I've held off on this as long as I possibly can, but folks, I can hold off no longer. If you are guilty of the below errors, don't fret, you are NOT alone. However, there's no shame in being wrong, recognizing it, and learning from it. Many times people are just ignorant that what they've written is incorrect. There is no shame in ignorance (even though "ignorant" has acquired a negative connotation), just like there's no shame in not knowing something is stuck in your teeth. So take my post as merely a friend pointing out that you have something in your teeth.
The problem is, we've lost something, and that is care in how we communicate. Way back when, paper and ink was expensive, and we used to have to communicate via letters, our handwriting was impeccable and our spelling similarly so. Mistakes used to cost money. But then the telegram and phones came along, and we could just talk to people all over the world. Couple that with movable type, and our handwriting, spelling, and word choice became much less important (many words have different meanings but sound the same when spoken). Take these sentences for instance: "We're have you bin? Your late all the thyme, and eye must of warned ewe a hundred times. Know moor being late!" This is nonsense when written, but would sound perfectly correct when spoken. Obviously many of these errors are not common, but they illustrate the point.
Fast forward to today, where with the internet we're communicating by the written word more than ever. However, we seem to have lost the care that we had when we were writing letters, because on the internet writing things no longer costs anything. Mistakes are no longer costly, at least monetarily. They are costly, though, when common errors go uncorrected and people communicate less clearly. I'm here to change that.
I'll be updating the below examples as I find more or think of more.
Must of vs Must have
Must of is incorrect. You really mean must have. You're writing must of because when you speak must have you are using a contraction "must've" which sounds like, but is not, must of.
When to use an apostrophe
Apostrophes are generally used for contractions like: "I can't do that," or possessive forms like: "The car's tire is flat." Apostrophes are not used for plurals like: "How many PM2s will be in this run?" or numbers like "I hope they make 1000s of these PM2s." Here's a good sentence for you: "My PM2's blade has what looks like 100s of tiny scratches, which I just can't stand." "PM2's" has the apostrophe because it possesses the blade, "100s" doesn't because it's plural, and "can't" does because it's a contraction. To learn why the "it's" in the previous sentence did have the apostrophe, see below.
Plurals of things that end in "y"
Sometimes we can't just tack an "s" on the end of plural words, mostly those that end in "y," and requires us to replace the "y" with an "ie." The plural of money is monies for example. If you were to write money's, you'd be referring to something the money possesses.
It's vs Its
It's is the contraction of it is: "It's snowy outside." Its is the possessive form of the pronoun it: "the dog pulled the owner by its leash." This one is admittedly confusing, because it is one of the only instances where the possessive form does not use the apostrophe. Other examples: "his, hers, theirs, ours, yours, whose" and all of these examples are possessive pronouns. In the same vein, whose is the possessive form, and who's is the contraction for "who is."
We're vs Were vs Where vs Wear
We're is the contraction for "we are" like "We're here." Were is something that happened in the past like: "How many were there?" Where is a question about place like: "Where are all the forks?" Wear is to put something on: "Wear your jacket." Obviously wear has additional definitions like: "wear resistance." They are not interchangeable.
Their vs They're vs There
Their is the possessive form of "they" (as discussed above). They're is the contraction for "they are." There points out a place like: "I left my jacket over there." They are not interchangeable.
Too vs To
Too means "in addition" or "excessive in amount" like: "There's just too much going on tonight." To is a common preposition with many uses, but an example would be to (ha) express motion like: "Travel from east to west." Basically, if you don't need to use too, you use to.
Bear vs Bare
Bear (along with the animal) means to hold or carry, and is used in the phrases "bear in mind" and "bear with us" and "bear down on" and "bear out" and "bring to bear." Bare is to uncover or be so, like: "His bare head was exposed." They are not interchangeable.
Elicit vs Illicit
You can elicit (provoke) a response, but you might be carrying illicit (illegal) substances. They are not interchangeable.
Wandering vs Wondering
You wander (travel aimlessly) through the woods, but you wonder (ask or muse about) what we're having for dinner. They are not interchangeable.
Eluded vs Alluded
You elude (evade) the police, but you allude (make implications) to a big announcement at dinner tonight. They are not interchangeable.
Supersede vs Surpass
You can both supersede something and surpass it, but surpassing it means to pass it in some qualitative way, superseding it means to replace it or cause it to become obsolete.
A lot vs alot
A lot is a short phrase that means "many," alot is not a word.
Then vs Than
Then means "at that time" or "as a consequence" or "in addition to" like: "And then we finally ate." Than is a conjunction which expresses a comparison like: "The Tatanka is bigger than the Millie."
Accept vs Except
Accept is to allow or concede something like: "I think we can all accept that the Manix LW is the best value folding knife out right now." Except means "excluding" or "otherwise than" like: "I would agree with you except I actually think the K2 is an even better value."
The prefixes bi- and semi- as they relate to time
Bi-, meaning two, causes something to happen every two times the interval it is applied to. Biweekly things happen once every two weeks, biennial things happen once every two years. Semi-, meaning half, causes something to happen twice during the interval it is applied to. Semiweekly things happen twice a week, semiannual things happen twice a year. Now, I am aware that if you look at online dictionaries, they accept the fact that people use this incorrectly so much that biweekly things might happen twice per week. However, this is incorrect, confusing, and stupid. One of the main reasons I write this post is to do my small part in making sure the above examples don't go the way of the bi- prefix: used incorrectly so often that the definition actually shifts.
Per annum vs Per anum
I throw this one in there mostly for your enjoyment. Both are Latin phrases, per annum means at yearly intervals, like: "10% interest per annum." Per anum means by way of the rectum, like: "administer medication daily, per anum." You will see this error commonly on bank websites, advertising how much interest their credit card promises to put in your a$$. See why word choice is important?
Last edited by tvenuto
on Mon Feb 23, 2015 6:53 am, edited 3 times in total.