Guest Post From Grammarly: Common Grammar Mistakes

By Nikolas Baron of Grammarly.com

Every writer makes mistakes. It’s impossible not to do. When you begin a book, poem, short story, novella, article, or writing exercise, you want to get everything down on the page. If there’s a quick burst of genius, you’ll stop at nothing to ride the burst out. Even if you’re the type of writer who edits while you write, mistakes are imminent. However, grammar mistakes are sometimes the most difficult types of mistakes to overcome. There are writers I’ve talked to who still have trouble with who and whom, lay and lie, and affect and effect. Through my research and discussions with editors, writers, bloggers, and English professors, I’ve discovered five of the most common grammar mistakes and how to avoid them.

Owl_Who1) Who and Whom: Let’s first break down the part of speech for each of these words. “Who” is a subject/nominative pronoun (he, she, it, we, they, etc.) and acts as the subject of a clause. “Whom” is an objective pronoun (him, her, it, us, them, etc.) and acts as the object of a clause. When you’re trying to decide which to use, think about if you’re referring to the subject or the object of the sentence. Another technique that works quite well is replacing the “who” or “whom” of the sentence with another pronoun. For example, one can substitute the sentence “Who went to get ice cream?” with “She went to get ice cream.” A person can also say, “You gave the last ice cream to whom?” or “I gave the last ice cream to him.”

2) Which and That: This is a mistake that I see almost on a daily basis. Whether it is in an email, a flyer, a Facebook status post, a tweet, or a newspaper, it’s everywhere. Looking at the part of speech in these instances can really help break down and explain the problem. Simply put, “that” is a restrictive pronoun, and “which” introduces a relative clause. “That” restricts while “which” qualifies. Moreover, “which” can also be used in restrictive clauses. Consider the following examples: a) “I really want that elephant from the circus.” b) “Which elephant do you want?” c) “I want the elephant that only eats peanuts.” d) “Many elephants eat peanuts, which make for an excellent source of protein in their diet.”

3) Lay and Lie: This is by far the trickiest mistake of them all. I had a professor in college who changed his license plate in order to make a point about the use of “lay” and “lie.” “Lay” is a transitive verb while “Lie” is an intransitive verb. “Lay” requires a direct subject and one or more objects while “Lie” needs no object. “Lie” is the present tense while “Lay” is the past tense. The major issue of concern usually comes into play when a writer is using the past tense of “Lay” such as, he laid on the bed. What the writer actually means is, he lay on the bed. Here are some further examples: I lay the book on the floor; Last week, I laid on the floor of the gym after a hard run; The chocolate bars lie between the Sour Patch Kids and the marshmallows.

Proofread4) Whether and If: One of the major qualms with “Whether” vs. “If” is the belief that they are interchangeable. They are not. “Whether” expresses a condition where there are two or more alternatives while “If” is a condition where there are no alternatives. Take the following sentences as examples of proper use: Whether or not I go to class is dependent on the weather. If I go to class, there may be a pop quiz, though.

5) Affect and Effect: “Affect” vs. “Effect” is another daily issue for me. “Affect” is typically a verb where “Effect” is typically a noun. What helps the most is the definitions of these words, though. Affect: To act on; produce an effect or change in. Effect: Something that is produced by an agency or cause; consequence; influence. Some examples: His failure to prove the effects of his science experiment affected his mood. Sarah’s bad attitude affected her coworker, Jane, which caused a negative effect on the amount of work she got done.

There are still many more grammar mistakes, but these are by far the most common among writers. Additional resources can be used to check for these mistakes, as well. Grammarly, an online grammar check resource, can catch errors that Microsoft Word misses and can help you identify your most common mistakes. Save yourself and your editors some time by using an online resource to grammar check and take the time to learn proper grammar so as to avoid these mistakes in the future.

 

Nik-Baron-615x410Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

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