Top Eight Grammar Mistakes

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Sad but true fact: people judge you when you use poor grammar. I am one of them. Your writing is often one of the first things people see, whether it’s in an email, cover letter, resume, or even just a Facebook status. We all learned these rules in school, and if you didn’t get them then, or if you’re rusty, there’s still time.

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Let’s clear up the confusion, shall we?

1.) Should of, would of, could of

NO SUCH ANIMAL! You are hearing the sound “of” made by should’ve (should have), would’ve (would have), or could’ve (could have).

Examples: I would’ve brought you some Talenti gelato if I’d known you wanted some.

She should’ve told me she wasn’t coming.

2.) To, too, and two

To is a preposition, too means  “also,” or “in addition to,” and two is a number.

Examples: Let’s take the kids to the park this afternoon.

I have brown eyes, too.

He ate two pieces of pepperoni pizza.

3.) His, hers, its, theirs 

Possessive pronouns! No apostrophe required. Have you ever seen “her’s” used? I know, it’s shocking and disturbing.

Examples: His hat was green.

I think that scarf is hers.

The owl’s wing broke, so it lost its ability to fly (assuming you cannot determine the owl’s gender — I cannot!).

That’s not our car, it’s theirs.  <– bonus: it’s = it is!

4.) Their, there, they’re

Three completely different words with different meanings. Their is possessive, there is a place, and they’re means “they are.”

Examples: We went to their house for dinner.

I think he saw your book over there.

They’re going to the football game tomorrow.

5.) Effect & affect

Effect is a noun. Affect is a verb. It’s that simple (99% of the time).

Examples: Nausea is one of the side effects of that medication.

The documentary Food, Inc.” really affected me.

6.) Loose vs. lose (kudos to my friend Travis Sloat for this one!)

Two completely different words with entirely different meanings. If you can’t remember them, memorize them!

Examples: Your pants become loose when you go on a diet.

If you lose your wallet, you’re in big trouble.

7.) Fewer and less

If you can quantify (count) it, use fewer. If you can’t, use less.

Examples: I ate fewer cookies today than I did yesterday.

I used less sugar in my coffee today.

8.) Who and Whom

If it refers to the subject of the sentence or phrase, use who. If it refers to the object, use whom. An easy way to remember it is that both him and whom end in “m.” So if the answer to your question is him, use whom. If it’s he? Go with who. Or ask yourself “Who did what to whom?”

Examples: Who fed the dog a candy bar? (you’re looking for the subject here)

(everyone should know this one) To whom it may concern:


What would you add to this list? What are your grammar pet peeves? Leave them in the comments!

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  • Brigid

    My two big pet peeves are “People that ….” It’s “People who…” and “Things that…” I also would love for the world to know the difference between “eager” and “anxious.” :)

    • Leslie

      YES!!! Who vs. that is a huge one for me. As an editor, I see that mistake all the time. The one that makes me twitch though is your/you’re. Great post Erin!

    • Erin Margolin


      So funny because I AM ANXIOUS! I suffer from anxiety, so I’m anxious all the time… I never thought about people swapping that with “eager,” but I’ll be paying more attention now. And yes to people & things — great addition!

  • Kim

    “Your” and “you’re” or “then” and “than.” Oh lawdy those are my two biggest pet peeves when it comes to grammar.

    • Erin Margolin


      Yes! But I was trying to keep the post shorter so that people would read it (seems like people are more inclined to read if you’re brief & concise). I will definitely put in a section later, “Edited to add….” and include some of these suggestions. So many to choose from…LOL!

  • Lisette Brodey

    “I could care less” drives me nuts.
    “Using lay when one should use lie” makes me crazy, too.
    Using less instead of fewer is a major peeve. I’m so glad you included that one.
    And along those same lines, using amount instead of number is every bit as bad. If’s it’s countable, use number. NUMBER of people; AMOUNT of pollution.

    My grammar is far from perfect, though. But I try.

    • Erin Margolin


      My grammar isn’t perfect, either. I should’ve said that in the intro here. I definitely don’t want people thinking I’m Miss Grammar Expert! I just conveniently left out the ones that trip me up, i.e. lay/lie. Must work on that one! Thanks so much for reading!

