The Top 10 Writing Blunders of All Time
It’s fine to break the occasional grammar rule, sometimes it’s even preferable. But too many times when this happens, it not only serves to degrade our writing effectiveness, it also makes us look unprofessional and hinders credibility (aka: makes us look silly).
We risk looking bad but conversational writing is quite often worth the risk. Conversational writing can be engaging, persuasive and informal. When used properly, it’s very powerful writing, why wouldn’t we write in such a style? Well, provided you can avoid any grammar blunders and still manage to deliver an informative, conversational article you’re guaranteed to have a powerful text that will be sure to engage your audience.
Here are the 10 most common grammar blunders and how to avoid them.
1. Your – You’re
(possessive, you are)
We’ve all done this one. A common mistake when rushing your work is to forget to ask yourself the simple questions. Is this statement indicative of possession or am I referring to a person?
Example: Your dog sure loves to go for walks but looks even happier when you’re petting her.
2. Its – It’s
(possessive, it is)
This can be tricky but follows the same rule as above. When speaking about something that can be broken down to “it is”, should contain an apostrophe (It’s). If however, you’re speaking about something possessive, requires nothing.
Example: It’s been a long time since the mother cat carried its young using her mouth.
3. There – Their – They’re
Here’s another rule that can be easily confused, so let’s (let us) look at each individually:
There – I don’t have your hats. Check the car. (Represents a Place, Location)
Their – Their hats are probably still in the car. (Indicates Possession)
They’re – They’re probably going to leave the hats in the car. (Contraction of They Are)
Example: They’re not going to find their hats over there.
4. Affect – Effect
Be careful with this one, it’s super easy to fall for and even easier for your readers to spot it.
Affect is a change (ie verb), whereas Effect represents a reaction or change (ie: noun)
*The weather had an affect on us all. The effect was nearly immediate.
5. Then – Than
Here’s a reference to time, and a comparison of two or more objects or concepts. But which is which?
Then: Can only refer to a point in time (If you wait until after the dentist appointment, then we’ll go to the park).
Than: Comparison. (The park is much more fun than the dentist office).
6. Loose – Lose
But very similar words with exponentially different meanings. This is why it’s so important to proof-read your work. Loose is a quality or attribute (adjective), and Lose is something we (unfortunately) do all the time. At least I do.
Example: My belt is a little loose. I hope I don’t lose it.
7. Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve
I see this one everywhere I go. The writer executes their writing nearly perfectly, and then they let loose with the Oopsies! They could of written it properly. See what I did there? The contraction ‘ve is commonly mistaken as an abbreviation of “Could Of” for nothing more than the way it sounds when contracted. The contraction is not of, but have, so let’s un-blunder this common blunder:
8. Who – Whom
Another not so easy to correct is Who vs Whom. I usually go by the age old adage, if it sounds right: it probably is. If you’re asking about the subject of the sentence, a who will suffice.
Otherwise, if you are referring to the object, use Whom.
*Whom do you trust? (him = whom)
*An easier way to remember is if you can use “he, she, they” then “Who” it is. If the phrase can be reworded using “him, her, them”, use Whom.
9. Dangling Principles
This is where a modifier applies to a misplaced noun. This can cause confusion, bewilderment, and sometimes amusement. Not usually what the writer originally intended. So let’s avoid that unnecessary confusion and get some clarity.
Example: After being whipped, the cook boiled the egg. After whipping the eggs, the cook boiled them.
10. Comma Splices
The main cause of incomplete or run off sentances, the comma splice causes much confusion, and prevents a clear and concise writing. Comma splices occur when two clauses are connected with a comma. Just don’t do it.
A simple solution:
My family bakes together nearly every night, we then get to enjoy everything we make together.
My family bakes together nearly every night. We then get to enjoy everything we make together.
More examples and tips can be found at: Owl at Purdue
I’m not much for overt endorsements, but Purdue was usually my first stop in all university research and is a great overall resource for any writer.
What critical writing tips do you need to keep in mind? Let me know in the comments below!