Top 10 Errors on the Internet

We all make mistakes. Some of us more than others. A lot more. Here’s my unscientific selection of the ten most common ones in grammar, some of which you won’t find anywhere else.

by Hyphenman on Oct 22, 2013

A thinking cap is not something you should put on and take off when you write, like donning it when you sit down to work on your novel and removing it when you dash off an e-mail to a friend. If you’re serious about your writing, you should always be thinking, not just some of the time.

Based on what I see regularly on the Internet, in personal blogs, on professional websites, and in reviews on, it would appear that many people never put on their thinking caps. Or else they either don’t know anything about grammar, punctuation, and spelling, or they simply don’t care.

Tsk. Tsk.Top 5 grammar-lady-blog02B

Think of grammar and the rest as the clothes for your words, dressing them up to make them more appealing. In your personal life, do you get dressed when you’re about to meet a roomful of strangers and then go naked when you’re only going to see a couple of friends?

For an illustration of that very practice, check this out:
Some Naked Truths

Here are the most common grammatical errors committed again and again:

1. Salutations. That’s the official name for a greeting. You see it all the time: Hello World, Greetings to All, Hi John, Hey folks. With the exception of “Greetings to All,” every one of those “hellos” requires a comma to separate the name or group from the greeting. In other words: Hello, World. Hi, John. Hey, folks.

What follows the greeting should be either a comma or a colon, depending on whether your message is casual or formal. (Note: In the salutation of a letter that begins with “dear,” as in “Dear Sir” or “Dear Nancy,” there is no comma before the name.)

Memory aid: Respect the person or group you’re addressing. Be so nice to them that you give them a comma – before their name.

2. Abbreviation of electronic in a compound word. Egad. This is far and away the most common mistake of all, evident primarily in email and ebook. (It’s not No. 1 because it doesn’t appear as frequently as the salutations cited above.) The words are properly spelled, respectively, e-mail and e-book. If you don’t believe me, look them up in any dictionary of your choice. You won’t find either email or ebook, the same as you won’t find kat for cat. The words are already short enough as they are; you’re not saving any time by dropping the hyphen. You are, however, announcing that you are too stupid to spell a couple of very simple words correctly. If you persist in misspelling them even though you know better, you could be in a special category of stupid: blissfully, stubbornly, defiantly, and boastfully stupid.

Memory aid: Remember that the “e” in e-mail stands for “electronic,” and you wouldn’t write electronicmail, the same as you wouldn’t write airconditioning.

3. Confusion over it’s and its. One is a contraction (the shortened form of “it is”), the other is an impersonal pronoun. The confusion, I think, results from an apostrophe plus “s” used to form many possessives, as in “Charlie’s book.” But that construction doesn’t apply to any pronouns. And no one confuses the other ones. Nobody, for example, writes her’s or their’s.

Memory aid: The easy way to avoid the mistake is to substitute “it is” every time you write it’s or its. If it doesn’t fit, you must omit. The apostrophe, I mean.

4. Capitalization of Internet. You see it both capitalized and lower-cased, sometimes in the same piece of writing. By arbitrary convention, the word is regarded as a proper noun and ought to be capitalized. So should the shortened form of “the Net.” (Internet itself is a shortened term, standing for “interconnected network of networks.”)

Memory aid: Think of yourself as the “I” in Internet. You wouldn’t shortchange or belittle yourself by calling yourself “i.”

5. Using “of” for the contracted form of “have,” as “could of” for “could’ve” or “would of” for “would’ve.” The error is easy to understand. “Could of” sounds exactly like “could’ve.” Other than dialogue, you shouldn’t be writing what you hear. (That would be a homophone, two words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings.)

Memory aid: Think three verbs in a row. I should’ve done that yesterday. The three verbs = should-have-done. If you write: I should of done that yesterday, that’s verb-preposition-verb. No matter what the first verb – could, would or should – the next two words are always verbs. Always.

6. Omission of the preposition “of” after “couple.” Variations of this abound: “I was exhausted after I lifted a couple boxes.” It should be “a couple of boxes.” Another example: “I stopped work after a couple hours.”

