We live in a world where a large portion of our interaction happens through the written word. Facebook updates, emails, tweets, texts, Instagram, instant messaging, etc. Many of our formal grammar rules have been thrown out the window in exchange for the colloquial grammar of this 140 character age in which we live. Maybe grammar is changing (it does that, as does vocabulary), but it hasn’t been flushed down the toilet just yet. So, in case all of that tweeting is muddling the brain (been there, done that), here’s a refresher course on some of the mistakes that were written in to me as the biggest grammar pet peeves. Of course, we need to allow for typos, and autocorrect is ridiculously annoying, but let’s at least remember the rules so we can do our best, shall we?
There are plenty that I haven’t mentioned (including your/you’re, they’re/their/there, its/it’s, and who/whom*) because there are just too many common mistakes to address in one post. If you have one that isn’t on the list but you see used incorrectly often, feel free to add it below.
“Use fewer if you’re referring to people or things in the plural (e.g. houses, newspapers, dogs, students, children). Use less when you’re referring to something that can’t be counted or doesn’t have a plural (e.g. money, air, time, music, rain).” (1)
“The word then usually relates to time. It is most commonly used as an adverb. The word than introduces a comparison. It is most often seen with comparatives and words like more, less and fewer.” (2)
Rule: This word is now included in the dictionary, but ain’t is as well, so… there’s that. This is a word that is better left unused if you are trying to give the impression that you know about or care about grammar and/or proper English. Just use regardless instead, in most cases this is what the speaker is trying to say anyway. (1)
Rule: Many people get confused with these pronouns. I often hear the likes of, “Her and I went to get coffee,” when what should be said is, “She and I went to get coffee.”
To start, her/him are object pronouns while she/he are subject pronouns. Do you need to remember that? No, and it won’t help unless you know the rules for when to use subject and object pronouns.
So here’s the quick trick: Remove yourself from the sentence. You wouldn’t say, “Her went to get coffee,” you’d say, “She went to get coffee.”
Along the same lines as above (object and subject pronouns) I almost hear the word “I” used exclusively now-a-days from people who are afraid of using the word me and being incorrect. I sounds more formal and therefore a lot of people think it is the correct way to address themselves in a sentence. It is not- there is a place for “I” and there is a place for “me.” This, again, is under the umbrella of when you use objective and subjective pronouns, and you can read more about that if you want, but I’ll show you a quick, easy way to remember the correct usage. (1)
Here’s the quick trick: Remove the other noun from the sentence and see if it still makes sense.
Ex. “Do you want to go to dinner with Mary and me?” vs. “Do you want to go to dinner with Mary and I?” The first is correct. Take out Mary and read the sentences again, you wouldn’t say, “Do you want to go to dinner with I?” You would say, “Do you want to go to dinner with me?” There is your answer on which to use.
This one is trickier to explain (and boring to read about), so I’m going to give you the half of it that you need to keep it quick and easy. You use the term “well” when you are talking about action verbs. That means when you are describing how someone did something you use well.
For example: “She swam well,” not, “She swam good.” Or even when asked how someone did in an event, “He did well,” not, “He did good.” (3)
If you’d like a really easy trick for Who/Whom read this.
2/ Grammar Monster
3/ Grammar Girl