Kucher Serhii / Shutterstock
Thanks to texting, email and social media, people are writing more than ever these days. That’s not to say people are writing good, er, well. If you aren’t a professional writer, or if it’s been years since your last composition class, be aware of some of the most common writing errors. This way, you’ll avoid embarrassment whether you’re posting on Facebook or sending a professional thank you email.
5 What You Should Say
Darn. I should of picked up milk. When you read that aloud, it sounds right, right? But it’s wrong. When we talk about what might have been by saying “could’ve”, “would’ve” and “should’ve,” we’re using the contractions for “could have”, “should have” and “would have.” In everyday speech, this can sound like “should of” or “could of,” so take extra special care when writing these words.
4 Your and You’re
Your going to like this rule as much as you’re high school English teacher. Wait. We got that backward. See how easy it is to get this simple grammar rule wrong when you are not paying attention? Contractions—like you’re—are hybrids of two words—the apostrophe both joins them together and replaces the missing letters. “Do not” becomes “don’t,” “was not” becomes “wasn’t” and “you are” becomes “you’re.” Use it correctly, as in “you’re really helpful” or “you’re going to love this movie!” The proper time to use “your” is when you are giving ownership to something, such as “your car” or “your house.”
Apostrophe’s seem to stump people. See? Just because you add an “s” to the end of something—usually to make it plural—does not always mean you add an apostrophe between the end of the singular word and the “‘s.” For example, we do not compare apple’s to orange’s; we compare apples and oranges. You’d only add an “s” if you were comparing the apple’s seeds to the orange’s seeds, because adding that “s” makes the word possessive, not plural.
2 The Dangling Participle
Make sure you modify the right word in your sentence or you’ll not only sound quite silly, but you also could confuse savvy readers. For example, look closely at this sentence: Freshly picked from the garden, my mom brought in some ingredients for dinner. What? Is your mom a Cabbage Patch Kid, just “born.” The vegetables are what is freshly picked, not Mom. You mean that mom brought in some freshly picked ingredients from our garden. The easiest place to make this mistake is in an opening phrase. Read your sentence out loud to check for dangling participles—otherwise, you might be taken literally.
There are literally a million grammar mistakes that will make you look silly, including misusing the word “literally”—like we just did. Saying “I was literally dying of thirst” in everyday conversation could be (grudgingly) forgiven as a dramatic way to tell your friends how parched you were at the beach. But in writing, avoid this overused term at all costs. “Literally” means exactly what you say is true. So next time you’re literally dying of thirst, call 9-1-1.