10 Misspelled Words That Get Me Down

NOTE: Any spell-check program ought to catch most of these for you. However, the wisest course is to master them yourself. For fun, I did a search for the incorrect version of nine of the ten. I didn’t bother with Number 7 because both its and it’s are valid spellings. The number of hits for … Read more

Verb Mistakes #9: Past Tense forms of Lay and Lie

Two verbs that give many native speakers fits are to lay and to lie. I’ve written more than one post to explain how lay is transitive and lie is intransitive. If you require a review, please use the links at the end of this article. This post focuses on mistaken spellings of the past tense … Read more

Verb Mistakes #8: Lose

A common writing error is the use of loose in a context that calls for the verb lose. As a verb, loose means, “to set free; to release from restraint.” For example, “The Kaffirs loosed the dogs before seeing the elephants.”  Lose, on the other hand, means “to become deprived of,” “to miss from one’s possession.” For … Read more

Verb Mistakes #7: Four Irregular Past Participles

It’s difficult to understand how any native English speaker manages to complete eight years of formal education without mastering irregular verb forms. When people who view themselves as writers or entrepreneurs won’t take the trouble to learn them, they stamp themselves as unprofessional. The following examples have been taken from writing blogs and professional sites: … Read more

Preposition Mistakes #3: Two Idioms

in my defense/to my defense Note: defense (US) defence (Br.) When speakers wish to excuse or justify something they have done, they often use the expression “in my defense.” For example, “Yes, I hit the mailbox while parking the car, but in my defense, I haven’t slept for the past 48 hours.” An error I’ve … Read more

Pronoun Mistakes #4: TV Talk

Careless grammar in run-of-the-mill television shows no longer surprises me, but I’m still startled when pronoun errors crop up in quality productions, spoken by characters assumed to be educated. Here are some gleanings from my recent viewing. Note: The third example is an approximation of what was said. However, it accurately illustrates the pronoun error … Read more

Verb Mistakes #6: Mixed Errors

1. Incorrect: French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Tuesday urged the European Union (EU) to arm Iraqi Kurds to fight Islamist militants who have overran the country’s northern areas and triggered security crisis for its inhabitants. (Business Standard) Correct : French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Tuesday urged the European Union (EU) to arm Iraqi Kurds to … Read more

Verb Mistakes #5: Loathe

Loathe is a verb. Loath (also spelled loth) is an adjective. Loathe means to hate. Loath means reluctant or unwilling: I loathe hypocrisy. (verb) The politician was loath to admit that he had taken the bribe. (adjective) A mistake with the verb loathe is to use it as if it were an adjective: Incorrect: He’s … Read more

Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid with Personal Pronouns

Among the oldest words in English are the personal pronouns I, you, he, she, it, we, and they. Two of the personal pronouns, you and it, have only one form that is used as either subject or object: See that goat? It bit me. (It is the subject of the verb bit.) I hear a … Read more

Verb Mistakes #4: Hoping If

A sales letter from a company that produces an “educational keyboarding program” brought a peculiar clause construction to my attention: We’re hoping if you’d be interested in taking a look at it.” The verb are hoping leads me to expect a noun clause, with or without an expressed that: We’re hoping that you’d be interested … Read more

Verb Mistakes #3: Irregular Past Participles

The following verb errors appear in sources that could be expected to observe rules of standard usage. Incorrect: The victim could have eaten or drank something by accident. (TV detective) Correct : The victim could have eaten or drunk something by accident. The principal parts of drink are drink, drank, (have) drunk. Incorrect: Tonight was … Read more

Pronoun Mistakes #3: Which Is Not for People

The following erroneous use of which appears in an article in The Huffington Post: On New Year’s Eve at 11:45 am, Pope Francis called up the small community of the Carmelite nuns of Lucena in Cordoba, Spain, but they didn’t pick up the phone. Their once-large community has now dwindled to a mere five nuns, … Read more