Friday, July 5, 2013

The Top 20 Grammar Errors: Wrong Word

Wrong Word

If you missed it because of The Fourth, yesterday’s post concerned no comma in a compound sentence. It was a short lesson and included an ABC Schoolhouse Rocks video. You can always go back to the beginning for the complete list of the top 20 grammar errors. Eventually, I’ll get that list linked to all of the different posts, but today we are concentrating on the wrong word.
The wrong word is by far the toughest of the errors because it is the hardest error to catch, and, in fact, error number 20 deals with a specific wrong word error: Its versus it’s. Its denoting a possessive, and it’s is actually a two word contraction it is.

Can Someone Please Answer The Homophone!
There are other words groups just like it’s and its, and they’re called homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same, but have different spellings and different meanings. A nice list of the 70 most common English homophones resides here. Here’s my list of biggest pet peeves:

·         there, their, they’re
·         to, two, too
·         alright, all right

 (I left off its and it’s because we’ll be devoting an entire blog to that error!)

There: I Told You So

here is normally used as an adverb and means, “In, at, or to that place or position: ‘We stayed there for eleven days’; ‘I’m going in there’; ‘the opportunity is right there’.” There can also be used as an exclamation: “There, I told you so!” Their is a possessive pronoun and means, “belonging to or associated with the people or things previously mentioned or easily identified.” They’re, like it’s, is a contraction: they are.

To Boldy Go
To can be used as a preposition, infinitive marker, or even an adverb. As a preposition, to expresses motion as in “I went to Ohio on my vacation.” An infinitive is a fancy grammatical term describing a verb form, and in the English language to marks the infinitive such as “I went on vacation to visit my family.” Here, to marks the infinitive visit. Two means one plus one or less than three; 2. Too means a higher degree than desirable. You have to be careful here too, because too does not always work as a synonym with also. For instance, the Google definition uses the examples, “he was driving too fast” and “you’re too kind”, but if you replace too with also, you get very different meanings: “he was driving also fast” and “you’re also kind”.

Being Alright
Alright refers to a state of being, as in “You’re alright. I’m alright, and people like me.” All right refers to being correct as in “Your math homework is all right.” Some grammarian sticklers may think alright isn’t a word at all, and they’ll scream from the top of their lungs, “It’s not all right to spell all right alright!” However, the English language and its grammar are forever evolving. The use of alright depends, in my opinion, upon what exactly you are writing. If you are writing an academic paper always spell alright as the two words: all right. If you are writing for a newspaper, they have a style guide that you can refer back to, and more than likely that style guide will tell you to spell alright as two words. If you are writing an informal blog, do what you like. If you are writing a piece of fiction for publication, consider your specific reasons for spelling alright as a single word or as two words. I think the main key here is consistency.

Getting Tense
Strong verbs get us into trouble too.

What is a strong verb? The distinction between a strong verb and a weak verb is the conjugation of the past tense. Is versus was, for example. Is is a strong verb because we don’t ever, ever say something like, “I ised late.”
However, what the heck do we do with the words lie and lay?

Lie means to rest whereas lay means to put something down.

I lied down on the couch.

I laid the book on the table.

lie, lying
lay, laying
Past Participle
has/have/had lain
has/have/had laid


And now let’s confuse the issue more because lie also means to not tell the truth. Just for fun, let’s conjugate it!

lie      /         lied    /         has/have/had lied

Words That Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean

The wrong word error can also be due to not knowing what the definition really is. I have a small list that I misunderestimate all the time, and I double check these words in my writing.

·         Peruse
·         Ironic
·         Pristine
·         Nonplussed
·         Bemused
·         Enormity
·         Plethora
·         Literally
·         Figuratively
·         i.e.
·         e.g.

Here’s the question though, do you know what the above words really mean? Do you have words in your own vocabulary that you misuse due to not understanding what they exactly mean? Speaking is so different that writing. It’s sloppy and messy, and we make a lot of communication and grammar errors because we do not have the chance to do an edit on what we say. But writing is about precision.


