality TV shows.  “John and I’s plans are to…” I’s???? Drives. Me. Crazy.

  38. BTRIPP says:

    Yay … Oxford Comma!

  39. ryancox says:

    Here is another one I notice ginidietrich, spacing after punctuation. I have been told that according to the AP stylebook, etc. it is 1 space _ not 2 _ _. (I notice 2 spaces from people A LOT)

    • ExtremelyAvg says:

      ryancox ginidietrich The two spaces is how I was taught in typing class, but you are correct, one is now the only correct method.

    • mike_ebert says:

      ryancox ginidietrich The 2 space rule was introduced so that people using typewriters would have nicely formatted text. Because computers automatically handle the formatting around punctuation, it should now be only 1 space.

  40. TheJackB says:

    I just received an email from someone who complained because I said I don’t care about the two space versus one space after a period “rule.” Kind of funny because the headline is “Tell Your Mom To Shut Up.”
    Anyhoo, I want to see the Oxford comma tarred, feathered and dumped into the harbor, call it a tribute to the Boston Tea Party.

  41. While we’re piling on, there is one mistake you will see at least 100 times on your birthday. Can anybody guess what it is?

  42. Jack is a dear friend and I agree with him regarding the Oxford comma and double spaces.
    Aside from trying to ensure the Oxford Comma is executed I have no disagreement with the rest of the list. Number 11 makes me want to bang my head against the wall.
    FWIW, my favorite editors haven’t been the “grammar police” but those who understood the difference between egregious mistakes and intentional errors.
    Style and voice have a place in writing and sometimes in the name of “proper” writing we kill the voice and turn something colorful into a cold and lifeless carcass that could have been something special.

    • RebeccaTodd says:

      Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes Agreed- sometimes voice comes before “rules”.

    • Danny Brown says:

      Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes Great point about voice being lost to rules, mate. It’s why I feel a lot of PR pros struggle to adapt to content marketing, etc., since they adhere to their AP guide, and lose the impact just being natural would give them if they just loosened up a bit.

  43. DwayneAlicie says:

    And when in doubt, simply find another way to say it!  
    People complain about relentless ridiculousness from the grammar police, but I like to think of it another way.
    If you routinely allow silly grammar mistakes to come through in your writing, say, 3% of your potential customers will think you’re an idiot, errr, I mean, leave you out of their consideration set because grammar is important to them, for whatever reason. You’ve alienated them right out of the gate.
    If you take the time to learn simple fourth grade grammar or have someone look at your work every so briefly, you still have the chance to make friends with that 3% before your competitors. 
    This, in my opinion, is the business case for listening to the grammar police — they’re part of your audience.
    Now I’m scared to type “that” in a status …

  44. Susan Hart says:

    The people who need Grammar Police the most are copywriters, particularly in advertising and web content. Their mistakes can’t be blamed on creative license.

  45. KateNolan says:

    101 comments? You knew this would get everyone in a tizzy, didn’t you?

  46. rdopping says:

    Didn’t know about the nauseous one. That’s nauseating.

  47. Irregardless of you’re opinion, it doesn’t affect me at all. I completely disagree with this list and that might bring up a disagreement between you and I. Either way, I could care less. K? JEEZ!

  48. PeterJ42 says:

    I have one to add to your collection. The false plural. 
    Companies and organizations are single entities. So they should be followed by is – not are.
    Examples: Ford are introducing a new car. The Boston Red Sox are playing tonight.
    Both should be is.
    Sometimes this sounds odd – so change the sentence around. A new version of the Focus is being introduced by Ford. Or add the word team – The Boston Red Sox team is playing…

    • Frank_Strong says:

      PeterJ42 That is interesting; especially the Red Sox example.  However, in a post about “grammar police”  I fear the term “is being introduced” will alarm the “active voice mafia.”

      • Frank_StrongPeterJ42The rules are never as important as the end result. Were you able to communicate your message or not.  Two spaces might affect the effect you so desired but ultimately it doesn’t mean a freaking thing if your reader doesn’t understand your point.
        Writing is a subjective medium.
        “I haven’t any right to criticise books, and I don’t do it except when I hate
        them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that
        I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every
        time I begin. Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and
        beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.’
        Mark Twain- Letter to Joseph Twichell, 13 September 1898

    • mike_ebert says:

      PeterJ42 This is trickier than a blanket rule. You use the plural form for groups treated as a collection of individuals (the Boston Red Sox are playing tonight) and the singular for groups treated as single entities (Ford is introducing a new version of the Focus).

