11 Grammar Mistakes Even Professional Writers Make

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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?)