  • Terri Sonoda

    Yes, yes, and yes. I concur. Thank you very much for this post. Rinse and repeat. LOL

    • Erin Margolin


      Rinse and repeat for sure! Hoping some people who need to will actually read this post. Ha ha! 😉

  • Kerstin Auer

    I think I’m safe with the ones you mentioned, it’s really a pet peeve of mine.
    I always make an effort to use proper grammar – English is not my maternal language and I’m always worried I sound like a dipshit.

    • Erin Margolin


      I don’t think you’ve EVER sounded like a dipshit, you’re too hard on yourself! Besides, this post wasn’t directed at those whose native tongue is something other than English! And for the record, I’ve heard English is one of the hardest languages to learn. xoxo

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  • Alison

    Oh honey, I see these all the time, and it drives me crazy!
    Faze – not phase
    You’re vs your
    Then vs than

    Thank you for this!

    • Erin Margolin


      I will definitely add you’re/your! It was so difficult to whittle this down. I think people gravitate towards shorter posts and I worried if this was too long, it wouldn’t pass the test! Thanks for reading & sharing!

  • My inner Chick

    **Affect & Effect.** I usually change my words so I don’t need to use these assholes!
    As for the rest, I’m sure I’ve messed up, too, but I’m still sleeping soundly. Xx

    • Erin Margolin

      Inner Chick,

      There are certainly some grammar rules I have’t mastered, so I just look them up when necessary. No one’s perfect! We all mess up sometimes, there’s no shame in making mistakes! It’s when people make the same ones over and over and don’t seem interested in learning the proper way…. that it becomes a problem. It’s just sad that so many of us can’t master the intricacies of our native tongue. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

  • Adrienne Bolton

    Great list, Erin! I make grammar mistakes all the time. Certainly, not perfect! But, some of these are major peeves.

    • Guest

      See? I told you. It’s just like me to comment on a post about grammar with a glaring typo. GREAT list!

  • Mary

    Great list. What are the rules for “me” or “I” at the end of a sentence?

    Sally is going to dinner with Sue and “me”. I believe I just use the term that I would use if Sally were not going when it’s at the end of the sentence?

    Sue and I are going to dinner with Sally.

    John and I went tp the game. He went to the game with John and “I”? or He went to the game with John and “me”?

    • Erin Margolin


      You would use “me” if it’s the object of the verb, normally near the end of the sentence. So yes, “Sally is going to dinner with Sue and me.” and yes, conversely, “Sue and I are going to dinner with Sally.” It starts off “Sue and I” there because it’s the subject of the sentence, which calls for “I” rather than “me.” Lastly, you’d write, “He went to the game with John and me,” again because it’s at the end of the sentence and is the object of the verb. He is the subject of that sentence. Does this make sense? Thanks so much for reading!!

  • Jennifer Ball

    Augh…lie and lay trip me up ALL THE TIME! To the point that I look for synonyms. “I sprawled across the bed.” Someone once used the Eric Clapton song “Lay Down Sally” to make it easier to remember the correct word to use but of course I can’t remember it. What a fun list. “Seen” drives me batty but that one seems to vary according to where you live.

    • JenPiwtpitt

      I try to never use lie or lay too, Jennifer. I can’t get those straight. My readers are always scolding me about using I and me the wrong ways too.

      • Erin Margolin

        @jennifer_ball:disqus & @JenPiwtpitt:disqus I avoid lie/lay like the plague for the same reason. I’m pretty sure you say, “I’m going to lie down to take a nap,” or “I laid your clean clothes on the dresser.” And then a chicken lays eggs. Right? What’s this seen business about? Are you referring to Southern folks (not including myself) who say, “I seen Joey the other day and he looked like Hell.”

  • Andrea

    I think twice when using all of these, and I have Googled who and whom more times than I’d like to admit. Thank you for clearing up the less/fewer thing for me (hangs head for not realizing it was an issue). I know some friends who will love this article!

