Whether we like it or not, everyone writes. From emails to text messages or social media posts, your writing says a lot about you. When it comes to writing, careless grammar mistakes are the equivalent of bad manners.
Save yourself the embarrassment of grammar mistakes in your emails, web pages or anything else you write. You don’t need to become a grammar expert, just take some simple steps that will go a long way to avoid grammar mistakes and improve your credibility.
Ther are several words in the English language that we commonly misuse and misunderstand. Even though they may look alike and sound alike, the wrong word may significantly alter the meaning of what you’re trying to say.
Even worse, it can make you look bad in the eyes of your customers or colleagues.
Grammar Tools Help You Improve Your Writing & Minimize Grammar Mistakes
While spell check can catch basic spelling errors, there are some other tools that catch bigger grammar mistakes and actually improve your writing. It’s as simple as installing a grammar tool, and you’ll level up your writing.
One of my favorite tools is Grammarly. With both a paid and a powerful free version, it’s your personal writing assistant – always there lending a helping hand. While it doesn’t replace a human editor, it can help you become a more confident writer by easily catching common grammar mistakes.
One of my favorite books is The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. One of the most influential books of all time, it’s the definitive guide on effective writing style and usage. This little book has been a standard on my desk for as long as I can remember.
Be Careful of English Words That Are Similar But Have Different Meanings
There are some common word traps that can kill your message. Take a look at your writing and make sure to correct these word choice mistakes:
Affect or Effect
This is one of the most commonly misused word choices when referring to something changing something else.
“Affect” is an action. Use this when you’re talking about the act of changing.
That speech affected me positively.
“Effect” is a noun. Use this when you’re talking about the change itself.
That speech had a positive effect on me.
Assure, Ensure or Insure
While some people consider these words to be interchangeable, they’re not the same. Often people will use “ensure” or “insure” when “assure” is actually the better choice. Here’s why:
“Assure” means you are telling someone that everything is okay. Use this when you want to remove doubt or convey confidence about something.
“I assure you I can handle this project.”
“Ensure” means make certain that something does or does not happen.
“We perform several tests to ensure the best performance.”
“Insure” is used when referring to insurance policies. Use this when you’re discussing compensation for loss, or protection against damage, death or a person becoming injured.
“We would like to insure our car for $20,000.”
Their, They’re or There
“Their” is possessive. Use this when you’re talking about a group owning something.
Their flowers are gorgeous.
“They’re” is a contraction. Use this for they are.
They’re going home.
“There” refers to a place. Use this when your talking about the location of something or someone.
They’re going over there.
Then or Than
“Then” is usually used as an adverb or adjective and often refers to a sense of time. Use this when describing what comes next or what happened in the past.
“We went to dinner, then we went for a walk.”
“If the traffic is light, then I’ll get there early.”
“Than” is typically used as a conjunction to make a comparison between two things.
“He is faster than I am.”
“Your food is colder than mine is.”
Your or You’re
“Your” is possessive. Use this when you’re discussing owning something.
We’re going over to your house.
You’re is a contraction. Use this when you’re talking about being something.
You’re a nice person.
Its or It’s
The apostrophe leads to the most confusion on this one. Just remember it’s the opposite of what you might think.
“It’s” contains an apostrophe, yet is not possessive. It’s a contraction, meaning it is. Use this when you’re combining “it” with “is.”
It’s going to be a hot day.
“Its” has no apostrophe, yet is possessive. Use this when you’re referring to owning something.
The book is about the rose and its many colors.
Me or I
The use of “me” or “I” gets confusing when there are two subjects or objects linked with the word “and.”Many people will be tempted to misuse the word “I.”
This is correct: When you’re finished with the paint brush, give it to Beth and me.
This is incorrect: When you’re finished with the paintbrush, give it to Beth and I.
This is correct: Beth and I joined the gym.
This is incorrect: Beth and me went to the store.
Tip: The word “I” is never used after the word “to.” To check yourself, remove the other person’s name. You wouldn’t say, “Give it to I.” You also wouldn’t say “Me joined the gym.”
To or Too
“To” is used before a noun or a verb.
I sent the letter to my friend.
“Too” is used to mean “also” or “as well.” It’s also used to describe an adjective.
He, too, belongs to the club.
I think it’s too hot in the jacuzzi.
A lot or A lot
This one is simple. “Alot” is not a word. Don’t use it.
“A lot” is always two words.
“We like you a lot.”
Lose or Loose
“Lose” is a verb. Use this when referring to not winning a competition, misplacing something or to be free of something.
“I would like to lose at least fifteen pounds.”
“Loose” is an adjective. Use this when describing something that is not tight or restrictive.
“My pants are loose because I lost fifteen pounds.”
Compliment or Complement
Although they are spelled almost the same, they have very different meanings. They are not used interchangeably.
“Compliment” is a noun or a verb and means to convey admiration or provide a positive statement about someone or something. Use this when congratulating a person or giving that person praise.
“I would like to compliment you on the extraordinary service here.”
“That was such a nice compliment.”
“Complement” is a noun or a verb and means to augment, improve or make something more complete. Use this when describing an addition to something that makes it better.
“The flowers were a perfect complement to the room.”
“The flowers complemented the sofa.”
Farther or Further
The words “farther” and “further” can many times be used interchangeably. However, there are some subtle differences between the two.
“Farther” may describe a physical distance.
“She lived farther from school than I did.”
“Further” may describe a figurative distance.
“We cannot go any further in these negotiations.”
However, there are many ambiguous situations where you could interpret certain instances as a physical distance or figurative distance. For example, “I’m farther along in writing my paper.” For this reason, either word can be correct when the meaning is vague or unclear.
Should of or Should have
The use of “should of” is wrong. So is “could of” or “would of.” This is a common mistake. All are wrong.
When speaking, people will often say “shoulda.” You may hear someone say, “I shoulda gone home.”
When writing, people will change “shoulda” to “should of.”
The correct word is a contraction. The correct usage is “should have” or “should’ve.”
“I should have gone home.”
The same would be true for “could have” or “would have.”
When In Doubt Look Up Potential Grammar Mistakes
Put your best foot forward in all your writing. Don’t distract your readers with grammar errors or confuse them with the wrong words. When in doubt, look it up. It’s worth it to take the extra steps necessary to avoid embarrassing mistakes.
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