Common English Mistakes

  • Whet your appetite, not wet your appetite
  • Ad nauseam, not ad nauseum
  • Johns Hopkins, not John Hopkins
  • AFFECT vs. EFFECT

  • Affect, n: Outward display of mood. He had a depressive affect, what with the long face and the tears
    Effect, n: The result of something. Sex has a beneficial effect on my mood
    Affect, v: Alter; cause change. Sex affects my mood in a positive way
    Effect, v: Cause; create; result in. Will the president's new policies actually effect a change in the tone in Washington, or will it just be more of the same?
  • YOU’RE and YOUR

  • If you have no idea when to use which … well, you’re not on your own. This is perhaps the most common mistake of all. Heaven knows why. The distinction is really quite simple:

    You’re is used to substitute the words “you are.”
    Your is a word you use when referring to something that belongs to the person you’re speaking to. “Your purse,” “your coat,” and so on—and not “Your late!” or “Your wrong!”

  • IT’S and ITS

  • Close cousins of you’re and your, it’s and its suffer about the same amount of misuse.
    It’s (with an apostrophe) replaces “It is” or “It has.” (It’s easy to remember!)
    Its (with no apostrophe) refers to something that belongs to “it.” (Its meaning is clear!)
  • THEY’RE, THEIR, and THERE

  • Ah, the triple treat … or terror, as the case may be.
    They’re is short for “They are.”
    Their refers to something that belongs to “them.”
    And there is simply “not here.”
    “They’re going to their house, which is over there.”
  • TO and TOO

  • When you mean “overly,” please remember to add the extra O—or face the consequences. I once received a heated text message that was meant to make me angry: “TO BAD!” it shouted in loud, aggressive capitals. I ended up in uncontrollable giggles instead. Too bad indeed.
  • LOOSE and LOSE

  • This one really drives me batty. And when I lose my mind, I often let loose a string of expletives. When what you want to say is the opposite of find, then lose the extra O. Loose (with two o’s) is the opposite of tight.
  • IRREGARDLESS

  • Hundreds of people use this word (often with passion!), both in speech and writing, everyday—but the truth is, it doesn’t exist! The real word is regardless.
  • ALOT

  • Anyone who insists this is a word is spouting ALOT of baloney. If you’ve ever written this non-word, what you probably meant was either a lot (meaning “many”) or allot (to ration or allocate).
  • AHOLD

  • Boy, would I love to get a hold (two words, not one) of the person who decided to just forget the space and make up “ahold new word.”