      • ChristaClips says:

        mike_ebert PeterJ42 i’m on the fence about the team example and thought I had it figured out because many team names are plural (the “Socks”, “the Leafs”, etc. and ARE just sounds better to me.  But then there’s “the Heat” and ARE still sounds better.  Thankfully, I supsect the grammar police is/are less diligent about this one!

        • PeterJ42 says:

          ChristaClips mike_ebert PeterJ42 “Sounds better to me” is the thin end of a nasty wedge – anarchy.
          What is the point in having grammar rules if we all choose “what sounds better to me”. Indeed what is the point of a language – just say “what sounds better to me”.
          The point of language is not what sounds good to me, but to others. It is about making your communication clear, succinct and persuasive to others. It is also about creating an impression that you are an educated person who knows what you are talking about – something undermined by poor wording, punctuation and grammar.

      • PeterJ42 says:

        mike_ebert PeterJ42 I think people have a conflict in their mind as they see a big organisation as lots of people. The Olympics is the worst – “The United States are up to play next, Germany are after them”.
        Of course the United States doesn’t help by being plural in itself.

    • ginidietrich says:

      PeterJ42 You know what else drives me nuts? When people say they are a Cub or Bear fan. You are a Cubs fan or a Bears fan. The teams are not the Chicago Cub and the Chicago Bear. They are plural. That seems to be a Midwest thing.

      • PeterJ42 says:

        ginidietrich PeterJ42  We hit one which is the opposite. Tesco is the name of our largest supermarket chain (think Walmart) but a lot of people call it Tesco’s – I’m going down to Tesco’s. J Sainsbury – another supermarket – hit the same problem and gave in – they renamed it Sainsbury’s. And Morrisons – a 3rd supermarket – can’t decide if it is Morrisons or Morrison’s.

        • ShellsyBee says:

          Actually, Sainsbury’s is correct for two reasons. The first is that J Sainsbury plc is the holding company of Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd. The company didn’t ‘give in’, it simply branched out into other areas and expanded its business activities, therefore the whole operation was re-branded.
          The second is that any company named after the founding member (or some other key person) can correctly be branded as X’s, a few examples being Sainsbury’s, Thornton’s, McDonald’s, Waterstone’s, etc., although Waterstones [sic] subsequently dropped the apostrophe, goodness knows why. You’re right about Morrisons though, it should have an apostrophe before the s, as should Greggs, Selfridges, Dunnes Stores, and countless others.
          There are some which choose not to use the ‘s, such as WHSmith, known colloquially as Smith’s. This isn’t actually incorrect, given that the company was named after William Henry Smith.
          However, Tesco, Asda, Boots, Next (to name just a few) were not named after Mr Tesco, Mrs Asda, Ms Boots, or Dr Next, therefore they should never have an ‘s on the end. It makes me cringe when people say Boots’s. In fact, I would like to throttle them!!!
          As is customary in the English language, there will always be exceptions to the rule. In most cases I imagine it’s simply a matter of choice. I think only the most common of celebs would say Chanel’s or Dior’s, but then I have heard “Aren’t my new Jimmy Choos/Choo’s simply divine?”. Lol 😀

        • photo chris says:

          PeterJ42 ginidietrich ah, perhaps not just a “south-side” thing after all!

      • CommProSuzi says:

        You’re right, Gini! My mom is from South Chicago and uses the “Cub fan” construct. Curious!

      • photo chris says:

        ginidietrich PeterJ42 Oh, I haven’t heard this before. Having fmaily from the “south-side”  I hear a lot of improper plurals, “I’m going to the Jewels, Dominicks, etc.”

  49. MaureenMonarch says:

    DwayneAlicie   Um, perhaps you neglected to take your own advice?  “… have someone look at your work every so briefly.”  Just saying…

  50. RebeccaTodd says:

    How about ellipses… 
    “First shalt thou type the holy dots, then shalt thou
    count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count,
    and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count,
    neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is
    right out.”

  51. write4unj says:

    Gini — this is great! It’s good to know someone besides me uses the Oxford comma. I’m going to share your blog with my students (I teach Technical Communications to engineering, technology, and math students) to show that I don’t just make up what I tell them — other people believe in it too.

  52. PeterJ42 says:

    I wonder why they call it the Oxford comma. I live in Oxford and over here the rule is never put a comma before the word and.

