10 Common Writing Mistakes

Some of this information is adapted from an article run on zdnet.co.uk on 6 June 2006.

As you know, your papers are graded partially taking grammar, spelling, and punctuation into account. Running the spelling and grammar check functions of your word processing software will catch many errors, but it will not catch them all. For instance, Word will not tell you when you've chose the wrong word - it will only tell you if your chosen word is misspelled.

Examine the 10 examples below to help avoid some very common mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

#1: Loose for lose
Loose means not tight; lose is what you do when you misplace your keys.
No: I always loose the books I need.
Yes: I always lose the books I need.

No: My shoelaces are lose.
Yes: My shoelaces are loose.
 
#2: It's for its (or even its')
It's is a contraction of it is; its is the possessive form of it.
No: Download the syllabus, along with it's info on the paper.
Yes: Download the syllabus, along with its info on the paper.

No: The classroom is hot and its stuffy as well.
Yes: The classroom is hot and it's stuffy as well.
 
#3: They're for their for there
They're is a contraction of they are; their is the possesive of they. There is the opposite of here.
No: The students are taking they're biweekly exam.
Yes: The students are taking their biweekly exam.

No: They have to turn off there cell phones at the door, and their not happy about it.
Yes: They have to turn off their cell phones at the door, and they're not happy about it.

Note: You can often avoid errors #2 and #3 by eliminating contractions from your academic writing. They are often not needed anyway.
 
#4: i.e. for e.g.
I.e. is Latin for that is; e.g. is Latin for for example.
No: Use a study aid of some kind (i.e., the Study Guides).
Yes: Use a study aid of some kind (e.g., the Study Guides).

Note: The easiest way to avoid this mistake is not to use abbreviations for Latin terms for which you don't understand the meaning or usage.
 
#5: Effect for affect
Affect is a verb; effect is not.
No: The power outage shouldn't effect any students during class times.
Yes: The power outage shouldn't affect any students during during class times.
Yes: The power outage shouldn't have any effect on students.
Yes: We will effect several grid changes while the power is out.

Note: Impact is not a verb. Purists, at least, beg you to use affect instead:

No: The power outage shouldn't impact any students during class times.
Yes: The power outage shouldn't affect any students during class times.
Yes: The power outage should have no impact on students during class times.
 
#6: You're for your
You're is the contraction of you are; your is the possesive of you.
No: Remember to read you're text on a regular basis.
Yes: Remember to read your text on a regular basis.

No: Your right about the changes.
Yes: You're right about the changes.
 
#7: Different than for different from
No: This setup is different than the one in the other building.
Yes: This setup is different from the one in the other building.
Yes: This setup is better than the one in the other building.
 
#8 Lay for lie
Lay is what a person does; lie is what a person does with or to something else.
No: I got dizzy and had to lay down.
Yes: I got dizzy and had to lie down.
Yes: Just lay those books over there.
 
#9: Then for than
No: The US history class had more problems then we did.
Yes: The US history class had more problems than we did.

Note: When a sentence begins with If, you don't need a then. Then is implicit, so it's superfluous and wordy:

No: If you can't get into the classroom, then you'll need to call Ted.
Yes: If you can't get into the classroom, you'll need to call Ted.
 
#10: Could of, would of for could have, would have
No: I could of forgotten my notes by mistake.
Yes: I could have forgotten my notes by mistake.

No: I would of sent you an e-mail, but you were out of town.
Yes: I would have sent you an e-mail, but you were out of town.