Do you type “buy” when you meant to type “bye”? That’s awkward, to say the least.
It’s a shame to damage an otherwise excellent blog post with mistakes in grammar and language use. The good thing is that when you write blog posts you probably tend to make the same mistakes over and over again, so it’s easy to identify your weak spots and learn to correct mistakes before you make them.
Below are some common language use mistakes we all make. How many are you guilty of?
A or An?
It’s 1st grade stuff, really: you use “a” with words starting with a consonant and “an” with words starting with a vowel. Right? If only things were that straightforward!
“A” is also used with words starting with a consonant if, when spelled out, the first letter would begin with a vowel.
Think how “n” and “m” are pronounced, and how you would write them out. They start with a vowel: you would write [en] and [em].
This means that you say, “He is an NBA player” and not “He is a NBA player”.
Another example of this is the phrase, “There’s a U-turn coming up in 100 metres.” Here, the letter “u” is pronounced “You.” Even though the letter is a vowel, you need to use “an” because it is spelled out as if it begins with a consonant [yoo].
The carnage is dreadful. No matter how careful you are you will at some point end up confusing words like “jean” and “gene” or typing “passed” when you meant to type “past.”
Yes, the English language is full of mine fields, but familiarizing yourself with common homophone blunders you ensure you will avoid them in your writing (plus you’ll get to scold others who are still making them).
Common homophone mix-ups include these word pairs:
patience – patients
vale – veil
hear – here
your – you’re
night – knight
dear – deer
one – won
there – their – they’re
none – nun
The Fewer or Less predicament
This is not really a predicament if you know a simple rule. “Fewer” is used with countable nouns, as in “fewer lessons” and “fewer flowers.” For uncountable nouns use “less” – say “less money” or “less time.”
Note however that you will use “less” and not “fewer” when reporting on a measurement, as the Oxford Dictionary says. Example: “They got divorced in less than 3 years after getting married.”
Think of a dangling modifier as a word without a root. It’s a word, phrase, or clause in a sentence, where it is not clear which other phrase or word in a sentence it is connected to. The noun can either be very far from the modifier or not present in the sentence at all. Consider the following sentence:
“Reading your complaint letter, my dog will not go outdoors unattended again.”
This sentence omits the noun altogether. For clarity, it should read:
“Reading your complain letter, I will not let my dog outdoors unattended again.”
This restores peace in your neighborhood and reassures your neighbor your dog doesn’t have a reading superpower. But if you learn to avoid these common mistakes, you’ll definitely be a super writer!
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