March 4

Five Common Word and Usage Confusions in English

Blogging, like good copywriting, should always be in a conversational style. There is a need to be personal and to communicate as if the blogger is addressing a close friend. This does not mean grammar errors would be excused and neglected. Many blogs fail to attain and secure the credibility they aim due to the writers’ inability to avoid and correct common grammatical pitfalls. The following common errors, observed often in blogs, also seem to be part and parcel of the modern post-Internet English grammar mindset.

It is obvious that many writers routinely end many sentences with prepositions, improperly use punctuation marks, or dangle modifiers inappropriately. Such grammar and usage mistakes often detract credibility. If you want more people to take your writing seriously, prevent these five common and dumb mistakes in writing. 

First, be mindful of the use of your and you’re. Remember that your is strictly a possessive pronoun, whereas you’re is a contraction of you are. You should not say "Your a beautiful person," or "I want to see you’re pet." Many writers overlook this. The result, many readers are offended as they they're being taken as dumb people. Many writers also fail to command respect and credibility because of the constant appearance of this problem. I can't tell you how many e-mail responses to my "Thank you" come back "Your welcome." Ugh!

Second, avoid being troubled by the use of it’s and its. To avoid  this common mistake, think through the message you intend to say. It’s is a strict contraction of it is or it has, so use it as such. On the other hand, its is a mere possessive pronoun (third person). To help you prevent this mistake, read aloud your sentence and use it is to replace it’s or its. Doing so could help you identify the presence of any problem in your copy. 

Third, do not use there instead of their. Both are pronouns, but they are of different uses, though they may sound the same. There should be used as a reference (as in "Put the book there.") and as a pronoun (as in "There is the object of your desire.") Their is the plural form of possessive pronoun (third person). You say "Their class was suspended," instead of "There class was suspended." This could be very simple, but amazingly, many writers frequently commit the same mistake. 

Fourth, observe the proper use of affect and effect. This could be a little confusing, so it is not surprising that many writers are caught in this web of trouble. Take a moment to reconsider your sentence to make sure you are using the words appropriately and correctly. Affect is used as a verb, while effect is its noun form, generally. To illustrate: "The power interruption would affect the flow of the meeting." "The possible effect of the power interruption is not known to many."

Lastly, observe the dangling principle if you want to make sure your blog is free from any grammar problem. This could also be confusing because use of dangling modifiers surely could be troublesome, to begin with. This mistake damages correct flow of writing and affects overall comprehensibility. To illustrate, take this sentence as example: "After rotting in the attic for days, my sister threw some of the mangoes." The sentence when taken literally could mean the sister rotted for days, instead of the mangoes. To correct this, you should say, "My sister threw some of the mangoes that have already rotten in the attic."



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Posted March 4, 2012 by Gary McCarty in category "Grammar Notes", "Grammar Sucks

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