Most Stupidest Grammatical Mistakes

07 Jan 2009


Hopefully you’ve already met the New Year refreshed and invigorated – and you’re still on top of those resolutions. I suggest adding another resolution to the list: No more absolutely embarrassing, lowest of the low, flat-out dumb grammatical mistakes.

Grammar certainly isn’t for everyone (non-essential relative clauses? Gross.). But some rules – especially the most basic ones – you’ve just gotta know. I’ve put together a list of the top 3 grammatical mistakes that will make you look stupid.

The good news: These stupid mistakes are easy to fix.

1. Your vs. You’re
The difference between your and you’re is simple: your is the possessive form of you (if you don’t know what that means, don’t worry), while you’re is a contraction of “you” and “are”

Your should only be used to describe something a person has:

Is that your idea of a joke?
I didn’t know your daughter plays tennis.

You’re is you + are, so if you’re ever in doubt, try replacing with these two words to see if the sentence makes sense:

You’re (you are) a lifesaver!
He thinks you’re (you are) his best team member.

2. To/Too/Two
English is remarkable in that you can have three words that sound exactly alike, spelled differently, and mean completely different things. Here we go:

Two is rarely mixed up with to and too. Two is a number in between one and three, so use it accordingly:
Can you hand me two lemons?

Too has two meanings (pun intended): “also” and “excessively.” If you can use either one of these words in your sentence without changing the meaning, then you should be using double-o too:
I love you too (also).
You’re standing too (excessively) close to me!

Simply put: To is a preposition, and you should use it anywhere that two or too doesn’t fit.
She’s going to the grocery store.
To be or not to be …

3. Their vs. There vs. They’re
Another triumvirate of homophones. Here we go again:

There refers only to places, whether concrete or imaginary.
Put the books over there.
There is a bakery on the next block.

It sometimes has a more abstract meaning:
There goes the neighborhood!

They’re is a contraction (much like you’re) meaning they + are. Always check your sentences by substituting they are.
They’re (they are) always out late on weekends.
Do you know where they’re (they are) going?

Their is a possessive pronoun (like “his,” “my” or “your”). Their shows possession. Try substituting another possessive pronoun to check your usage.
This is their car. (Substitution: This is my car.)
I didn’t like their attitude. (Substitution: I didn’t like his attitude)

Unfortunately, the spelling and grammar check on your computer won’t usually catch these mistakes, so it’s up to you to practice these rules. So remember to double-check your emails, newsletters, web copy, brochures, even notes to your child’s teacher. Cheers to a smarter, error-free 2009!

Just for giggles, I’d also like to start the New Year by highlighting some of the best of The Write Blog’s archives. My top 10 picks:
10. Online Reputation Management: David and Goliath v2.0
9. Four Online Tips to Ride Out Recession – and they Won’t Cost You Anything
8. Drawing More Traffic to Your Website
7. Shave the Fluff Off Your Copy
6. Beat the Block
5. How to measure the results of your SMM campaign
4. Writing solid pay per click ads
3. Social Media Marketing: The Top Four Reasons You Should Try It
2. Stamp Out Wimpy Verbs
1. Don’t sell the car. Sell the Nissan.

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