  53. cubanalaf says:

    However (unless someone mentioned it) it is customary to use the word less to describe time, money, and distance, ie. I hope they paid less than 400 dollars for that. So it’s a number. 🙂
    The best way to discern between few and less is to look for mass nouns when using less – ie, I have clutter on my desk, but there would be less clutter if I cleaned it. Mass noun = you can’t count it.

  54. Cision NA says:

    I’m scared to comment on this post. I, too, am a grammar nerd (which is ironic because I always want to spell grammar grammer – baha) but I’m afraid the pressure will get to me and I’ll type alot or your fabulous or I love grammar to! This is me prefacing my comment by saying: if I make a grammar mistake, it’s the pressure, not me 🙂
    EITHER WAY, you will love, love, love this post by Hyperbole and a Half. It’s whimsical and hilarious and snarky all rolled up in one! 

    Did I make any mistakes? Oh, the horror!

  55. PaulKelly says:

    The Oxford comma defies AP Style. Considering most journalists — especially at newspapers — still adhere to AP Style, I don’t use the Oxford comma.

  56. Blame the Twitter and SMS text ginidietrich I am being very serious here. You wait the English Dictionary will be changed in many ways from this. I read a great article on 7 myths with Grammar and how they started. It seems there is no authority. You can end a sentence with a preposition for example. Just because some irked English Professor in the 1800’s decided it was wrong doesn’t conform to Latin doesn’t mean it is wrong. I must find the article! 
    With that said if something becomes fully adopted widely the language officially changes. That is why new words get added and others like Ain’t become accepted. But the 140/160 character limits to me is why things like They’re get butchered. So I recommended to Oxford to remove all three and replace with Thar because that saves 1 to 2 Character spots. It is under review I heard it might get the go ahead. So how about them thar apples!

    • Word Ninja says:

      Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich That thar is the best grammar advice I’ve ever heard!

      • Word Ninja  ginidietrich KateNolan jdrobertson I think it comes down to is English a living language. Sometimes I can not believe the words they add each year, not because I say ‘that thar ain’t no word’ but because I think ‘Wow we have been using that for years’. But to be fair years to me is a blink vs years to the language.

        • teamccloud says:

          Howie Goldfarb Word Ninja ginidietrich KateNolan jdrobertson My issue isn’t with new words in a living language. It’s the change in grammar, such as when people conjugate singular verbs as plural because a prepositional phrase is plural: “One of the teams are going to win.”

    • KateNolan says:

      Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich So, grammarians should be stocking up on current dictionaries to throw at the next generation? “You call that a word? I’ll show you a real dictionary!” *Thunk*

    • jdrobertson says:

      Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich Ending a sentence with a preparation is one thing up with which I will not put!

  57. DavidPaulAppell says:

    Good list/observations, but you left out “its” vs. “it’s.” Also, how do you feel about the irritating and by now nearly universal habit of using the word “their” as a gender-neutral singular?

    • photo chris says:

      DavidPaulAppell LOVE it.

    • EricPudalov says:

      DavidPaulAppell I hate to say it, but I am guilty of using “their” as a gender-neutral singular.  The problem was that I didn’t know whether to say “his/her” or to alternate gender pronouns.  I guess the latter is the preferred method??

    • mike_ebert says:

      DavidPaulAppell The English language is missing a construct for dealing with gender-neutral singulars that isn’t cumbersome (his/her over and over? Alternating? Both aren’t good IMO). “Their” is probably going to stick unless someone comes up with a good idea for gender-neutral singular pronouns.

      • DavidPaulAppell says:

        mike_ebert @ericpudalov Yes, there’s no perfect fit – it’s a matter of convenience, and I don’t expect it to change

  58. CCCJenn says:

    This article was in the Globe recently; I think you’ll be amused. It also speaks to one of the other common misuses of apostrophes… people who are proud to put their surnames outside their homes on fancy signs such as the Wilson’s live here.

  59. alliteespring says:

    12! The one I most often make.  I think it’s all those 5th grade teachers who really push the  “My sister and I” in english lessons.  It’s either that or my carelessness…but sure is easier to blame on mean ol’ Mrs. Greene.

