11 Grammar Mistakes Even Professional Writers Make


Even the pros make mistakes. As iron sharpens iron, let's hone our grammatical skills together by brushing up on the correct use of these common errors. 

1. A lot vs. Alot vs. Allot

  • A lot = a large quantity, or very much (e.g., I ran a lot of miles today or I like puppies a lot.)
  • Alot is nothing. It's a frequent typo/error people make when they should type "a lot"
  • Allot = to give or apportion something, to dedicate or set aside (e.g., She allots 10% of her income to donate to her local church as a tithe.)

2. Used to vs. Use to

  • Used to (adj) = accustomed to (e.g., She wasn't used to all of the attention)
  • Used to, use to (v) = something that happened previously but doesn't anymore
    • When deciding whether there needs to be a D at the end, imagine it's a different verb: (e.g., I searched through all the boxes shoes. I didn't search for any handbags.) Notice how the negative "didn't" turns search into present tense. 
    • Let's look at that same format with Use (e.g., I used to run the 4x400m relay. I didn't use to run the 100m dash.)

3. i.e. vs. e.g.

  • i.e. = in other words (e.g., He got tickets to go to that outdoor music venue, i.e., Red Rocks Amphitheater.)
  • e.g. = for example (e.g., He loves a lot of different bluegrass bands, e.g., Nickel Creek, Old Crow Medicine Show, and the Punch Brothers.)

4. Then vs. Than

  • Then (adv) = at that time, or after that (e.g., I went to the store and then I came back home.)
  • Than (conj/prep) = used to compare/contrast (e.g., She was taller than him.)

5. Affect vs. Effect

  • Affect (v) = to have an effect on (e.g., That speech really affected my vote.)
  • Effect (n) = a change that is a result of an action (e.g., Soft music can have a soothing effect on babies.)

6. Less vs. Fewer

  • Less is used with non-plural nouns (e.g., She drank less water than he did.)
  • Fewer is used with plural nouns (e.g., She ran fewer miles than he did.)

7. Further vs. Farther

  • Further is used for a metaphorical distance (e.g., After the move, they drifted further apart.)
  • Farther is used for a quantifiable physical distance (e.g., I can throw the ball 10 yards farther than him.)

8. Hyphen vs. En Dash vs. Em Dash

  • Hyphens are used to hyphenate words and are the shortest of the bunch. It connects things that are closely related (e.g., mother-in-law, two-thirds) 
  • En Dash is the medium-size dash, the length of an n. It is used to connect words related to each other by distance. (e.g., Jan - March)
  • Em Dash is the longer dash, the length of an m. Used to set of a parenthetical phrase/clause or to have a sentence cut off/interrupted. (e.g., Her favorite book is Harry Potter — a fictional tale about a boy wizard.)  

9. Its vs. It's

  • Its = posessive (e.g., I like that dog. Its fur is so soft.)
  • It's = conjunction of It and Is (e.g., It's great to see you!)

10. Home In vs. Hone In

  • Home In (v) = to move or be aimed toward a destination with great accuracy (e.g., The marketing team created a plan to home in on their target audience.)
  • Hone In (v) = to sharpen or make acute (e.g., She really honed her marketing skills in her time working at the agency.)

11. Apart vs. A Part

  • Apart (adv, prep) = separated by some distance (i.e., The T-Rex pulled that man apart. They lived 20 miles apart.)
  • A Part (n) = a piece of something (i.e., May I be a part of this club?)