PracticalGrammar

A recent survey conducted by Northeastern University shows that employers want graduates who can communicate effectively both orally and in writing. Here are some common grammatical errors to avoid in being a better speaker and writer.

1. They’re/Their/There

  • “They’re” = “They are”

Ex: They’re going to regret wearing stilettos to the beach.

  • “Their” is possessive.

Ex: Those girls are struggling to walk on the beach in their stilettos.

  • “There” refers to location or a particular point in a process.

Ex: Do you see those silly girls over there? Yeah, the ones wearing stilettos on the beach.

2. Affect/Effect

  • Trick: Alphabetically, “affect” comes before “effect.” So, after you affect something, you get an effect.

  • “Affect” is most often a verb.

Ex: Superstitions don’t affect my choices.

  • “Effect” is most often a noun & is the result of some action.

Ex: Superstition says that seeing a black cat has the unfortunate effect of bringing bad luck.

3. It’s/Its

  • Trick: Say the sentence with “it is.” If it sounds wrong, it probably is.
  • “It’s” = “it is” or “it has.”

Ex: I’m so excited that it’s finally fall!

  • “Its” is always possessive.

Ex: I love fall for its warm colors and sweater-friendly weather.

4. Then/Than

  • Trick: Use “than” when comparing things and “then” in any other instances.
  • “Then” can have several meanings: At that time, next in order of time, in addition to, etc.

Ex: The kids brush their teeth, then they eat breakfast.

  • Than” is used when comparing things.

Ex: The kids would rather eat sand than endure another bowl of Corn Flakes.

5. You’re/Your

  • Trick: Say the sentence with “you are.” If it sounds wrong, it probably is.
  • “You’re” = “you are.”

Ex: You’re not making a good impression by sending grammatically incorrect emails to the CEO.

  • “Your” is always possessive.

Ex: The CEO is so pleased with your grammar that you’re being promoted to President of Communications.

6. Loose/Lose

  • Trick: Use “lose” to refer to something that is lost. “Loose” is most often used in terms of fit/security.
  • “Lose” is a verb.

Ex: How could you lose my dog?

  • “Loose” is most often an adjective.

Ex: His collar was too loose, and he slipped right out!

7. To/Too

  • Trick: Replace the word with “also.” If it sounds wrong, it probably is.
  • “To” can have several meanings: A place/person/thing one moves toward, the direction of something, indicates relations, etc.

Ex: We should go to the mall before the party.

  • “Too” means “also” or “to an excessive degree”

          Ex: Can I come too? I planned to wear my blue dress, but it’s too small.

8. Me/Myself/I

  • Trick: Take the other noun out of the sentence and see if the sentence makes sense.
  • “Me” is an object (the thing acted upon or affected by the action).

Ex: Paul ignored Jane and me when he saw us at the movies yesterday.

  • “Myself” is reflexive (you won’t use it unless you’ve already mentioned yourself earlier in the sentence).

Ex: I drove myself to the movies since Jane cancelled last-minute.

  • “I” is always the subject and performs the action.

Ex: Jane and I went to the movies yesterday.

Consult a dictionary or use a different word whenever you’re unsure. People do notice when you make these mistakes, and you’ll avoid criticism (silent or vocal) simply by making the right choice.

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