And speaking of precision, another leading factor in the wrong word syndrome are typos that your spellcheck will not ever catch. Here’s my list that I keep beside me when going through a final edit:

·         Angel vs. angle
·         Being vs. begin
·         Causal vs. casual
·         Form vs. from
·         God vs. good
·         Her vs. here
·         Know vs. now
·         Man vs. many
·         Manger vs. manager
·         An vs. and
·         Meat vs. meat
·         Moth vs. month
·         Are vs. area
·         Bank vs. blank
·         Bee vs. been
·         Card vs. care
·         Choked vs. chocked
·         Contact vs. contract
·         Diner vs. dinner
·         Ever vs. every
·         Feel vs. fell
·         Files vs. flies
·         How vs. hot
·         Is vs. it
·         Not vs. now
·         On vs. one
·         Our. Vs. out
·         Posed vs. posted
·         Provide vs. provider
·         Public vs. pubic
·         Quit vs. quite
·         Rogue vs. rouge
·         Sacred vs. scared
·         Star vs. start
·         Stated vs. started
·         Stop vs. stoop
·         Thing vs. think
·         Trail vs. trial
·         Who vs. how

Not Real Words

Lastly, I want to talk about words that don’t exist. I’ve already mentioned above how the English language changes and is a fluid thing. New words are being introduced all the time, so should you really use any of the listed words below? Again, that depends upon what you are writing.

·         Needful: necessary; requisite or needy
·         Touchment: The amount of mouse-clicking you have to do for a piece of software.
·         Alot: should simply be spelled as two words: a lot
·         Already: before or by now or the time in question
·         Virtuistic: the misspelling and incorrect pronunciation of virtuosic. Tends to be used when dealing with musicians, but also means “not a real word” or more specifically a fake adjective. Also, sometimes refers to someone who is very virtuous.
·         Facetious: to make an attempt at being funny while being sarcastic at the same time.
·         Upgradation: slang for upgrading software
·         Updation: “A slang word derived from the word ‘update’ that applies solely to juicy new information someone has on drama or their love life (urban dictionary)
·         Agreeance: the state of agreement
·         Customerification: still trying to figure out what this word means, but I’ve heard people use it quite a bit. If anyone can help me out on this definition, that’d be great!
·         Unpossible: seriously, just use impossible
·         Embitterment: to make bitter flavor, or to arouse bitter feelings
·         Normalcy: originally coined by Warren G. Harding, meaning the state of being normal
·         Misunderestimate: to seriously underestimate. “They misunderestimate me” – George W. Bush
·         Comfortability: the quality of a place to make you feel at home or at ease
·         Lacksidaisical: lacking life, spirit; languid (urban dictionary)
·         Snarky: short tempered, or irritable
·         Fab: short for FABULOUS! (You have to shout the word fabulous and stretch out all of the vowels to make this definition accurate)
·         Ginormous: bigger than gigantic and even bigger than enormous
·         Confuzzled: confused and puzzled at the same time
·         Woot: an exclamation of joy or excitement
·         Chillax: chill out or to relax; hang with friends
·         Cognitive displaysia: the feeling one has before you even leave your house that you are going to forget something and not remember it until you have left
·         Gription: A combination of grip and traction
·         Phonecrastinate: What my daughter did with txt minutes this month.
·         Slicker: something really slippery, or someone who uses a lot of hair gel
·         Snirt: the stuff that piles up in parking lots and alongside the road in the Midwest during the winter. Not quite snow, not quite dirt (urban dictionary)
·         Lingweenie: a person incapable of making up new words
·         OMG, TXT, LOL, TTYL, brb and any txting acronym: just really, (IMHO) none of this belongs in your writing unless you have a clear reason for it.


Steve Bargdill is the author of The Wasteland Series available on Amazon. He’s written for several newspapers and is currently a first year English graduate student at the University of Wyoming. You can read his short stories for free on Wattpad. To receive Monday evening writing prompts, daily morning poetry, hump day videos and the most current updates on upcoming books by Steve, like his page on Facebook!


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