The English language can be a tough boar to battle. Homonyms, homographs, and everything in between can cause even the most astute writer to commit a grammatical blunder from time to time. So how can you prevent these errors from appearing in your next manuscript?
In this post, we take a closer look at the most common mistakes in English grammar as well as how you can avoid making them.
1. Improper Apostrophe Use
The apostrophe may look like an upside-down comma, but certainly doesn’t operate as one. Instead, it’s used in English to show possession or to form a contraction. However, some people have fallen into the erroneous belief that apostrophes can turn a word into its plural form.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
- The dog’s tail was black.
- Didn’t you say to meet here?
- There were 13 magazine’s at the counter.
- The computer’s were down this afternoon.
2. There, Their, They’re
Believe it or not, but long before the invention of the Facebook status update, people have been unwittingly misusing the words they’re, their, and there. While they may sound the same, these three homophones have very specific uses.
There is a place. As in, “Here or there.”
Their shows belonging to a group. Example: It was their turn to present.
They’re is a contraction that means, “They are.”
3. Your vs. You’re
Another infamous homophone for the grammatically impaired, your vs. you’re has been wreaking havoc on letters, midterms, and essays for decades. Luckily, there’s an easy way to tell which one is correct.
- Your represents possession. “Is that your book?”
- You’re means “You are.”
4. Dangling Modifiers
A dangling modifier occurs when a descriptive phrase doesn’t apply to the noun that immediately follows it. For example:
Falling down in large waves, Michael watched the rain.
In this sentence, it’s not clear exactly what was falling down in large waves. Was it the rain? Michael? Try switching the sentence around to avoid making this common grammar mistake.
5. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve
You might have seen the phrase “could of” in writing and thought to yourself “Is it could of or could have?” The fact is, you’re not alone and the reason so many people have a problem is because the correct use, could’ve, sounds a lot like the improper use, could of, when spoken aloud.
- Could’ve = Could have
- Would’ve = Would have
- Should’ve = Should have
Do Not Use:
- Could of
- Would of
- Should of
6. Less vs. Fewer
Were there less people or fewer people at the concert? Less water or more water in the pool than the lake? Grammar police will tell you there is a distinct difference in these seemingly similar words and they are far from interchangeable.
Less is used when referring to a commodity or something that can’t possibly be counted. Like water.
Meanwhile, fewer is used when referring to individual things. Like people.
So, there were fewer people at the concert, and less water in the pool than the lake.