  60. jdrobertson says:

    A curse on the Oxford comma – may the fleas of a thousand camels infest its armpits! The last book (only book) I wrote consists of 70,709 words. Of the 70,709 words; “and” appeared 2060 times;  “that” 512 times; “more” 213 times. With a little imagination I was able eliminate all except a few. Next time you’re (impersonal pronoun) working a new manuscript – pick a paragraph with a view toward removing those words even if you have to restructure the sentence. It is surprising how much smoother the read will be. Then if you have time call Oxford and suggest some new and novel idea as to the disposition of it’s comma. 

  61. HeatherKnodelMelson says:

    In example 3, the word “grandma” should be capitalized because in that case, it’s a proper noun. If you were to say “my grandma”, then lower case is fine.

  62. Metz Miranda says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us Gini. It helps me. You motivate me to improve my grammar and make sure that it is correct. I have to admit it takes effort and willingness to improve it. Reading and tutorial are two of the most important things to lessen the wrong usage of words.
    I found this post shared on, the Internet marketing social site, and I “kingged” it and left this comment.

  63. nynaiv says:

    Is it it’s, or is it its? It is it’s if you can replace it with it is or it has, otherwise it is its. And that is it.

  64. CommProSuzi says:

    Great job, Gini. I would add:
    Over using exclamation points. Reserve them for power.
    Using quotation marks around an idiom like Dr. Evil’s air quotations. It was a gag. Using them makes what you’re writing a gag, too.

  65. CommProSuzi says:

    Another one: i.e. v e.g.
    I worked with a great guy, and this error was like nails on a chalkboard for him. I even remember his examples.
    i.e. = id est or that is. It’s precise. Example: Paint the wall a light color, i.e., white. (The wall should be painted white.)
    e.g. = exempli gratia or for example. Example: Paint the wall a light color, e.g., yellow, white, blue, pink. (The wall may be painted any light color.)
    Another mistake is see is the comma needed between two independent clauses joined by a conjunction. Of course, check your style books.
    Happy writing!

    • photo chris says:

      CommProSuzi ah, now this I didn’t know; thank you! Of course, i.e. in my humble opinion should just then be eliminated. Why bother with it when you can directly say what you want; “Paint the wall white.”

  66. scottbrowning says:

    how about further vs. farther? and a lot of people mess up plurals/possessives. But be careful about commas, it is so easy to add a few in because is “sounds like how you’d say it” when in actuality it will be a comma splice. Another thing to consider is hyphen usage. And using contractions makes a piece seem unprofessional. If you are trying to to achieve a more conversational tone, using contractions is fine. But for something like a professional business article or a case study, contractions really have no place.

  67. dbvickery says:

    Just had the discussion about #2 and #3 with one of my technical bloggers. He does NOT like my editing because I also believe in the 5Cs. Quick…can anyone name them off the top of their head (my senior English teacher repeatedly nailed me on Concise).
    Yep – #12 catches several people.

  68. […] 12 Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes, huh? […]

  69. […] Grammar Police: Twelve Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes ( […]

  70. SamuelStone says:

    Here’s a great resource too: “Avoid these 5 grammar mistakes that make others want to take a shovel to your face.” It’s from The Dandy Goat, so take it with a grain of salt.

  71. […] or another themselves. Once you’ve read a few, you start noticing some patterns. Inspired by a recent post titled “Grammar Police: Twelve Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes”, I decided to make a […]

  72. Mark Mueller says:

    If “irregardless” isn’t a word, then why is it in the Merriam-Webster dictionary?

  73. CommProSuzi says:

    May I suggest that even if a word is in the dictionary, it may not be appropriate, proper, or recognized by a particular style guide, e.g. “Ain’t?”
    Alas, language evolves but not always for the better. “Selfie” wasn’t in the dictionary last year. And outside of certain groups, who knew the word “twerk” last Christmas?

  74. WilliamBoyd1 says:

    Not a single one of these is a “mistake”. These are just some preferences you have, and your ignorance and arrogance lead you to assume that they are “rules”.

  75. WilliamBoyd1 Really? Confusing their/there, your/you’re, me/I aren’t mistakes?

    Good luck with that.

  76. CommProSuzi says:

    Hear, hear, Rob. The dreaded “Wrong Word” error.
    Typically, these mistakes are made by folks who learned by hearing rather than reading. One that still makes me smile is “touch basis” when the writer intended the baseball analogy “touch bases.”

  77. […] if you’re curious, is a list of twelve very common grammar mistakes.  I confess: I have in the past been guilty of #7 and on more than one occasion.  I’m sure […]

  78. EdwardDB says:

    1, 5 and 7 are incorrect to varying degrees.

