10 Common Spelling and Grammar Mistakes to avoid in your writing

03/23/2021

Overview

Accurate spelling and the correct use of grammar and vocabulary is very important when you are writing – whether it’s an email, a report or a power point presentation. Some words in English sound the same (called ‘homophones’) but are spelled differently – and more importantly, have different meanings. Some words come from the same word ‘family’, but sometimes verb and noun forms can be used incorrectly.

Here are 10 very common spelling and grammar/vocabulary mistakes that can make the difference to writing a grammatically accurate and clear, un-confusing text.

1) It’s vs Its /ɪts/

It’s is the contracted form of two words – it is the subject pronoun followed by ‘s – is

For example: It’s (it is) Friday today

Its is a possessive pronoun. For example: Its my book (- the book belongs to me)

2) They’re vs Their /ðɛər/

They’re is the contracted form of two words – they is the subject pronoun followed by ‘reare

For example: They’re (they are) waiting in the reception area.

Their is a possessive pronoun. For example: This is their house (– the house belongs to them)

3) You’re vs Your /yʊər/

You’re is the contracted form of two words – you is the subject pronoun followed by ‘reare

For example: You’re (you are) having an online meeting in a few minutes

Your is a possessive pronoun. For example: This is your coffee (- the coffee belongs to you)

4) To vs Too

To is a preposition or adverb with a variety of functions but usually to express movement or direction, or as part of an infinitive verb. For example: I went to the house (movement). From top to bottom (direction). He wanted to open a bank account (part of infinitive verb)

Too is an adverb with a variety of functions but usually to express addition or to modify an adjective to show excess. For example: You come from Spain – I come from Spain too (addition). The key is too big for the lock (excess + size adjective)

5) Who’s vs Whose /huz/

Who’s is the contracted form of two words – who – a pronoun referring to a person, followed by sis

For example: Who’s (who is) the man over there? I don’t recognise him.

Whose is the possessive case, referring to what belongs to someone. For example: The people whose jobs were affected have received a settlement from the company.

6) Then /ðɛn/ vs Than /ðæn/

Then is an adverb used to express a sequence of time or actions. It is also a noun to show a particular time. For example: She read the email, then wrote a reply (sequence). I used to ski when I was young – I lived in Canada then (at ‘that’ time).

Than is a conjunction with a variety of functions but usually to express a comparison or a contrast (like ‘but’) For example: You are taller than me (comparison). They had no choice other than to agree to the terms (contrast).

7) Affect /æf ɛkt/ vs Effect /ɪˈfɛkt/

Affect is a verb used to express how one thing acts on another thing to create a change or impression. For example: The sunny weather really affects our mood.

Effect is a noun with a variety of related meanings usually used to express the result of one thing’s force or influence on another thing. For example: The effect on her emotions was very clear when we told her the news.

8) Choose /tʃuz/ vs Choice /tʃɔɪs/

Choose is a verb used to express how we select what we prefer between two or more options or express a desire to do something. For example: Please choose from the following list of items (select a preference). I choose to live in the countryside (a desire).

Choice is a noun used to show our preferred selection or even lack of option. For example: It was my choice to work in the Public Sector even if the salary is not so high (preference). They had no choice but to turn back.

9) Lose /luz/ vs Loose /lus/

Lose is a verb used to express the loss of something we own, have, or look after.  It also expresses defeat in a competitive situation or battle. For example: Be careful playing the stock market, you could lose all your money (loss of something we have). We lost the contract to the other company (defeat).

Loose is an adjective which describes when something is not tight around another thing, or is unrestrained, not contained in any way. For example: She had lost a lot of weight so her clothes were very loose on her body (not tight). There was a hole in the fence and the horses had got loose into the next field (unrestrained, not contained).

10) Advise /ædˈvaɪz/ vs Advice /ædˈvaɪs/

Advise is a verb used to express how we offer an opinion or suggestion which we think is valid or useful. For example: The doctor advised him to rest for a few days and take some painkillers.

Advice is a noun referring to an opinion or recommendation that is offered to help or inform others. For example: If you want my advice, take the offer (opinion), We should follow the latest advice on travelling by air (recommendation, information).

Related resources

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