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.
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!