Grammar mistakes that drive me a little bit crazy

To, too, and two

To, too, and two. Image by CanStock.

True confession time: I’m not the ‘everything expert’ at Write. But I am pretty good at spelling. The downside of being a spelling geek is that a few common mistakes bug me — a lot! To be honest, they should bug you too if you want to look credible in print. Yes, text speak aside, in the 2017 business environment, that’s still how it is.

So here are my ‘spot them every time’ spelling mistakes that drive me a little bit crazy. I’ll own up, my phone is full of them — snapped from billboards, sandwich boards, shop signs, café menus, and more. I can’t help it!

To, too, two

These homonyms (words that sound the same) trip people up constantly. Here’s the cheat sheet.

It’s and its

If you see it’s with an apostrophe, it means a letter is missing. You’re looking at a contraction made from two words. If you mean it is or it has, use the apostrophe. If that’s not what you mean, leave the apostrophe out!

Grammar lesson: Its is a possessive pronoun. Its means ‘belonging to it’ — I enjoyed Wellington at its best. I saw its teeth.

Read our most popular blog all about apostrophes

They’re, their, and there

The missing letter rule applies here too. They’re means ‘They are’ — They are arriving tomorrow. The apostrophe stands in place of the letter ‘a’ and makes a contraction. If you mean ‘They are’, use the apostrophe. If that’s not what you mean, you need their or there.

Grammar lesson: Use their to show possession — They ate their lunch. Use there to show a place or the existence of something. I put it over there.

Wikihow has a lovely article on these homonyms

If you find these tips a useful refresher (or even a revelation), you can enjoy them and more on the next Grammar Guidelines for Business workshop with superstar Write trainer Colleen Trolove.

And here’s a fun spelling and grammar quiz for a rainy day!

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5 responses to “Grammar mistakes that drive me a little bit crazy”

  1. jelly says:

    What about “fewer” and “less” god damnit, I HATE THAT ONE!

  2. Lyn says:

    How about ‘brought’ and ‘bought’? As in, “My neighbour brought a new house.” or “I bought the groceries in from the car.” Aaaargh!!

    And this is in speech. I hear these two mixed up all the time and most of the offenders are chronic mis-users, so it’s not just a rush job in typing.

  3. David says:

    Its is like his, or hers. No apostrophe is required.

  4. Anne-Marie Chisnall says:

    You didn’t add ‘your’ and ‘you’re’! Maybe one day these irritations will disappear as we ‘simplify’ language. I’ve noticed my phone sometimes leaves out the apostrophe in ‘don’t’ and I occasionally let it go in a text as ‘dont’. (Shock horror — my true confession!)

    • Marilynn Lazorko says:

      I have noticed on my local TV station lately that the news- readers all seem to be suffering from the same malady. Maybe it is the writers’ fault!
      They will start a sentence, then add a pronoun which basically repeats the subject of the sentence. It makes them sound as if they never finished grade 4 English! Is this a new trend, like the over- use of ‘like’ ???
      e.g. “The days of hoping for rain, they are over.”
      What is the correct term for this error? I cannot remember it.

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