Whether you're in middle school, college, the workforce or just wanting to brush up on your skills, these are things you need to know. These 11 easy fixes can be the key to your success!
1. Your vs. You're
If you take anything from this article make it this: "your" shows possession of an object; "you're" is the contraction of the words "you" and "are." The two are not interchangeable!
Here is your pen. vs. You're very handsome.
2. Putting punctuation on the outside of your quotation marks
When writing something in quotation marks the punctuation goes on the inside of the quote. This is mostly for informal writing (like a personal narrative or a fictional piece). This rule can change when you write in formats like MLA, APA, or Chicago.
She screamed, "You must use proper grammar!"
3. There vs. Their vs. They're
I get it. Even though we learned about homophones in elementary school they can get a little jumbled up in our minds. "There" refers to the physical position of an object. "Their" infers that someone has possession of the object in reference. "They're" is the contraction of the words "they" and "are."
The book is right there. vs. That is their car. vs. They're coming home tomorrow.
4. I vs. Me
This one is SUPER confusing when you explain it technically, so I'll just give you the gist. Remove the other person or people out of the sentence and see how you would say the sentence if you were the only person doing the action. For example, if you drove to work you would say, "I went to work." If you went to work with your brother you would say, "My brother and I went to work." Alternatively, if you showed someone a photo of yourself you would say, "This is a photo of me." If the photo was of you and your roommate you would say, "This is a photo of me and my roommate."
My dad and I saw the new Star Wars movie together. vs. Do you want to come to Sonic with me, Preet, and Drake?
5. Two vs. Too vs. To
Again with the homophones! Here's a little refresher on these: "two" is the number 2, "too" means "also," and "to" gives reference to a position.
There are two high schools in this town. vs. I love pineapple on my pizza too! vs. Let's go to the beach tomorrow.
6. It's "could've," NOT "could of"
This has to be one of my biggest pet peeves. The word "could've" is a contraction of the words "could" and "have." The phrase "could of" has absolutely no proper linguistic meaning. Don't EVER write "could of." It doesn't make sense!
I'm glad I read that article about grammar, I could've made a huge mistake in that final draft of my essay! Thank God I didn't write "could of" again.
7. It's vs. Its
This may be the hardest rule to keep straight in your mind, mostly because it doesn't make much sense. Simply, "it's" is either the contraction of the words "it" and "is" or "it" and "has," while "its" implies possession to the object that is "it."
It's going to snow tomorrow! vs. The university lost all credibility after its latest scandal.
8. Affect vs. Effect
To make this simple, the "affect" is the action, which is almost always the verb. This is easy to remember because "affect" and "action" both start with the letter A, a verb is an action, therefore an affect is a verb. The "effect" is the consequence, which is almost always a noun.
Thousands of people were affected by the snowstorm. vs. Be careful, this medicine has many side effects.
9. Double Negatives
A double negative occurs when two words are used that negate each other in a sentence. Sometimes these can be used on purpose in informal writing to make a point. For example, "He is not unattractive" implies that he is attractive and the person saying this is making this implication purposely. However, this is not always the case. The sentence, "She didn't see nothing" implies that she did see something because the words "didn't" and "nothing" negate each other, or cancel each other out.
Correct: I don't know anything about spaceships. Incorrect: I don't know nothing about spaceships.
10. Then vs. Than
Although this may be the rule that most people seem to forget, it's really simple. "Then" references a time that something is done. "Than" is used to compare one thing to another.
I got home, then I made dinner. vs. This is easier than anything I've ever done before!
11. Who vs. Whom
Use "who" when referring to the subject of a sentence. Use "whom" when referring to the object on a sentence. This may easily be the hardest rule to keep straight in your mind, but I'll give you a trick: use the He/Him method. If you can replace the word or answer the question with "he," use "who." If you can replace the word or answer the question with "him," use "whom."
Who baked this cake? (He baked this cake.) vs. Whom should I listen to? (You should listen to him.)
Now you know! This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to common grammatical errors, and everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Be conscious of what you write and always double check your work. If it sounds wrong it probably is and remember that writing is creative! If you're writing informally, any rule can be broken to fit a character or voice that you are trying to create, but stick to the rules when you write formally! Information on grammar rules is infinite online, and if you're really struggling, just find an English major to help you out.