Hi! This post is long overdue. A couple of months ago in one of my “Friday Favorites” I shared a link to an article on LinkedIn that I found about commonly misused words. So many of you clicked on it, that I realized you just may be interested in this less-than-glamorous topic for the blog. And although I don’t want to get all preachy up in here, I do think that sometimes it wouldn’t hurt for everyone to learn a thing or two. I learn something new every single day in fitness, writing and blogging, and I enjoy finding out how to do things better. So here’s my attempt at sharing the love …
My history as a word nerd runs deep
A little background on me and my thoughts on grammar: I’m a writer. I majored in a communications field at the great University of Florida School of Journalism and then worked in the corporate world with writing as a major chunk of my job role for several years. At one point, I even held the title of “copywriter” for a major hotel chain, in which I wrote and edited websites, brochures and even billboards. And I care about grammar and proper word usage.
Being that I’m a blogger, read a lot of blogs and spend my fair share of time online, I see a lot of rough written content out there. I may enjoy reading the blogs of people who have poor writing skills, but that doesn’t mean I condone it. There is a time and place for being loose with your words and veering toward informality, but I hate to see actual mistakes in word usage.
What I want to do today is clear up a few common mistakes that I see people make both in word usage and grammar. And if this post goes over well, then I’ll do it again with some more. But if you think I sound snooty and arrogant, then feel free to let me know that as well. Just testing the waters, my friends.
Now here’s a caveat: I’m all for the fun slang that is going around these days with made-up words like “amaze” “obvi” “gorg” “delish” and the like, but I use these knowing that they are not real (even if published in the dictionary) and will hopefully fade into the darkness when no longer being “for the win.” “#AmIRight”?
The top five grammar mistakes you may be making
Here are a few mistakes I see made most frequently. And these mistakes are made by nice, friendly and smart people, so don’t feel bad if you have been doing them too.
- Workout vs. work out. These are two totally different things, and there is a reason for both. You can attend a “workout” as one word, but when you go to the gym, you are there to “work out.” See what I did there? Workout is the noun. Work out is the verb. Sometimes you will see the noun of work-out with a hyphen, and that is also correct, if you’re talking about the noun only. Please see the use of the hyphen next.
- For example: I plan to do a good workout later after I get home (noun). Yet my friend plans to work out at lunch (verb).
- When to use a hyphen. The use of the hyphen is often stylistic and up to the writer or editor, but there are also some standard rules. For instance, if you are saying that you work in a “full-time” job, then you would use a hyphen because “full-time” is describing the job. However, if you are saying you go to a job to work “full time,” then you would not need a hyphen, because the phrase stands alone, and the modifier (full time) comes after the noun (job). If you are combining two separate words or phrases, then you’ll often need the hyphen, unless the first word ends in “ly,” which makes it an adverb.
- For example: A “jointly run blog” does not require a hyphen, because the ly at the end of jointly makes it an adverb and able to stand alone. But if it’s a “peer-managed blog,” it would need the hyphen. Common phrases that would not elicit any confusion like “chocolate chip cookies” and “high school students” are okay without hyphens.
- It’s vs. its. This one is very easy to remember. If “its” is being used as a possessive, it keeps its apostrophe to itself and doesn’t show anyone. However, if “it’s” is being used as a contraction for “it is,” it’s proud to represent more than one word and flies that apostrophe high as “it’s.”
- For instance: It’s been fun writing this post. And A Lady Goes West blog enjoys its chance to cover grammar.
- Me vs. myself. My husband Dave can attest to the fact that I am absolutely, positively rubbed the wrong way by the misuse of the word myself. I’ve read countless professional emails, seen tons of people on TV and endured this mistake too many times. And I broke Dave of the habit long ago. He wouldn’t dare make this mistake again. I think many times people are confused on when to use “me” or “I” and so they think “myself” sounds more eloquent. Well, only if it’s (that’s a contraction, so see above!) used properly. It’s like this people: You only use “myself” if the action is being taken upon you or if you need to express something emphatically. If “I” is the subject, then “myself” can work. If “me” is the subject, then you must use “me.”
- For example: I bought the car for myself. Or I will take care of this myself. You cannot use myself to replace the word me.
- For example: Please join Dave and me for a house-warming party is correct. Please join Dave and myself for a house-warming party is grounds not to attend the party. (To figure it out, remove “Dave” altogether from the sentence and you’ll see that only “me” would work.)
- Family names and apostrophes. You know what I’m talking about. The “Pitt’s” invite you over to dinner (so wrong). If “the Pitt’s” send you an invite with an apostrophe in it without a noun following, you should egg their house. Egg it. This one happens so much, because people think that family names should be possessive. The Pitts have had it up to here with this one.
- For example: Unless you are going to the “Pitts’ home” for dinner, which is the proper use, don’t let the Pitts name feature a misplaced apostrophe. And if you are ordering a cute Etsy sign for a friend, never add an apostrophe to their name, unless a noun comes after it. Just don’t.
Did it sound like I was yelling the whole time you read those bullets? If so, I’m sorry.
But I’m passionate about the English language, and although I like to use some slang and conversational terms on this ole’ blog to keep it light, I also appreciate and honor proper word usage and grammar. Writing style is up to the individual, and I’ll continue to make choices on what I want to do on this blog, as you should in your own writing and talking. But knowing the right words to use in the right ways will always be important.
Keep on learning
If you’re into learning more tips and tricks on grammar, may I suggest subscribing to the Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips emails. Or, if you’re just into learning anything at all, check out this post I wrote a while ago on How to learn something new every day.
Okay, guys! I’m done!Do you make these grammar mistakes? I hope not! Click To Tweet
Questions of the day
Do you ever correct the grammar of others?
What’s the last new thing you learned?
Do you have a sign with your name on it hanging in your house too? We have two!