  79. GuillermoRodriguez2 says:

    WilliamBoyd1  Ewe are sew write.  Disirregardless of there “rules”, knot a shingle won of these is a miss steak.

  80. jdrobertson says:

    Hey man – This whole thing is absolutely invenereal!!!!

  81. […] Nearly Everyone Who Writes About Grammar Mistakes Makes”, a response to the very silly “Grammar Police:  Twelve Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes”. He is sound on the foolishness of so-called rules, and gives good links. Quote […]

  82. gcgausman says:

    The ones I hate are not properly using I, me and myself. My kids will often say, “Tommy and me are going to the store.” Ouch….or execs at my work will say, “Call Jane or myself if you have any questions.”
    I also am truly beginning to miss the word “whom.” I hate seeing “Who to Contact” or “Who to Call”….drives me up a wall, especially when I see “who” when it should be “whom” in a newspaper article (yep!!). Just remember to use whom when you could use him…and to use who when you could use he….

  83. GuillermoRodriguez2 says:

    EdwardDB Really?  Would you care to elaborate?

  84. gahern says:

    Please include something on the recent widespread use of the word t”here’s”.
    It seems that EVERYONE is using this word as “theres” as opposed to there’s( there is) .
    EX: Theres a lot of people who think that saying this is correct.
    “There’s (as in ” there is” ) one something…OR
    There’re (as in “there are” ) several things….
    EX. of Correcet Uses:
    There ARE a lot of people….( more than one)
    There IS a group that believes…..( one group)
    There IS a school of thought that…..( one school)
    There ARE many who want to…..( many people)
    THANK YOU. This has been driving me nuts!!! It is used incorrectly on the news, in ads, in writing, EVERYWHERE!!! Aaaaaaaggghhhh!!!

  85. ginidietrich says:

    gahern LOL!! Very, very good addition. Thank you!

  86. nancyjohn2010 says:

    The tips that you give are all good. It can help a certain student to improve their writing skills in English. Also, in that way, it may lead them in to a good writer who can write well in English language.

    <a href=””>best ielts score</a>

  87. LoboSolo says:

    GuillermoRodriguez2 EdwardDB I don’t know what Edward would say about 1 and 5 but according the North American Oxford Dictionary on my laptop, does indeed mean “affected with nausea”:

    nauseous |ˈnôSHəs, -ZHəs, -ēəs|adjective
    1 affected with nausea; inclined to vomit: a rancid, cloying odor that made him nauseous.
    2 causing nausea; offensive to the taste or smell: the smell was nauseous.• disgusting, repellent, or offensive: this nauseousaccount of a court case.

    ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from Latin nauseosus(from nausea ‘seasickness’).

  88. EdwardDB says:

    LoboSolo GuillermoRodriguez2 
    Both affect and effect can be verbs and nouns. she has only outlined
    the most common uses (affect as a verb, effect as a noun.)
    5. whatever the root of this mutant phrase may be, it still makes logical sense,
    implying that however much someone does or doesn’t care about
    something, there is room in their heart to care even less about it. it
    is logically the same as saying “I could hate it more.”
    as lobo points out, nauseated can either be the past tense of the verb nauseate, or an adjective synonymous with nauseous.

  89. […] Twelve Grammar Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes (by me…from September of 2013) […]

  90. nimiparker says:

    tips and very easy to understand. This will definitely be very useful for me
    when I get a chance to start my blog. Thanks for sharing such a great content
    with us

  91. […] grammatical errors or typos in some of those […]

  92. nancyjohn2010 says:

    actually english is spoken throughout the world because it is one of the most important languages and alot of countries make thier students learn it. i dont know why english is that hard to learn(probably because there are a lot of different meanings for one word) but as a native english speaker it seems easy.

    <a href=””>IELTS essay</a>

  93. WesleyMarshall says:

    Using nauseous to describe having a queasy feeling in the stomach is correct. Both uses of the word arrived in 17th century English at the same time

  94. gahern says:

    A young woman was asked by her employer to please stop saying she was “conversatin’ with someone” because “conversate” is not a word. The young employee replied, “Well, it’s a word in Oklahoma.” True story! Ha ha ha! Still makes me laugh.

  95. ginidietrich says:

    gahern That makes me laugh, too!

  96. Medrock says:

    I always get annoyed with bad grammar because it symbolizes a decline in the education level of our workforce. Another blogger I follow has pointed out a few common mistakes that I know I have seen:
    I am always looking for new ways to speak better.

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