• Grammar Boss

10 Grammar Errors to Lose in 2020

Updated: Jan 20

It’s a new decade, so why are you still dragging around the same old mistakes you’ve been making in your writing since the sixth grade? It’s time to shed those childish ways and write like a grownup (who paid attention in English class). Look at the list of common mistakes below, and see if you’ve been guilty of making any of them. Then make a resolution to stop, for the love of all that is proper and right.


1. Confusing they’re, there, and their

They’re is a contraction of they and are. (They're all coming to the party.)

There is a location. (Place the couch over there.)

Their is a possessive pronoun. (Tell the kids to pick up their toys.)


2. Misusing it’s and its

It’s is a contraction of it and is. (It’s freezing in here!)

Its is a possessive pronoun. (The dog lost its bone.)


3. Using your instead of you’re

Your is a pronoun. (Is this your car?)

You’re is a contraction of you and are. (You're the best one for the job.)


4. Mixing up affect and effect

Affect is always a verb, and means to impact or influence. (The current mayor is affecting policy changes.)

Effect is most often used as a noun, and means end result or outcome. (The effects of cold on arthritis are painful.)


5. Mistaking farther and further

Farther refers to distance. (Throw the ball farther next time.)

Further refers to depth or intensity. (Let’s discuss this topic further in the morning.)


6. Confusing lay and lie

Lay requires an object. (I’m laying the fork on the table.)

Lie doesn’t. (I’m lying down. She’s lying down. We’re all lying down. Nobody’s laying down!)


7. Using a semicolon vs colon

A semicolon is a break in a sentence, stronger than a comma but not a full stop. (Joe loves movies; I love books.)

A colon signals a list or further explanation. (I’m bringing three things with me: a pencil, notebook and coffee.)


8. Overusing 'literally'

Whether you’re a purist (like me) and think literally should only be used when describing something that otherwise is a figure of speech (“He swallowed a piece of paper, literally eating his words!”), or you use it in place of a word like actually, literally is one of those crutch word that’s been WAY over used. Please, stop the madness.


9. Wrongly using apostrophes

Only use an apostrophe in the following 3 cases:

a) when creating a contraction between two words

b) when showing possession

c) when writing the plural of a letter or symbol (all A’s on her report card).


10. Confusing too, to, and two.

You know this! No excuses.


In the current online landscape, more than ever you've only got a split-second chance at a first impression. Discerning readers will write you off (no pun intended) if your prose is riddled with errors. Set yourself apart from the crowd and make sure your writing is sharp, readable and clean.

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