Improve Your Writing To Improve Your Career Performance
The top 10 grammatical and spelling offenses on the web and in the office.
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
In addition to my own articles, I publish articles from content websites and from submissions I receive in email. So, I read many, many web articles. I notice that there are several grammatical and spelling errors that are very common. My research shows that the same errors are common in the office. I've listed the usual suspects below as a kind of "cheat sheet" to help repeat offenders walk the straight and narrow.
1. Separate or Seperate? The proper spelling is "separate," not "seperate." The way to remember this is: there is "a rat" in the middle of separate.
2. Your and you're. "Your" is a possessive pronoun. It means "belonging to you." "You're" is a contraction of "you are."
3. Hopefully. "Hopefully" is an adverb. It modifies a verb as an adjective modifies a noun. (Adverbs also may modify adjectives and other adverbs.) Proper usage: "I'd really like you to give me a cookie," she said hopefully. Improper usage: Hopefully, you'll remember this hint. (What you really mean here is "I hope you will remember this hint.")
4. It's and Its. "It's" is a contraction of "it is" and "its" is the possessive pronoun meaning "belonging to it."
5. Principal and Principle. In its most common usage, principal is an adjective meaning "primary" or "foremost." (It is also used as a noun, but that is not the form that usually gets confused with "principle.") Principle is a noun meaning "rule," "moral rule," "ethical rule," or "fundamental assumption."
6. Their or They're or There? "Their" means "belonging to them," "they're" is a contraction of "they are," and "there" is a place.
7. Affect or Effect? "Affect" is a verb meaning "cause" or "influence" and "effect" is a noun meaning "outcome" or "result." If you affect someone, you will get some effects. (Effect can also be used as a verb, but most folks don't bother with it.)
8. E.G. or i.e.? E.g. is the abbreviation of the Latin exempli gratia meaning "for example." The Wiktionary says to place e.g. between parentheses when used in written text and follow by a comma when used in its function as "for example." I.e. is from the Latin id est, meaning “that is”. The Wiktionary says that when used in a sentence, i.e. should be used parenthetically (i.e., embraced in parentheses).
9. Except or Accept? As a preposition, "except" means "excluding" or "but." (We all went except Susan.) As a conjunction, it means "only" or "otherwise than." (You can jump rope anywhere in the gym except near the bleachers.) Accept is verb meaning: take, receive, agree, consent to, reconcile oneself to, believe or understand.
10. A while and awhile. This is a subtle problem. The Wiktionary says that since awhile means "for a while," it is never used with a preceding preposition. When preceded by a preposition, the correct form is "a while," as two words. That is, you never say "Stay for awhile." You say "Stay awhile" or "Stay for a while."
To learn more, try the following grammar and usage tools:
Reference.com - http://www.reference.com/browse/all/
Wiktionary.org - http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionary:Main_Page
Notorious Confusables - http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/notorious.htm
Common Errors in English - http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~brians/errors/errors.html
Webgrammar.com - http://www.webgrammar.com/index.html
Grammar Station - http://www.grammarstation.com/index.htm
Writing Enhancement Software Reviews - http://writing-enhancement-software-review.toptenreviews.com/
Grammarian Pro X - http://linguisoft.com/ -- this article was grammar-checked on Grammarian Pro X.
Bartleby.com Searchable Usage Guides - http://www.bartleby.com/usage/