Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen more than one “Top Grammar Mistakes” list, one by Microsoft and one, I believe, by a blogger. I didn’t agree with Microsoft’s, but I thought the blogger was on the mark. I don’t remember exactly what the list was, but I thought about it and came up with my ten.
Well, actually, being an overachiever, I came up with more than ten, but I whittled it down to ten for this post. I am sure many of you (and I know I am preaching to the choir with these) will comment with your own additions to the list.
So (drumroll), here is my list of the Top Ten “Grammar” mistakes I see and hear. I put quotation marks around grammar because some may not be exactly grammar, but fall into the broad category of “good writing and speaking.”
- Confusion of I and me. Usually, I goes at the beginning of a sentence, and me goes at the end, but that is a non-grammatical explanation. I is the subject of a sentence; me is some type of object. The mistake generally occurs at the end of a sentence when there is another person mentioned: He told my brother and I. No. Just take out the other person. He told I? Obviously, it is me, with or without my brother.
- Using myself in the wrong places. Ugh! Using myself in the wrong place does not make you sound smart! Myself is reserved for just a couple of occasions, and is usually used when the subject of the sentence is I: I did it myself. I myself did that. Not My friend and myself are going. Or, The book is about my brother and myself.
- The ubiquitous mispronunciation of mischievous! It is not pronounced mis-chee-vious with the accent on the chee! The accent is on the first syllable; the second syllable is pronounced cha, and the last syllable vus.
- Using the wrong past participle verb form. It is not I have went, I have ate, I have wrote, I have saw, etc. It is I have gone, I have eaten, I have written, I have seen, etc.
- Confusing your and you’re. Yes, it is still a common mistake (or a lazy typo?). Easy to correct. All contractions have an apostrophe. You’re means “you are” and is a contraction. It follows the rule. Your or yours is possessive. None of the possessive pronouns has an apostrophe (ours, his, hers, theirs). That follows the rule too.
- Confusing its and it’s. See number 5. Same rule. Same thing.
- Confusing less and fewer. I heard that the distinction is going away, but you know how I feel about that. Less is used for singular nouns and things that cannot be counted. There is less sugar in this cookie than in that one. Fewer is used for plurals. There are fewer tablespoons of sugar in that cookie recipe.
- Confusing number and amount. Similar to number 7. Amount is used for singulars and things that cannot be counted. The amount of salt in my diet is ridiculous! Number is used for plurals: The number of accidents on this road has decreased.
- Flat adverbs. Many adverbs end in -ly, and if you take the -ly off you are left with an adjective. Adverbs describe verbs, and adjectives describe nouns. I drive slowly. Slowly is an adverb describing drive. That is a slow rabbit. Slow is an adjective describing rabbit. If you say, I drive slow, you have used what is called a flat adverb. It isn’t technically wrong, but flat adverbs are not considered good English. They actually used to be more common way back when.
- The singular they. Before you shout at me that it is now okay to use the singular they, just be aware that some of us still don’t like it and would prefer to “write around it,” meaning rewrite to avoid it. The whole purpose of using the singular they is that we don’t have a singular pronoun that is not gender specific: we have he and we have she. What if we don’t know the gender of the person we are talking about? Okay. But what if we do, and we still use they. The girl brought their costume. Huh? Now that is just confusing and sounds as if she brought some other people’s costumes. And maybe she did, but if she brought her own, just use her.
I would love to hear any common grammar mistakes you think I have left off the list!