Common writing boo-boos

Hi, kids!

OMG before I get into some really common spelling/grammar boo-boos, I simply must share with you my latest snack craze. Holy cow, these things are good:


source: Blue Diamond (re-sized here)

Serious yum-yum.

Anyway. Where were we? OH! I’m going to list a few of the most common boo-boos I see in writing. Care to see? Well, carry on!

First, let’s start with apostrophes. You use these to indicate that you’re combining two things or to show possession. Let’s deal with the combining thing. The apostrophe takes the place of a letter or two:

it + is = it’s
It’s a fine day for a stroll through the cemetery, isn’t it, Vlad?
it + has = it’s
It’s got the potential to turn ugly real fast if you don’t turn that truck around and head back to Idaho.

he + is = he’s
He’s going to be pissed when he finds out we’re borrowing his zombie-proof van, dude.

she + is = she’s
She’s kind of nice, but that whole undead thing leaves a weird smell in the air.

you + are = you’re
You’re seriously going to the party dressed as a vampire again? Really? Hey, what are you doing? Wha—AAAAAHHHHH!

they + are = they’re
They’re running out of ammo, bro. Soon we’ll be able to launch an attack.

we + are = we’re
We’re going to party like it’s 1999.

let + us = let’s
Let’s go! The horde is gaining on us!

that + is = that’s
That’s a fine thing to tell me on a full moon.

you + all = y’all (NOT ya’ll)
Hey, have y’all seen my chainsaw?

You see how the apostrophe is a little placeholder for a letter or two so that you can join them together?

Now let’s (see? let’s!) check out the “s” ending and make things possessive.

it + s = its
The beast snarled and launched itself at its prey.
Do you see the difference? If you had used “it’s” there, the beast would have been launching itself at “it is” prey. That’s how you can check that kind of thing.

your + s = yours
No, I’m pretty sure this M-16 is yours. Mine is over there.
Hint: Yours NEVER takes an apostrophe.

her + s = hers
I totally wouldn’t mess with that sword. It’s hers.
Did you catch the use of “it’s” in there, too? Bust it up, and you get: It is hers. That’s how you can tell if you need an apostrophe or not.

All right. These get misused quite a bit, too:
their, there, they’re

“Their” is a possessive form of “they.”
Their death-ray doesn’t work as well as advertised.

“There” can function as an adverb in which it denotes place or location or it functions as a pronoun to introduce a sentence or clause. In that situation, the verb doesn’t have a subject or complement. Anyway.
Adverb: Put the body over there, Igor.
Pronoun: There isn’t any hope since the apocalypse started.

“They’re,” as we’ve seen above, is they + are. (did you catch the other one? “We’ve”? No, that’s not a hair we’ve. That’s “we’ve”: we + have = we’ve)

And something I see way often these days is confusing “lose” with “loose.”
“Lose” is a verb. “Loose” is an adjective, though it can function as a verb, in the sense that you are “loosening” something.
If you lose your gun, we’re seriously screwed.
vs.
These pants are way too loose on me. I could practically put a grenade launcher down the leg.
vs.
You dare to challenge me, Mordigan the Magnificent? I’ll loose the hounds of hell upon you!

Do you see the difference? You LOSE a game. You LOSE your keys. You don’t LOOSE them unless you’re trying to sound archaic and you take them off the keyring so they can run away and be free.

Want more on apostrophes? Grammar Girl can save you.
Here.

And I’ll leave you with this awesomely handy guide to common spelling mistakes by The Oatmeal, which should be a poster on every wall in your house. (hint: it is available for purchase)

7 thoughts on “Common writing boo-boos

  1. Pingback: Writing boo-boos « Women and Words

  2. Thank you, Andi! Thought I was the only member of the Grammar Police on patrol out here. I swear there are days I threaten to start reading with a red marking pen in hand! Another one that drives me insane is the use of “try and” vs. “try to”, for example: I’m going to try TO take a nap, not I’m going to try AND take a nap. Thanks for helping to patrol the mean streets of Grammarville. 🙂

  3. Haha. This is a true greatest-hits list of grammar glitches. You must cringe reading the comments after a Yahoo! news article.

    Do you ever yell at TV commercials for the mangled syntax and nonsensical adjectives? I do.

    • Hi, Eric. I try not to cringe, but it does prove disheartening. Some of the stuff is typos, but some of it…sigh. And yes, I do correct the TV, too. Is there help for us? 😀

  4. Great post! I have to say that I’m guilty of a few of these when I’m in a hurry. Now, if I could just get “that”” and “who” down, I’d be good.

  5. Great post, Andi. I, too, am a member of the Grammar Police and I have to bite my tongue from correcting people all the time. Incorrect grammar drives me nuts and I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone gets it. Just like I don’t get math. I mean, I know that 2+ 2 = 6, but that’s about it. However, I expect more from writers.

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