Top 10 Grammatical and Spelling Errors of 2011

In December 2010 I posted the "Top 10 Grammar and Spelling Errors of 2010" and got a record number of hits on my blog and “likes” on Facebook. In the past year as The Essay Expert, I’ve collected a new batch of errors. I did repeat a couple of things from 2010 that were so persistent I just had to repeat myself! I write these lists in the hope people will implement what they learn and produce better essays, better resumes, and overall better written collateral. Improved writing gets results when it comes to obtaining jobs, getting into school, landing new clients and keeping the customers you’ve got. So read up!

10. Advice vs. Advise

Here’s a note from one of my loyal readers, Christine, who requested that I mention this common mix-up: “Advice is a noun. An example would be: ‘Brenda provided very useful advice regarding spelling errors.’ Advise is a verb. An example would be: ‘Brenda can you please advise your readers about similarly misused words?’” Thank you, Christine, for your contribution to my yearly list!

9. Your vs. You’re

You’re is a contraction for “you are.” If you’re using the word to mean “you are” (two words), write it as a contraction. E.g., Do you know that you’re about to miss the 5:00 train? Your is a possessive pronoun. E.g., Your train is leaving in two minutes.

8. Tenet vs. Tenant

Even our president messed this one up. A tenet is a belief or ideal of faith. Tenants rent from landlords.

7. Sign up vs. Sign-up

I see this one on the web all the time and it drives me a bit batty. Sign up is a verb. Sign-up is an adjective that modifies a noun like “form” or “sheet.” Correct: “Sign up here for news and updates” or “Go to our sign-up page to register.” Incorrect: “Sign-up here for news and updates” or “Go to our sign up page to register.”

6. Everyday vs. Every day

Everyday is an adjective meaning “common” or “day-to-day.” As I’m sure you know, people make everyday grammatical errors every day.

5. “This” without a referent

Make sure that if you use the word This to start a sentence, you help your reader understand what you’re referring to! The best practice is to use a referent after the word This. Incorrect: This will ensure your sentences are understood. Correct: This practice will ensure your sentences are understood.

4. Verbage

Verbage does NOT mean "words!" Although the OED does have an entry for “verbage” as a “rare alternate spelling of verbiage,” Merriam-Webster does not even acknowledge the existence of the word.Verbiage, often misused as well, means excess language. The jury is out as to whether the phrase “excess verbiage” is redundant—but I’m sticking to it.

3. Apostrophes (that’s not apostrophe’s!) to make plural nouns

With some exceptions which I won’t go into here, plural nouns are formed by adding an sor es to the singular form of the noun–NOT by adding an apostrophe! The plural of parent is parents; the plural of computer is computers;and the plural of Wednesday is Wednesdays. No apostrophe needed! Conversely, possessives ARE formed by adding anapostrophe s. To speak about an author’s intent, for instance, use the apostrophe s.

2. Myself

Think for a few seconds before you use the word myself in place of me at the end of a sentence. A sentence like “George was speaking to my friend Lucy and myself” is grammatically incorrect. Replacing me withmyself has become common, perhaps as an attempt to avoid using the word me. Think about it. You would say, “George was speaking to me,” so just say, “George was speaking to my friend Lucy and me,” — NOT, “George was speaking to my friend Lucy and myself.” The parts of speech don’t change just because another person was added to the sentence!

1. Comma splice

I can’t tell you how often my clients string two full, complete sentences together with a comma. This error is called a comma splice. Here’s an example: “Simply observing my surroundings was not enough for me, I needed to know how things worked and why they worked in that specific way.” The correct way to punctuate this sentence is “Simply observing my surroundings was not enough for me; I needed to know how things worked and why they worked in that specific way.” Two full sentences may get separated by a semicolon or a dash—NOT by a comma. I look forward to your comments and “likes.” Best wishes for a grammatically correct 2012! Brenda Bernstein, founder and senior editor of The Essay Expert LLC, has been coaching professionals and students on their writing projects for over 12 years. She works closely with clients to create effective written expressions of who they are and what they have accomplished. Red oops button image from Shutterstock

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