    • Erin Margolin


      Believe me, I’m not immune to all grammar errors. I just happened to write a list of the ones that bug me the most b/c I know and remember them well. Did you notice I conveniently left off lie/lay? Snorting. LOVE YOU!!! xo

  • aninchofgray

    I am annoyed when people use “I” when they should use “me.” I is a subject and me is an object. I hear a lot of:
    “Give the books to Cheryl or I.” Nope. Instead, say, “Give the books to Cheryl or me.” To see if you are saying it correctly, just get rid of the other person in the sentence it will be pretty clear. For example, get rid of Cheryl and you would have, “Give the books to I.” Does that sound correct? Nope. Then you’ll know to use ME. Just an easy way to check. Also, sometimes people get flustered by this whole thing and resort to saying, “Give the books to Cheryl or myself.” Sigh.

    • Julie Gardner

      I was just having this conversation with both my sister and a friend who is an English teacher. I’ve heard this mistake for most of my life (45 years, baby!) but there seems to have been a cosmic shift in the grammar-sphere lately – almost everyone has begun to use these pronouns incorrectly. Intelligent, educated people. I think they are afraid that “me” sounds wrong and therefore leap to use “I” or “myself” because it’s awkward to stop and think about the correct choice (assuming it’s not instinctive). I’ve noticed the misuse on a much more frequent basis these days so thank you for pointing it out. Proper pronoun usage FOREVER!

    • Erin Margolin


      I KNOW!!! I correct my kids a lot, but I think my expectations are still a bit too high for them right now. I’m relieved to say I haven’t heard people reverting to “myself” when in doubt, but that’s just as bad. I just want to know where all these people were when we were in elementary school? It boggles my mind.

  • Deborah

    LOL! I Love this list. The funny thing is I know that I have probably been an offender but my day job for the past 6 years was to be the grammar police…literally. I was editing college papers and tutoring in English so shhhh, don’t tell anyone about my grammar offenses on my blog:)LOL

  • Jennifer P. Williams

    If only the people that really needed these lessons would read them and remember them. Lose/Loose drives me bananas.

    • Erin Margolin


      I know, it’s sad. Most of the commenters here are like us– the grammar police. Which means that the others aren’t reading it and/or are rolling their eyes in disgust. Oh well. I tried?! xo

  • Ally

    Great list. You nailed the biggies. My SIL uses “should of” in emails and I nearly have a seizure every time I see it. Loose/lose – is another. That said, I know I’m probably guilty of some, okay maybe more than some, grammar errors. I still have to refresh myself on lie/lay and who/whom. And sometimes my mind goes faster than my fingers when typing and I see a stupid mistake I made after the fact and that makes me nuts. I have a FB friend just does not get I/me in sentences and when labeling her pictures (“This is a picture of Jane and I”) Then/than is another…

  • Julie Gardner

    As an English teacher, I know no one is immune to grammar mistakes. Even I make them (blush). When we speak, our tongues sometimes work faster than our brains and that’s understandable; but if someone is writing, HE OR SHE (not they) should look up the correct usage whenever there is doubt. Great post, Erin. I love the who/whom tip – an easy way to teach the difference!

    • Erin Margolin


      I totally should have prefaced this by saying that I make grammar mistakes, too. It’s just that I happened to post about the ones I remember and get right! I left out lie/lay for a reason (LOL!), and yes, when I’m speaking or typing too fast I mess up as well. I could write a new/follow up post about the grammar mistakes I make ALL THE TIME! 😉

      • Julie Gardner

        I led with that in my comment because I was convinced I’d make some major error when I complimented you on the who/whom tip – ha! It’s always after I hit “publish” that I notice the typo in what I wrote…

      • Julie Gardner

        I just re-read my original comment here and realized that it might sound like I was scolding you for the post because I wrote the HE OR SHE in all-caps – like it’s up to the individual to judge his or her grammar, not other people. That was the opposite of my intention – I was trying to be funny (lamely) and slip in one of my OWN grammar pet peeves when people use THEY instead of the singular HE OR SHE. That one drives me crazy but it’s pervasive. I’m so sorry if I left you thinking I was judging your grammar tips. I SO WAS NOT. Love you and your post :-)

  • Ron Wheeler

    “To” vs “Too” drives me crazy. I understand typos (and I’m fluent in Typo), but not understanding the difference?…grrrr. I occasionally still review “affect” vs “effect”. Your examples will help me.

