Grammar can either set you up for success, or for ridicule. Understanding the fundamentals makes all the difference in the world when you’re applying for jobs, handing in college papers or even posting a status update to Facebook.
We’ve all seen it before. The typo that makes you shake your head and think: “You should have known better.”
With homophones such as you’re and your; they’re, their and there; its and it’s – the list of common grammar mistakes goes on and on.
One thing you might not realize is that your computer is tracking your grammar mistakes too. Data that has been gathered by Microsoft’s Editor tool has revealed some interesting things.
Editor is a proofing tool that’s built into Microsoft Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, etc. It’s capable of catching spelling errors, and even misused words such as “effect” versus “affect.” This is why Microsoft frequently refers to the tool as “your digital writing assistant.”
But while Editor is running quietly in the background, the data it collects shines an interesting light on language rules on which we’re still confused. Here are the top mistakes Editor catches:
1. Extra spaces between words
Example: I’m writing too fast.
We’ve probably all been guilty of this one in the past. It happens so frequently, especially when we’re rushed. But watch those thumbs! An extra tap on the spacebar creates a mistake that’s easy for anyone to notice.
2. Missing punctuation
Example: If nothing changes we’ll move forward with the plan.
Since retiring our pens and pencils, replacing them with QWERTY keyboards, punctuation has almost become an afterthought. In some instances, such as text messaging and tweeting, punctuation is practically viewed as optional. But when you’re writing a professional email, presentation or document, skipping commas and periods can get you into trouble.
3. Improper hyphenation
Example: My 23 year old son is graduating from college.
Admittedly, this one is a bit trickier than some of the others. Especially now, when certain words like “smartphone” have joined forces to become their own nouns. Proper hyphenation is confusing. But here’s what Grammarbook.com says: “Generally, hyphenate two or more words when they come before a noun they modify and act as a single idea. This is called a compound adjective.” (Example: An off-campus apartment.)
4. Incorrect noun phrases
Example: You need to take this books back to the library.
This one might sound obvious when you hear the sentence out loud, but many people make this mistake when writing. Again, probably due to the act of rushing.
5. Word confusion
Example: Take a deep breathe and relax.
Words that sound alike, or have similar meanings, are often confused with one another in the English language. Here are some of the most frequently confused words:
- lose (to be deprived of) vs. loose (to unfasten)
- accept (to agree to receive or do) vs. except (not including)
- militate (to be a powerful factor) vs. mitigate (to make less severe)
- adverse (unfavorable, harmful) vs. averse (strongly opposed)
- grisly (gruesome) vs. grizzly (a type of bear)
- affect (to change) vs. effect (a result)
- climactic (forming a climax) vs. climatic (relating to climate)
- aisle (the passage between rows) vs. isle (an island)
- pedal (a foot-operated lever) vs. peddle (to sell goods)
- along (moving horizontally on) vs. a long (something of great length)
- aloud (out loud) vs. allowed (permitted)
- chord (group of musical notes) vs. cord (length of string)
- currant (dried grape) vs. current (happening now; flow)
- disinterested (impartial) vs. uninterested (not interested)
- elicit (draw out a response) vs. illicit (not allowed by laws)
- all together (all in one place) vs. altogether (completely)
- flaunt (display ostentatiously) vs. flout (disregard a rule)
- foreword (introduction to a book) vs. forward (onward)
- advice (recommendations) vs. advise (to recommend something)
This is just a handful of examples, but other common grammar mistakes included improper capitalization, incorrect plural forms, subject and verb disagreements and more.
If you’d like to see more examples of poor grammar, one of the best places to look is Twitter. The mistakes made so regularly by Twitter users are almost comical. Here are a few examples to give you a good chuckle.
What are some of the most annoying grammar mistakes you see in your social media feeds? Let us know in the comments.