11 common grammar mistakes that make you cringe and make you seem less intelligent
No matter what type of work you do, good grammar is relevant to all organizations and can make a big difference in your career path.
As Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, an online repair manual company, wrote in a Harvard Business Review article, “If job applicants cannot distinguish between ‘to’ and ‘ too ‘, their applications go in the trash.
A little hard ? Sure, but he’s not alone. Over and over again, we have heard managers complain that employees don’t know how to write a correct English sentence.
Here’s a look at 11 of the most common grammar mistakes – the ones we, as word experts and NPR’s “You’re Saying it Wrong” podcast hosts, have heard the most about:
- Wrong: We have to get our Sales numbers up.
- Law: We have to get our Sales numbers up.
This is an example of the all too frequent attack on the unnecessary apostrophe. People see an “s” at the end of a word and think: Add an apostrophe!
But often they shouldn’t. You use an apostrophe in a contraction (eg, “there is” to “there is”) or to show possession (eg, “manager’s pet peeve”). You don’t use it if the “s” is there just to make a word plural.
Wrong: He starts to work everyday at 8 a.m.
Law: He starts to work everyday at 8 a.m.
“Everyday” (one word, no space) is an adjective describing something very common, such as a daily occurrence. “Every day” (with space) is an adverbial expression meaning every day.
A quick test to determine what is right: if you can use a day of the week, say Monday, in the sentence, you should use “every day”.
Wrong: The marketing manager told Riley and I to speak with her.
Law: The marketing manager told Riley and me to speak with her.
The rule of thumb: Use “I” when it comes to the subject of a verb (for example, “I walked to the store”). Use “me” when the pronoun is the object of the verb, or when the verb does something to someone or something (eg, “the dog followed me to the store”).
Wrong: The company just celebrated it’s eighth year since it went public.
Law: The company just celebrated his eighth year since it went public.
We have seen a lot of people write “this is“ when they want to show possession. But this is the incorrect use! The problem is, of course, as we mentioned earlier, we normally have use the apostrophe to show ownership, as in “CEO email”. But you don’t when it comes to the word “it”.
Only do this when you write a contraction of “it”. That said, sometimes it is difficult to understand English and all of its weird rules and exceptions!
Wrong: Less over 50 people attended the presentation.
Law: Less over 50 people attended the presentation.
We don’t mind, but we’ve heard a lot of complaints from managers. Here are the rules (a bit picky, but technically correct) concerning “less” and “less”:
- Use âlessâ for numbered and countable things (eg, â100 less purchasesâ).
- Use “less” for things that cannot be counted … at least reasonably (eg, “there is less sand on this beach”).
- Use “less” with numbers when they are a single or total unit that measures distance, amount, or time (eg, “less than 30% of us bother to learn these rules”) .
Wrong: i could just lengthen get off and go to sleep.
Law: i could just lie get off and go to sleep.
“Lying” is intransitive, which means that it has no object and does nothing to anyone or anything else (eg, “I go to bed”). “To bed” is transitive, which means that it has an object, as in something or someone to whom the verb does something (eg, “I put my head”).
To be technical, you can say “I lie down” – where “myself” is put as the object of the verb. (We’re not lying when we say it can be a little confusing.)
Wrong: If we stay on this path, we can’t cowardly.
Law: If we stay on this path, we can’t to lose.
This is a pair of so called “confusables” that only have one letter that sets them apart – that extra loose “o”. This is probably why so many managers complain about receiving emails and reports that talk about things like “losing” ground in sales.
Remember that âloseâ is almost always used as an adjective meaning âlooseâ and âto loseâ is a verb that means to suffer a loss.
Wrong: the people this achieving their sales target will get a reward.
Law: the people who achieving their sales target will get a reward.
It’s a bit finicky, but it was mentioned as a pet peeve by many managers we spoke with. How to avoid it? Use “that” when talking about things and “who” when talking about people.
But it can get a little more complicated. A sales team or other group of people can be both an âthatâ or a âwhoâ because it is a thing of people. What about the animals? Technically, they’re âthatâ – despite what we think of our furry friends.
Wrong: This presentation was better so the first.
Law: This presentation was better than the first.
This is such an easy mistake to make (and one that the autocorrect might not catch). So remember this: you use “then” when talking about time (eg, “I’ll go to the meeting, then have lunch”), and use “that” when comparing things (eg, “I will go to the meeting, then have lunch”). am older than him “).
Interestingly, there’s a very good reason why these two words look so similar: They were originally the same word in Middle English, used interchangeably with both meanings.
Wrong: The they go to the office their.
Law: they are go to their office there.
Three words that sound the same, but with completely different meanings – and a surprising number of people mixing them up in emails and memos.
“The” is a location, as in “not here. Sometimes it is also used as an exclamation (eg” So there! “).” They are “is a contraction of” they are. “And” their “is a possessive, meaning property by more than one person.
Wrong: Your my favorite supervisor.
Law: You are my favorite supervisor.
Here’s another one that AutoCorrect often doesn’t catch because it’s spelled correctly even though it’s grammatically incorrect.
But be careful! “You are” is a contraction, used only to mean “you are”. “Your” is a possessive of “you”, used when you want to show possession. Remember this: You are it will be fine if you watch your grammar.
Kathy and Ross Petras are the co-authored siblings of “Moments of embarrassing words”, “You say it wrong” and “It doesn’t mean what you think it means.” Their work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Harvard Business Review. Follow them on twitter @kandrpetras.