Clearing the Air of Errors in English



The adage is true when it comes to our language: Old habits really are hard to break. Notwithstanding classroom instruction, lifelong reminders, correction from others, and even GrammarBook newsletters, certain misuses of English survive like drug-resistant viruses.

Yet we grammarians and linguists march on. After all, even the Roman Empire had to give way—eventually. As long as we carry the torch for precise and eloquent English, we believe we can continue winning converts, perhaps even those whose armor has grown thickest.

When we write or speak, our minds come into view. The more we use and spread proper English, the greater impact and impression we leave, and the closer we bring one another to clear and concise communication. 

With input from multiple sources, we recently took inventory of errors in English that remain common in spite of many calls for correction, including appeals dating back decades. While not a comprehensive list, the following table includes mistakes that still appear often. By remaining alert to them, we can help to reduce their number.

Incorrect Correct
I could care less. I couldn’t care less.
Me and him (objective case) went out last night. He and I (subjective case) went out last night.
The message is for he and I (subjective case). The message is for him and me (objective case).
She honed in on the target. She homed in on the target.
If worse comes to worse, we’ll leave early. (or If worst comes to worst, we’ll leave early.) If worse comes to worst, we’ll leave early.
 
Chris must of left it at school. Chris must have left it at school.
I could of been a pro athlete. I could have been a pro athlete.
They gave the guest free reign over their house. They gave the guest free rein over their house.
The children were literally exploding with joy. The children were exploding with joy. (delete modifier)
Try and see it through her eyes. Try to see it through her eyes.
 
The smell of it makes me nauseous. The smell of it makes me nauseated.
The enormity of the building left them in awe. The enormousness of the building left them in awe.
The decision centered around Camille’s availability. The decision centered on Camille’s availability.
That meal looks healthy. That meal looks healthful.
It’s true—I seen it for myself! It’s true—I saw it for myself!
 
The quartet will discuss it between themselves. The quartet will discuss it among themselves.
They couldn’t take the discussion any farther. They couldn’t take the discussion any further.
First we need to assure that we can attend. First we need to ensure that we can attend.
Janice feels badly about missing the train. Janice feels bad about missing the train.
That cat is always chasing it’s tail. The cat is always chasing its tail.
 
We miss them alot. We miss them a lot.
Supposably, the car is at the shop. Supposedly, the car is at the shop.
The city issued less parking tickets this week. The city issued fewer parking tickets this week.
Your not serious, are you? You’re not serious, are you?
Just chock it up to experience. Just chalk it up to experience.
 
Lately Jules has been laying around all day. Lately Jules has been lying around all day.
The poor timing effected the outcome. The poor timing affected the outcome.
Jordan hasn’t seen them in awhile. Jordan hasn’t seen them in a while.
The Smith’s came over for dinner last night. The Smiths came over for dinner last night.
Eat more vegetables, i.e., carrots and celery. Eat more vegetables, e.g., carrots and celery.

If you would like more insight into some of these common mistakes, simply do a search of our English Rules and Grammar Blogs, which cover many of them.

If you know of frequent errors in English that don’t appear in this list, we welcome your thoughts and observations. They might be included in a future newsletter!

Pop Quiz

Using what you’ve reviewed in this article, choose the correct answers according to what you understand as proper English.

1. When you’re finished with it, you can return it to [she or I/her or me]. 

2. A rift has developed [among/between] the members of the board. 

3. I’ll accept no [less/fewer] than four of your marbles for my two. 

4. Let’s start getting ready, because the [Washingtons/Washingtons’] will be here at seven.

5. Jake hurt himself [bad/badly] when he fell off his bike.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. When you’re finished with it, you can return it to [her or me]. 

2. A rift has developed [among] the members of the board. 

3. I’ll accept no [fewer] than four of your marbles for my two. 

4. Let’s start getting ready, because the [Washingtons] will be here at seven.

5. Jake hurt himself [badly] when he fell off his bike.

Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, at 11:00 pm

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14 Comments on Clearing the Air of Errors in English

14 responses to “Clearing the Air of Errors in English”

  1. John C. says:

    Thank you once again. I really enjoy reading these newsletters. They have taught me more about English grammar than I ever learned at school or university, even though I am the author of a book written in English.

  2. Susan Culligan says:

    My two favorites grammar mistakes:

    The menu is comprised of many dishes. (incorrect)
    The menu comprises many dishes. (correct)

    They armed themselves with a myriad of fearsome weapons. (incorrect)
    They armed themselves with myriad fearsome weapons. (correct)

    • We appreciate hearing that someone other than us is irritated by the misuse of the word comprise. We discuss this further on our Confusing Words and Homonyms page. However, use of the word myriad as a noun (“…a myriad of fearsome weapons”) is acceptable. Thank you for raising this issue; we will revisit it in a future newsletter.

  3. Kris Gilbertson says:

    I am disappointed that you left “Most importantly, ….” off this list. It has become common usage and it sets my teeth on edge.

  4. Nancy E Williams says:

    Will you please address book titles? Is a book titled “XYZ” or entitled “XYZ”?

    • Either titled or entitled is an acceptable word in the sense of “give a title to.” Titled is more commonly used today, but entitled was the preferred term until recently. Therefore you may use either “We recommend the book titled The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation,” or “We recommend the book entitled The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation.”

  5. Tom Reese says:

    When did all right become one word, alright?

  6. Karen says:

    Thank you, to you and your team, for this information. I would love to improve my written and oral communication skills. I have The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation which helped a lot. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you

    • In addition to The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, we recommend reading through the many articles found under our Grammar Blog tab on our GrammarBook.com website. These articles are not contained in The Blue Book hard copy. Many other excellent grammar resources exist, but there are so many of them that we stop short of making any particular recommendations.

  7. Christie Dittmer says:

    This is very helpful. Thank you!
    I often hear people say, “based off” (or worse, “based off of”) rather than “based on.” I think this might now qualify as a common error.

  8. Peter Crockett says:

    “I could care less” I’ve understood to be the ironic form of “I couldn’t care less.” To me, it’s an abbreviation of “I could care less but I’d have to work at it.” We’re likely better off without either statement. Thanks for so many great articles.

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