Despite a literary background, I still get confused by a bunch of words and grammar rules in English. That might indicate I’m not too smart, or that the English language is a fracking mess of inconsistencies and exceptions. I’m going with No. 2 for now.
When writing (not just for the web), here are a few common goofs to watch out for:
- Affect / Effect: Basically, use “affect" when you need a verb and “effect" if using it as a noun. Example: The effect of pollution was to affect many people.
- Who / Whom: “Who" is a subject; whereas “whom" is an object. The Grammar Girl’s trick for remembering which is which is the he/him test. "Like 'whom,' the pronoun 'him' ends with 'm.'” If you could substitute him in the sentence, use whom; if he, then use who. Example: Who knows whom?
- Irregardless is not a word, regardless of where it's used.
- Practice / Practise: In the US they can both be used. Outside the US, “practice" is a noun and “practise" is a verb. Enough said. We can all be Americans for those sentences.
- Principle / Principal: “Principle" is a noun and means tenet or basic truth. As a noun, “principal" (with a -pal) is a person who runs a school or part of a loan. As an adverb, it usually is used to mean primarily.
- Like: Use it as a verb to mean appreciate. Example: I like broccoli. Or use it as a preposition meaning similar. Example: Like you, I like broccoli. But don’t use it as an interjection ("Like, we all went to the movies, like, and then, like, we went home.") unless you’re 14 and live in Brentwood.
- Its / It’s: “Its" is the possessive of it. Example: The dog wagged its tail. “It’s" is a contraction of it and is. Example: It’s time the dog wagged its tail.
- Alternately / Alternatively: Alternately means to take turns. Alternatively means an option.
- Quote / Quotation: Quote is a verb, whereas quotation is a noun. Example: He quoted a Simpson’s quotation.
- Should of isn’t correct. It’s should have.
What grammatical mistakes do you commonly make, and how do you remember to correct them?