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The 5 Most Popular Grammatical Errors Of All Time (and how to fix them)
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Oh, how I love this post over at CopyBlogger: Five Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb 

I'm sure from time to time we've all helped make these grammatical errors "popular". I think it's just a matter of trying to write quickly, and a number of these errors are homophones (the words sound the same but they're spelled differently), so they're easy to get mixed up.  

Let's take a gander at each, and see if any of these hit home:

1) Your vs. You're

Your is a possessive pronoun, whereas you're is a contraction for the words: you are. If you're not sure which one of these to use, try using "you are" instead, and that should make it pretty evident which version to use.

2) It's vs. Its

I think for many of us it's not that we don't know the difference between it's and its, but that we're so used to typing "it's" that we go on auto-pilot and automatically put it in.

Just as a refresher, it's is a contraction for the words it is or it has. Example: "It's so gorgeous outside!"

Its is a possessive pronoun. Example: "Did you know that your article list has its own RSS feed?"

3) There vs. Their

There can be used as a pronoun ("There is a party after work!") or as an indication of a place ("Please don't even go there.").

Their is a plural possessive pronoun ("Their business has really taken off!"). 

4) Affect vs. Effect

This one still causes me to ponder each time I want to use it–which one is appropriate?

Affect is a verb. For example: "The quality and consistency of your articles will affect your marketing success." 

Effect is a noun. For example: "The effect of the sun on that ice cube was quite liquefying!" 

If you're unsure which of these to use, try inserting a "the" before the word. If the "the" sounds right, then you have yourself a noun.

5) The Dreaded Dangling Participle 

Your opening phrase should always modify what follows it, or else you'll be left with a dangling participle, and your sentence will take on a meaning that you hadn't intended.

Here is the Copyblogger example of a dangling participle:

"After rotting in the cellar for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.

Uhh… keep your decomposing brother away from me!

Featuring plug-in circuit boards, we can strongly endorse this server’s flexibility and growth potential.

Hmmm… robotic copy written by people embedded with circuit boards. Makes sense."

Dangling participles crack me up :-)  

Do any of these hit home with you, or do you notice any other common grammatical errors that weren't mentioned here?

It is so easy to mess up on our grammar, even though we technically know what's right and wrong. This is where an eagle-eye proof-reading friend comes into play. At the very least it also helps to put your article aside for a few days and then look at it with fresh eyes.

It seems like after we've read our articles 10 times, we tend to miss some of the more obvious mistakes. 

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5 Responses to “The 5 Most Popular Grammatical Errors Of All Time (and how to fix them)”

  1. Christine says:

    The one that iritates me the most is it’s vs. its. This one doesn’t take a lot of thought, yet I see it all the time.

    The one that I have the most trouble with is effect vs. affect. I can never remember when to use these. When I can’t figure out which one to use, I use effect.

    You really picked the good ones :)


  2. Steve Shaw says:

    Hi Christine,

    Yes, “effect” and “affect” are my toughies too!

    Thanks so much for chiming in :-)

  3. Mary says:

    Hi Christine,

    There is another one that seems to stump the majority of people: to, two, too. It is almost always incorrect on posts that I read. Thanks for posting this much needed info. :)

  4. Steve Shaw says:

    Hi Mary,

    Oh yeah–the dreaded two, to, too!!! :-) Yes, folks seem to get those mixed up all the time.

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