    • Erin Margolin

      Thanks, Ron! Yes, I’m with you on this. I make typos frequently myself, we all do. It just troubles me that I see so many people who are old enough to learn and know the difference. My second graders have an excuse for a little bit longer (LOL), but… adults who have an education? Come on!

  • sellabitmum

    Lay/lie gets me every time. So I don’t even use those words anymore. Ha!

    • Erin Margolin


      It’s not just you! I avoid lay/lie like the plague. Some days I think I lay down to take a nap, and other days I’m convinced I lie down to take a nap. Either way?? I NEED A NAP. xoxo

  • Kim@Co-Pilot Mom

    Possessive pronoun apostrophes – or using an apostrophe when pluralizing – makes me twitch.

    • Erin Margolin


      Then we are sisters by another mister! I see that all the time, and while we both know there are a few exceptions to that, it makes my blood pressure go through the roof. Sheesh, maybe I need a pill for that! xoxo

  • Elaine A.

    Mine latest one is “you’re” and “your”. People tend to mess that one up a lot. :)

    I will admit, I struggle with #5! Always have. But you made it more clear than any of my English teachers ever did! Way to simplify things for us! Thanks, girl!

    • Erin Margolin


      Definitely! I meant to edit this post and include that one b/c so many people wrote me back about it. And no worries— I should’ve also prefaced this post by saying that I make grammar errors, too (notice I didn’t include lay/lie on this list!). Hopefully I didn’t come across as a giant bitch, I just thought it would make for a popular and informative post… xo

  • Melanie

    I love these! Some of these grammar mistakes just drive me nuts! My sister and I argue that “your” and “you’re” are even pronounced differently (although only slightly.) Fun read!

    • Erin Margolin


      Thanks so much! I agree with the pronunciation part, although that may be because I was born & raised in New Orleans.. so when I say “your,” it generally comes out sounding more like, “yer.” LOL!!

  • Roxanne Piskel

    Than vs Then also bugs me. I have so many grammar pet peeves. I know people get annoyed with my constant Facebook posts about CORRECT GRAMMAR, but I wouldn’t have to do it so much if they would FIGURE IT OUT.

  • Amber

    I admit, I mess up some of these. I know the basic ones. Like the your and you’re. It irks me when people write your welcome. It happens all the time on Facebook. I sometimes write *you’re under the comment. Some people think I’m being snotty and I’m not. I just want the people to know it’s YOU’RE welcome. And the there, their, and they’re mistakes bother me too.

    • Erin Margolin


      Is it terrible that every time I see “your welcome” on Facebook, I want to unfriend someone? LOL! Needless to say I can relate to your wanting to correct it in the comments. I have to stop myself sometimes because I don’t want to be bitchy. 😉 #grammarnerdsunite

  • Galit Breen

    Ugh. These are good ones. Thanks for the cheat-sheet, sister!

    • Erin Margolin

      Thanks, Galit! Although I made sure to leave off the grammar rules I still struggle with (lay vs. lie being # 1!). xoxo

  • nancyseeger

    Wonderful article Erin! Unfortunately I struggle with problem #2 with usage of too.

    • Erin Margolin

      Thanks, Nancy! There are a few I still struggle with as well. You’ll notice I didn’t list “lay vs. lie.” Because I CANNOT KEEP IT STRAIGHT! LOL. Oh, and I need to email you about a few more blog questions I have. Which while surely demonstrate that while I might know my grammar? I don’t know squat about blogging/html/site set up. Thank goodness for you! xo

  • Lady Jennie

    Great list Erin. I don’t consciously make any of these mistakes. In other words, if I make them, it’s because I’m typing fast and not because I don’t know the correct word. However, I can’t speak for ALL things grammar. I’m still learning.

    • Erin Margolin


      Oh girl, I know what you mean. I make mistakes, too. And notice all the grammar rules I left out of this post?? Those would be the ones I still mess up (i.e. lay/lie). I don’t have perfect grammar either, and I make mistakes when I’m in a hurry as well. 😉 xo

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