Do you make these common grammar mistakes?

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 via A Lady Goes West

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.

  1. 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.
    1. 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).
  2. 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.
    1. 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.
  3. 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.”
    1. For instance: It’s been fun writing this post. And A Lady Goes West blog enjoys its chance to cover grammar. 
  4. 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.”
    1. 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.
    2. 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.)
  5. 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.
    1. 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!

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41 Comments

  1. Ashley, I’m a major grammar nerd (and known for it at work!) and I LOVE this! You wouldn’t believe some of the things I see at my work (I work in community health) regarding grammar. I was talking with a coworker yesterday about how people used to speak/write in the 40’s and 50’s versus today and basically how we’ve dumbed ourselves down. I’m checking out the website and post you mentioned now!

    1. Hi Amy! It’s so true. I love the fun and fake casual words, but I still want people to speak correctly when they need to. I love that you’re the grammar nerd at your work. There are a lot of worse things to be. Fly that flag high!! πŸ™‚ Thanks, for the comments. And keep up the good writing and speaking, like they used to in the good ol’ days.

  2. I swear, sometimes we share a brain. It’s (contraction) crazy! Some of these are my pet peeves too! The myself thing! I’ve literally never heard or read anyone write about this before and it is so annoying. It really is a common mistake though. Especially among the Real Housewives of every single city. πŸ™‚

    I loved this post and I especially loved your heading “my history as a word nerd runs deep.”

    Happy Thursday to you!

    1. Ohh Courtney, those Housewives LOVE to use “myself” incorrectly, because they are oh-so-smart-and-classy! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one! A very special HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you too! πŸ™‚

  3. I was an English major in college as well and then copywriting was a large part of my role as a Marketing Manager for years. Some grammar misuse positively grates on me. Like “not for nothing” – what does that even mean? There are too many too mention….have a good class and enjoy yoga!

    1. That phrase is awful. And “I could care less.” That’s another one that should have made my list, because if you COULD care less, then you care. It should be couldn’t. Maybe for installment two. Thanks Lauren, I see we share the love of words and proper usage from our college and professional days. Keep up the good stuff!

  4. oooh I love this post! Follow up question: In your example of names and apostrophes in 5A, you say the “Pitt’s home” but is not the “Pitts’ home” because you are 2 (plural) Pitts?

    clearly I’m grammar geekin’ out right there with ya! πŸ˜‰

    1. Hi Emily! Grammar geeks unite — For the purpose of the example I tried to keep it easy and unintentionally used it in the singular. It should be Pitts’ plural, and I’ve made that change. However, I must say that some people consider it stylistic to use last names plural as singular (Pitt’s) because it’s a way to honor the patriarchal significance of the surname. That’s a little deep though, so let’s stick with the current proper usage, which is what I always stick to. Thank you for your thoughts and feedback and careful review — I truly appreciate it. And look out for installment two soon!

      1. Thank you for clarifying! I’ve seen it both ways, and was always unsure. In my mind, if multiple people live there, I want it to be possessive plural when I am referring to a family’s home, but I see the reason behind the traditional singular possessive as well. Have a great day!

  5. These are super helpful Ashley! I make these mistakes ALL the time, especially the “workout” one. I also am terrible at self review, I literally need to walk away and come back later to be effective at it, which there isn’t always time for. Thanks for helping me be less sloppy of a writer! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Jill! Totally honest mistakes, so I’m glad you learned from this. I’m a word nerd, so sharing my knowledge is the least I can do. Hope you’re having a fabulous week! Happy Thursday! πŸ™‚

  6. This is amazing Ashley! Grammar is one thing that I am very self conscious about. It is definitely not my strong suit. I have more of a math and science brain. These tips were extremely helpful and I look forward to more posts on this topic. I did not feel like you were yelling at all πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Sara! Well great, thank you so much for the kind feedback, and I definitely think I’ll do another installment in this series. I’m more of a word person than a math person, so I stay away from the numbers — you could help me there! Hope all is well with you! πŸ™‚

  7. Thank you for the Grammar Girl suggestion. I just subscribed! I’m sure I have been guilty of some of these offenses in the past, but I made a conscious effort to break them a long time ago. This was great to read! Also, thank you for putting the “workout vs. work out” explanation out there… I see that confusion pop up all the time in the HLB world! πŸ˜‰

    1. Hi Heather! It sure does. So glad I could introduce you to Grammar Girl — I hope you like it. And yes, I see some terrible stuff out there on blogs, so I felt it was time to address it hehehe. πŸ™‚ Happy Thursday!

  8. I know a couple that was recently married and they had a sign that said “The Cook’s”. I cringed! I am a little obsessed with grammar, even though I know that I have devolved into more casual conversation the past few years. I like getting a regular reminder to make sure I’m not making any silly mistakes!

    1. Well there’s a difference between casual conversation and flat out MISUSING words and punctuation. I would have cringed too. And my husband would have said “give them a break.” But not me … πŸ™‚ hehehe! Happy Thursday, Janelle!

    1. Hi Becky — Yes, I think blogs should be conversational. But that doesn’t mean I think words should be completely mis-used on blogs. You can write informally and still have proper grammar and word choices. πŸ™‚

  9. I should have been an editor because grammar is something I’m really picky about. My biggest pet peeve is when someone says irregardless. It’s not a real word. It’s regardless. Just regardless. It’s like nails on a chalkboard when I hear it.

    1. Hi Megan! Okay, I totally agree. I hate when people use that word or when they say “supposably.” Also not a word. πŸ™‚ Hahha. Hope you had a great Thursday!

    1. Hi Linz! No kidding! As a teacher, you must get the chance to correct a lot of kids, but I bet you’re wishing you could correct adults too! πŸ™‚ Hope you had a great Thursday!

  10. This is awesome…I feel like we have seriously forgotten how to write these days. It is kind of embarrassing. When people mess up “your or you’re” it drives me NUTS! If I questioning my grammar skills, I honestly call my Mom, because she is such a stickler for it. I always struggle with “then or than” and I still struggle with using “me and I”.

  11. I love everything about this post (especially #5). I can handle the occasional questionable grammar on Facebook or on a blog because they are more conversational like Becky mentioned (and because I’m not perfect either), but some things should never be done (its/it’s). I can never handle poor grammar or mistakes in professional writing though.

    Misspelled words though? Those will undo me every time (lose NOT loose, people!).

    1. Hi Breanne! Glad you liked this one! And I agree, conversational is fine, but downright wrong word usage will never be okay. πŸ™‚ Hope you’re having a lovely Monday! πŸ™‚

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