Are you one of the many bright people who speaks well but has trouble with the
mechanics of writing: following those confusing rules concerning spelling, punctuating, capitalizing, etc.? Is a
relative, co-worker or editor constantly whipping out a dictionary, style guide, or grammar handbook to point
out mistakes in your writing, making you want to slam their fingers in Chapter 6?
If so, have you spent precious time striving to learn who's right? Or is that whose
wright? Does it matter? If you're speaking, perhaps not. If you're writing, it may
The reasons for not writing well are varied, but that doesn't stop people from being good
communicators...from creating fantastic stories and plots...from giving life and light and meaning to
Let's find ways to avoid common mistakes in:
And much more!
A and An: "an historical book" is not idiomatic in American English. Before
a pronounced (breathy) h, the indefinite article should be a. A hotel; a historical. Precede a word beginning with
a "breathy" h with an a. (6.60CMS14)
Due to or Because of? Due to modifies nouns and is generally used after
some form of the verb to be (is, are, was, were, etc.). Jim Wilson's success is due to talent and spunk (due to
modifies success, not talent). Because of should modify verbs. Ted resigned because of poor health (because of
modifies resigned). (1101GRM7)
Its or It's? This is one of the most common problem areas of our language,
probably because possessives almost always use apostrophes. Its is an exception. Its: The possessive form of the
pronoun it is never written with an apostrophe, e.g., . . . read the book. "Its title is . . ." or, "What is its
value?" It's: contractions of it is and it has. It's time to go. It's been great. (AHD3)
Nauseous or Nauseated? Often used incorrectly, but don't get nauseating
about its usage. Nauseous means sickening to observe: disgusting. Nauseated means sick to one's stomach. Pregnant
women often experience nausea. When they describe the way they feel, they should say, "I feel nauseated," but if a
pregnant woman says, "I feel nauseous," don't correct her grammar: give her a hug and some ginger ale! Timing is
Their, They're, or There? Their: possessive form of the word they, e.g.,
Their Web site is full of typos. They're: contraction of the words "they" and "are," e.g., They're doing a great
job on their Web site. There: at or in that place, e.g., "Now there is a stunning Web site.
Your or you're? This is probably the second most common problem area in
our language. You're: contraction of the words "you are," e.g., "You're up for an award. Someone said you're
leaving." Your is a possessive form of a personal pronoun, e.g., "I like your Web site. Tom, thanks for giving your
time to this effort." Both: "Your knowledge of HTML shows that you're a dedicated designer."
Let's tackle just a few of the most confusing word pairs and
Accept: receive.....Except: exclude
Adverse: opposed.....Averse: not interested
Affect: change, influence.....Effect: (v) to bring about (n) result,
Appraise: value.....Apprise: inform, notify
Lay: to set down, to place or put an item down.....Lie: to
Principal: first in authority; main participant; amount of a debt less
interest.....Principle: basic truth or assumption
Ensure: to make sure or certain; guarantee; to protect.....Insure: to take out
or issue insurance; to pay or be paid money in the case of loss.....Assure: convince, make sure of
something, to give confidence; to declare or promise confidently
Their: belonging to; possessive of "they" (another case where a possessive does not have
an apostrophe).....There: at, or in that place.....they're: combination of "they
To: in the direction of; toward.....Too: in addition; as well,
also.....Two: more than one; less than three.
Copyright Judy Vorfeld 2009.