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How NOT to sound dumb online: Common mistakes and grammar fixes

The early days of social media were a place to keep in touch with classmates, friends and family. It’s devolved into a frenzy of privacy invasion, targeted advertising, trolls and fake news. Surprisingly, these are still the most popular digital platforms worldwide.

You can mitigate the ills of social media with some basic practices, such as keeping your personal information private and avoiding heated arguments. You should also do one thing right now to protect people you know. Tap or click here to stop making this mistake on social media.

It’s good to exercise basic writing skills to avoid being caught in a silly mistake online. Want to make a point? Stronger language skills will serve to strengthen it.

Here’s a quick primer

Whether you’re catching up with a friend from high school or commenting on your favorite band’s post, you want your message to come through loud and clear. A punctuation error here or there is no big deal, but people notice when you constantly commit the same basic mistakes.

Abbreviations like LOL and OMG are part of everyday conversations on social media. So is the practice of leaving out periods at the end of single sentences. These forms of nonstandard English are usually employed on purpose.

But there’s a difference between using casual, irreverent language and being outright wrong. And that’s what we’re here for today. Let’s check out some of the most common misuses of spelling, grammar and punctuation on social media.

Don’t “loose” your cool

If you must call someone a loser online, at least get it right. Labeling them as a “looser” only serves as ammunition to use against you for your silly mistake. Here’s the difference:

  • “My muscles felt looser after stretching.”
  • “They didn’t play well today and went home feeling like losers.”

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aka vs. i.e. vs. e.g.

  • aka: This is merely a shortening of the words “also known as.” People commonly use it to describe what they’re doing: “I called in sick to work today, aka, I was hungover.” That’s wrong. Aka is used for pseudonyms, nicknames and alternate names: “There goes Superman, aka Clark Kent.” That one’s correct!
  • i.e.: This abbreviation is from the Latin id est, which means “that is.” Use it to add additional information or to say something in a different way: “I’m going to order my favorite meal, i.e., pizza.”
  • e.g.: This abbreviation is from the Latin exempli gratia, which means “for the sake of an example.” Just cut it down to “for example” before using it in a sentence: “I love talking tech, e.g., smartphones, laptops and speakers.

This one’s a bit more complicated, so let’s tackle them one by one:

Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve

Should’ve, could’ve and would’ve are merely contractions of should have, could have and would have. When we say “should’ve” out loud, it sounds like “should of,” doesn’t it?

You’ll see people writing something like, “I should of remembered to pick up eggs at the store.” No, you should’ve remembered to get those eggs.

Irregardless vs. regardless

This one’s tricky. Both irregardless and regardless mean the same thing: not being affected by something. Irregardless, however, is labeled as a nonstandard word, meaning it doesn’t conform to grammar standards and is not commonly used by native English speakers.

If you have to choose, go with regardless: “The game will take place today, regardless of the weather.”

Drop that apostrophe in this case

Apostrophes are commonly misused to imply pluralization. You’ll probably see this outside social media in holiday cards: “Merry Christmas from the Hogans!” The Hogan family members are Hogans, not Hogans.

As a general rule, don’t use apostrophes to make any noun plural: 1990s, not 1990s. One notable exception to this rule is the plural form of lowercase letters: “Don’t forget to cross your ts and dot your is.”

Here are some tools to help

There are several apps and online services to help you with grammar, spelling, punctuation and clarity issues. Here are some popular choices.

Grammarly

Grammarly offers free and subscription-based plans to help improve your writing. The free version of the browser extension has all the basics and more, such as tone detection and conciseness. Check out all the features of grammarly.com/plans. The best deal is the Premium, annual plan for $12 per month.

Hemingway Editor

This one’s easy to use. Just go to hemingwayapp.com and start typing or pasting your text. It highlights hard-to-read sentences, passive voice and other mistakes that make your writing difficult to understand. The web version is free, but you can’t save your work.

You can also check out the desktop app for PC and Mac at hemingwayapp.com/desktop, which charges a one-time fee of $19.99.

Wordtune

Wordtune is a browser extension that instantly takes your message and rewords it into a more professional-sounding version. Type in a sentence at wordtune.com and hit the Rewrite button to see it in action. Try this one next time you’re writing a difficult email or find yourself at a loss for words.

The free extension is an AI-powered companion that helps with all your writing, from emails to instant messages.

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