Seven More Writing Mistakes You Shouldn’t Make

by | Jun 30, 2009

In the years since you last had a language arts class, many of those pesky rules regarding spelling and grammar have probably faded from memory, replaced by more immediate concerns. However, if you want to portray a professional image, you can’t make basic mistakes that will confuse your readers.

Here are seven more writing mistakes that you need to avoid.

Our/Are

Maybe this is just a southern Oklahoma thing. We seem to have extreme difficulty pronouncing the word “our” with the “ow” sound. We talk fast, we get lazy, and it comes out sounding like “are.” Unfortunately, because of this, some people ’round these parts seem to think that it actually is spelled “are.”

No. “Are” is a form of the verb “to be.” “We are. You are. They are.”

“Our” is how the possessive form of the pronoun “we” is spelled. “Our books. Our shirts. Our kickass blogs.”

(I am sure that you don’t make this mistake. Therefore, you can join in making fun of me and my accent.)

Its/It’s

It’s surprising how much one little apostrophe can trip up so many people. Here’s the rule:

Its = the possessive form of “it.”
“The cat licked its paws.”

It’s = “it is.”
“It’s a good thing we got here on time.”

If you’re unsure, read the sentence aloud and say “it is.” If it sounds stupid, you don’t need an apostrophe. If it sounds right, then you do.

Another fun fact? Possessive pronouns don’t use the “apostrophe + s” to denote possession. Look at them: his, hers, yours, its, ours, theirs. Remember that. And speaking of “yours”…

You’re/Your

“Your” = the possessive form of “you.”
“Your books are old.”

You’re = “You are”
“You’re a smart one, aren’t you?”

The fix is the same as listed above: Read it aloud, substituting “you are.” Sound stupid? Your. Sound good? “You’re.”

They’re/There/Their

This is a frustrating one. In college, I had to explain the difference more times than I can count to people who really should have known better:

“They’re” = they are
“There” = a place
“Their” = possessive of “they”

“They’re pretty sure their books are over there.”

To/Too

Who’d have thought one extra “o” could cause so much trouble?

Too = also, to show an excess (too much, too little)
To = every other time you need it

“I ate too much food!” or “I’m going to see Star Trek, too!”

Complement/Compliment

If you don’t use these words correctly, you could change the entire meaning of your sentence. Not good when you’re trying to avoid confusion:

Compliment – to say something nice about somebody
Complement – to go well together.

“Peanut butter complements jelly on a sandwich.”
“Peanut butter complimented jelly on her lovely purple color.”

Elicit/Illicit

Homophones are fun, aren’t they?

Illicit – An adjective that means illegal or immoral, e.g., “illicit substances”
Elicit – A verb that means “to bring out,” e.g., “to elicit emotion”

“Peter was arrested for committing illicit acts with a cantaloupe.”
“The mayor’s proclamations elicited a cheer from the crowd.”

Are there any spelling or grammar rules that constantly trip you up? Have you found any handy ways to remember what’s correct? Let us know!

Liked this post? Click here to read the first one!