Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Are these really glaringly incorrect?

Here's a few tips that most people know, but sometimes forget. Enjoy:

Here are seven simple grammatical errors that I see consistently in emails, cover letters and resumes.

Tip: Make yourself a little card cheat sheet and keep it in your wallet for easy reference.

You're / Your

The apostrophe means it's a contraction of two words; "you're" is the short version of "you are" (the "a" is dropped), so if your sentence makes sense if you say "you are," then you're good to use you're. "Your" means it belongs to you, it's yours.

You're = if you mean "you are" then use the apostrophe
Your = belonging to you
You're going to love your new job!

It's / Its

This one is confusing, because generally, in addition to being used in contractions, an apostrophe indicates ownership, as in "Dad's new car." But, "it's" is actually the short version of "it is" or "it has." "Its" with no apostrophe means belonging to it.

It's = it is
Its = belonging to it
It's important to remember to bring your telephone and its extra battery.

They're / Their / There

"They're" is a contraction of "they are." "Their" means belonging to them. "There" refers to a place (notice that the word "here" is part of it, which is also a place – so if it says here and there, it's a place). There = a place

They're = they are
Their = belonging to them
They're going to miss their teachers when they leave there.

Loose / Lose

These spellings really don't make much sense, so you just have to remember them. "Loose" is the opposite of tight, and rhymes with goose. "Lose" is the opposite of win, and rhymes with booze. (To show how unpredictable English is, compare another pair of words, "choose" and "chose," which are spelled the same except the initial sound, but pronounced differently. No wonder so many people get it wrong!)

Loose = it's not tight, it's loosey goosey
Lose= "don't lose the hose for the rose" is a way to remember the same spelling but a different pronunciation
I never thought I could lose so much weight; now my pants are all loose!

Lead / Led

Another common but glaring error. "Lead" means you're doing it in the present, and rhymes with deed. "Led" is the past tense of lead, and rhymes with sled. So you can "lead" your current organization, but you "led" the people in your previous job.

Lead = present tense, rhymes with deed
Led = past tense, rhymes with sled
My goal is to lead this team to success, just as I led my past teams into winning award after award.

A lot / Alot / Allot

First the bad news: there is no such word as "alot." "A lot" refers to quantity, and "allot" means to distribute or parcel out.

There is a lot of confusion about this one, so I'm going to allot ten minutes to review these rules of grammar.

Between you and I

This one is widely misused, even by TV news anchors who should know better.

In English, we use a different pronoun depending on whether it's the subject or the object of the sentence: I/me, she/her, he/him, they/them. This becomes second nature for us and we rarely make mistakes with the glaring exception of when we have to choose between "you and I" or "you and me."

Grammar Girl does a far better job of explaining this than I, but suffice to say that "between you and I" is never correct, and although it is becoming more common, it's kind of like saying "him did a great job." It is glaringly incorrect.

The easy rule of thumb is to replace the "you and I" or "you and me" with either "we" or "us" and you'll quickly see which form is right. If "us" works, then use "you and me" and if "we" works, then use "you and I."

Between you and me (us), here are the secrets to how you and I (we) can learn to write better.

Master these common errors and you'll remove some of the mistakes and red flags that make you look like you have no idea how to speak.

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  1. Thanks for the tip! I am always mixing up it's/its. I like the idea of the card cheat sheet.

  2. The "a lot" mistake is a great one because so many people misspell the word.

  3. 'Its' and the variables frequently catch me out.

    Thanks, also, for differentiating between 'you and me' and 'you and I' - I will copy that out for future reference! :-)

  4. I am an absolute nut when it comes to these blatant errors, so I love posts like this!

  5. Absolutely fantastic blog!!! Glad I found it! Love it!!!

    Lola x

  6. What, there isn't a word alot? Where did it go? Thanks so much for the quick reference, I loved the post.

  7. Hey, Elizabeth! It's great to meet you!

  8. I did a post last week about funny T-shirts for writers, and one of them said "There. Their. They're. Get it right." I'm quite tempted to buy it!

    Also, I’m a new follower—wonderful blog! Stop by my blog and follow me too? :)

  9. Great lesson! The last one is the one that makes me stumble!

  10. Great post. I have spotted these mistakes around as well. Facebook is rich with them.

  11. Love, love, love this post! These are the ones that make me cringe. I like the way you explained it.

    I’m stopping by to say hi. I hope you had a nice weekend. Have a nice week!!

  12. Great post, wonder when you will blog again? Take care.

  13. yes thanks. My pet peeve is using "it's" when it should be "its," and people who use apostrophes for all plural words. In fact,I wrote a poem about it, if you're interested it's on my fb page

  14. "They're / Their / There". Gets me every time! ^_^

  15. Stunk & Whites "Elements of Style" is the perfect little book to keep on your person for things like this and many other common mistakes. Differences between effect and affect, common mistakes in sayings, language, etc. A great book no writer should be without.