Top 7 Grammar Mistakes

by Julie on May 14, 2009


After Deb’s last guest post, many of you asked for a comprehensive list of common grammar mistakes…and she answered the call! Thanks, Deb.

Are you worried about your grammar when you write? Here’s a scientifically compiled list* of errors to avoid.

  1. Its vs It’s:
    • It’s: Contracted version of “It is.” “It’s raining outside.” Never to be used as a possessive.
    • Its: The possessive version. “Its legs.” “Its number.” “Its diameter.”
  2. Their vs There vs They’re:
    • Their: 3rd person possessive: “Their resemblance is very strong.”
    • There: Location, location, location. “Look over there.”
    • They’re: Contraction for “They are.” “They’re all sitting together.”
  3. Your vs You’re:
    • Your: Possessive. “Your hands.” “Your feet.” “Your hair color.”
    • You’re: Contraction for “You are.” “You’re kidding!”
  4. I vs Me:
    • I: Used for the subject of a sentence. “I came. I saw. I conquered.”
    • Me: Used for the the object. “Stanley called me.”
  5. Who vs Whom: Same idea as for I and Me.
    • Who: Used for the subject of the sentence. “Who are you?” “Who broke my vase?”
    • Whom: Used for the object. “For whom are you calling?” “You’re talking to whom?”
  6. Misusing Apostrophes:
    • Use apostrophes for Contractions: You’re. It’s. Don’t.
    • Use apostrophes for Possession: Sally’s. John’s.
  7. Too Much Punctuation:
    • Multiple exclamation points or question marks are a no-no. Just use one. “Fire!” “Avalanche!” “What?” “Huh?”
    • In the case of ellipses, those three periods in a row denoting missing text or a trailing thought, use exactly that. Three. The only time you would use four would be if you finished a complete sentence but needed to show that there was more text to come. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. …”

*Okay, this list is not really scientifically compiled. There may be other, worse mistakes being made this very minute. These are just the ones that I’ve noticed the most lately–in no particular sequence. We’ll just call them the top 7 on my own personal hit list.

Deb Boyken is a stickler for punctuation and grammar. She’s also a fantastic writer and copyeditor. You can find her over at Punctuality Rules.

Image courtesy of Happy Dave

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Blair May 14, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Thanks for this, grammar mistakes like this are a pet peeve of mine too! I was wondering whether the whom example for #5 is correct, however. Whom as you say is only for an object, but if you rearrange that sentence, it’s saying, “I shall say [he] is calling”, not “[him] is calling.”

2 --Deb May 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Oops. That’s what I get for writing too quickly! You’re right, the first “whom” example IS wrong. (blushing)

If it said, “For whom are you calling,” though, it would be correct. (Um, Julie, could you fix that for us?)

Because, yes, inserting he/him or I/me into a sentence is THE easiest test for who/whom. It’s not always definitive, obviously (cough), but an excellent fast-and-dirty test for your ear to spot the correct word.

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