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Common Grammar and Spelling Errors

Even with the use of spell check and sites like Grammarly, a lot of people struggle with grammar and spelling errors. Catching your own errors is difficult, and it’s easy for small mistakes to slip by, especially if you’re reviewing your own material.

So how do you prevent grammatical errors if you’re not even aware you’re making them?

That’s why I’ve written this post – to help you spot some of the most common grammar and spelling errors. Keep this in mind the next time you’re writing or editing content. Or bookmark this page and come back to it if you need a reminder.

Common Grammar Mistakes

Affect vs. Effect

Many people confuse them when they’re talking about something changing another thing.

That movie effected me greatly.

Effect, with an “e,” isn’t used as a verb the way “affect” is, so the sentence above is incorrect. When you’re talking about the change itself -- the noun -- you’ll use “effect.”

That movie had a great effect on me.

When you’re talking about the act of changing -- the verb -- you’ll use “affect.”

That movie affected me greatly.

“Alot” vs. A lot vs. Allot

This is a common mistake that I see a lot of people make (see what I did there? *grins*). The word “alot” is not actually a word. The correct spelling is “a lot” and the word “allot” refers to a situation where you’re setting aside something for a specific purpose.

Assure vs. Insure vs. Ensure

These words all have to do with “making an outcome sure,” which is why they’re so often mixed up. However, they aren’t interchangeable.

“To assure” means to promise or say with confidence. For example, “I assure you that I’ll have the money for you by Friday.”

“To ensure” means to make certain or to be sure. For example, “Please ensure you’re ready when I come to pick you up.”

Finally, “to insure” means to protect against risk by regularly paying an insurance company. For example, “I insure my car with XYZ company.”

Compliment vs. Complement

These two words are pronounced exactly the same, making them easy to mix up. But they’re actually quite different.

If something “complements” something else, that means it completes it, enhances it, or makes it perfect. For example, a wine selection can complement a meal, and two colors can complement each other.

The word “compliment” though, refers to an expression of praise (as a noun), or to praise or express admiration for someone (as a verb). You can compliment your friend’s new haircut.

i.e. vs. e.g.

Many people use these terms interchangeably when trying to elaborate a point, but each one means something different: “i.e.” roughly translates to “that is” or “in other words,” while “e.g.” means “for example” or “example given.” The former is used to clarify something you’ve said, while the latter adds colour to a story through an example.

Its vs. It’s

This one often confuses the best of writers. Normally, the ‘s indicates ownership/possessive form, but in this case, “It’s is a contraction of “It is” and “Its” is the possessive form.

Less vs. Fewer

You know the checkout aisle in the grocery store that says “10 Items or Less”? That’s actually incorrect. It should be “10 Items or Fewer.”

Why? Because “items” are quantifiable -- you can count out 10 items. Use “fewer” for things that are quantifiable, like “fewer grapes” or “fewer road trips.” Use “less” for things that aren’t quantifiable, like “less candy” and “less traveling.”

Lose vs. Loose

Mixing up “lose” and “loose” is a common error as they’re so similar in spelling. Often, it’s a simple typo, but it’s a good idea to keep the definitions of each word in mind as they mean completely different things.

The word “lose” is a verb that means “to be unable to find (something or someone), to fail to win (a game, contest, etc.), or to fail to keep or hold (something wanted or valued).” It’s like losing your keys or losing a baseball game.

“Loose” is an adjective that means “not tightly fastened, attached, or held,” like loose clothing or a loose tooth.

Peek vs. Peak vs. Pique

The spelling of these words often trip people up, even if people know the meaning of each.

Peek is taking a quick look at something -- like a quick peek to see if Santa has come.

Peak is a sharp point -- like the peak of a mountain.

And pique means to provoke or instigate -- you know, when something piques your interest.

They’re vs. Their vs. There

“There” is a contraction for “they are.”

“Their” refers to something owned by a group

Example: They’re going to love that new restaurant. I love going there for pasta. Their lasagna is the best!

To vs. Too

It’s a common mistake to write “to” instead of “too” when we are texting or typing in a hurry, even if we know the difference between the two words. But in case the difference isn’t clear, here are some rules for using these two words.

“To” is typically used before a noun or verb, and describes a destination, recipient, or action. Take these examples:

My aunt drove me to the dentist. (Destination)

I sent flowers to my grandmother. (Recipient)

I’m going to dye my hair purple this weekend. (Action)

“Too,” on the other hand, is a word that’s used as an alternative to “also” or “as well.” It’s also used to describe an adjective in extremes, such as:

My sister, Jenny, works for herself too.

He, too, is going on to join a virtual marathon.

We both think Ottawa is too cold during the winter.

Your vs. You’re

“Your” is possessive and “you’re” is a contraction of “you are.” The first relates to owning something versus actually being something:

You need to watch the time. You’re going to be late. (contraction)

How’s your new car working out? (possessive)

See the difference?

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