Common Grammar Mistakes

10 Grammar Mistakes That Drive Your Friends Nuts

I recently posted this note on my Facebook page:

He: “I’ll try and call before the weekend.”
Me: (thinking) “He’ll try TO call before the weekend.”

Does anybody else have a grammar-auto-correct button that was installed in their brain by an English teacher or parent?

Within a few hours, a loooong list of pet peeves came back in response. So it appears that I’m not the only person on the planet with an implanted auto-correct button that goes off at the sound or sight of grammar errors in emails, texts, slides, presentations, or reports.

Here’s the Top 10 list from the Facebook comments about pet peeves:

  1. Leaving the “Ly” Off Adverbs

“He plays different than most golfers.” (should be “differently”)

“Shelby negotiates fair.” (should be “fairly”)

Words that tell more about the verb (in these two cases—plays and negotiates) are adverbs. Most adverbs, though not all, end in “ly.” Adjectives describe nouns.

“He’s a different kind of golfer, but he plays differently.”

“Mike is quick, but he walks quickly.”

“Shelby is fair, but she negotiates fairly.”

  1. “Have went”

This construction is never correct. The correct verb form is “have gone.”

I have gone. You have gone. Shelby has gone. We have gone. They have gone.  I went yesterday. You went yesterday. Shelby went yesterday. Nobody was home. 

  1. “Me and my friend”

“Me and my friend left early for the conference.” To see why this construction is never correct, remove the other person from the sentence, and see how it sounds: “Me left early for the conference.”Me” can’t ever be the subject of a sentence. Never. Never. Never. 

  1. “Between you and I”

Between you and I” is a prepositional phrase. The correct phrase should be “between you and me.”  Why? This phrase calls for an objective pronoun to sit in the slot of an object of a preposition “between.”  “I” is a subjective pronoun, meaning it serves as a subject—not an object.

  1. Capitalization Crazy

This error refers to the habit of randomly capitalizing words—either from carelessness or in an effort to emphasize them. Whatever the reason, a sentence like this is wrong, wrong, wrong:  “All Employees need to use a Security Pass when they enter the Building through the Front Lobby after hours; Authorization Guidelines are available with each Manager and also posted on the Website.” 

  1. Misplaced Quotation Marks

Commas and periods always go inside quotation marks, regardless of the logical meaning of the sentence. ALWAYS. Yes, I know this rule is illogical. But don’t fight it; you will not win.

Correct Examples:

He left town with his special “friend,” hoping no one saw them get on the same flight.

Marcia said, “Do not sign that check.”

Question marks and exclamation marks are logical, so you can figure those out easily enough. Those marks can go either inside or outside the quotation marks—depending on the logical meaning of the sentence. 

  1. “Send it to Mike or myself.”

A “self” pronoun (myself, himself, herself, yourself, itself, themselves, ourselves) are called intensifying or emphatic pronouns. That means they emphasize or intensify the noun or pronoun that’s already stated somewhere else in the sentence.

He carried the chair himself.  (“Himself” emphasizes “he.”)

Do it yourself. (“Yourself” emphasizes the unstated but implied “you” in the command form of “do.”)

Send it to Mike or myself.  (“Myself” can’t be correct because there’s no “I” or “me” earlier in the sentence to emphasize.)

Here’s another way to understand why this isn’t correct: Omit the other person from the sentence:  “Send it to myself.”  Sounds odd, right?  You would correctly say, “Send it to me.” 

  1. Split Infinitives (To + a verb)

Although this error has become more acceptable in modern usage, it still grates on many people’s ears. A good rule-of-thumb is this: If the sentence sounds awkward when you keep the infinitive together, go ahead and split it. But if the split is unnecessary, don’t.

Acceptable Split:  To essentially cut off the discussion is my manager’s facilitation style.

Unnecessary:  I like to properly introduce people so they can carry on a good conversation. (Better: “I like to introduce people properly so they can carry on a good conversation.”) 

  1. Dangling Prepositions

“Where are you going to?”  “Where did you find that at?” Just chop the “to” and the “at” from each of these sentences and you’re fine.

  1. Unclosed Parenthetical Comments

Commas to set off interrupting phrases or clauses are used in pairs—like bookends or parentheses. To use the first without the second is incorrect.

Incorrect:  “Michelle Cochran, who has worked for that company 15 years thinks this policy can be highly effective in encouraging donations.”

Correct:  “Michelle Cochran, who has worked for that company 15 years, thinks this policy can be highly effective in encouraging donations.”

If you’re going to set something off in the corner by itself, close the door.


Want more tips on communication, executive presence, and writing? Sign up for the weekly ezine here.