Memory aid: Repeat the words that immediately precede “couple” and then ask a question, as if you didn’t hear the whole phrase. In other words, repeat “lifted a couple boxes,” and ask: “A couple of what?” Or: “After a couple hours,” ask: “A couple of what?” That will get you in the habit of linking “couple” with “of.”

7. Confusion over the past tense of the verb “lead,” meaning to guide or direct or to be in charge of. Whether you read (pronounced as “reed”) a book today or if yesterday you read (pronounced as “red”) a magazine, the spelling of “read” does not change, only its pronunciation. (“Reed” vs. “red.”)

Not so with “lead.” If you have been put in charge of a study group, you will lead it tomorrow, but yesterday you led it. The confusion results not only from the similarity to “read” but also from the fact that the metal “lead” is pronounced exactly the same as “led,” the past tense of the verb “lead.”

Memory aid: Leading can be difficult, but it seems much easier in retrospect. So once you’ve already done it, simplify it, making it three letters instead of four.

8. Omission of the hyphen in a compound … hands-free dialing … high-priced Macs … the built-in mechanism. … Not an easy one to master. The applicable rule goes by various names: compound modifiers, phrasal modifiers, phrasal adjectives. Bryan A. Garner in Garner’s Modern American Usage explains: “The primary reason for the hyphen is that they prevent [Sorry, Bryan, but it should be it prevents] miscues and make [HM: makes] reading easier and faster.”

Memory aid: Look at where the description goes. If it comes after the noun it refers to, no hyphen. If it comes before the noun, hyphenate. For example: Macs carry a high price (description is after, so no hyphen). BUT if the sentence refers to “high-priced Macs,” then the description is before, so a hyphen is required.

9. Using than instead of then and vice versa. These words don’t even sound alike. I doubt they are ever confused in speech. But examples in writing abound, such as: “Unwrap the package, than peel off the cover.” “A burr stuck on clothing is easier to remove then a burr stuck in hair or fur.”

Memory aid: Read your words out loud. The -en sound in then rhymes with been, den, hen, kin, men, pen, sin, tin, win, and Zen. The -an sound in than, which is the wrong sound, rhymes with ban, can, Dan, fan, man, pan, ran, tan, and van.

10. Not a common error per se, but a hodgepodge of less frequent ones. Though you might see them only occasionally, you still should be on your guard against them. Here are a few:

Distinguishing between let’s and lets. The first is a contraction for “let us,” as in “Let’s be friends.” The second is the third-person singular of let, meaning “to allow,” as in “An open window lets fresh air in.”

Misuse of wet for whet. This almost always applies to the appetite, literally or figuratively. A movie trailer, for example, doesn’t wet your appetite for the advertised film – it whets your appetite.

Confusion over lose and loose. The first is a verb, the second an adjective: “Did you lose my book, the one with the loose pages?” Loose becomes a verb when you add an “n” at the end, as in “Why don’t you loosen your tie?”

(Numerous diet programs boast that they can show you how to loose 8 pounds in a week!)

Ignorance of the difference between ground and floor. If you’re a fitness instructor leading a class in a gym, telling your students to get on the ground would require them to go outside. In the gym, the surface under their feet is a floor.

Knowing the difference between two words that have been combined into one and two words that are still two words. The rules are always changing on this score. Some examples: hot dog (but in the sense of showing off, either as a noun or a verb, it takes a hyphen: hot-dog, hot-dogging, hot-dogger), backyard, punch line. The dictionary is the best and only source.

Confusion between dramatic and drastic. To pump up the intensity or the impact of a change, careless writers often substitute drastically when they mean dramatically, as in, “My creative writing class drastically improved my writing.” Well, not as dramatically as it should have.

Drastic carries a sense of severity and extreme, often of a last resort or of desperation. If significant is what is meant, then the correct word is dramatic.

LAST WORD:Have some fun and test yourself by spotting grammatical errors in blog posts on grammatical errors. Here’s one with errors by both the writer and his respondents: Dumb and Dumber

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Celeste Reinhard October 22, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Great analogy!!! I love all the list, especially the included memory aids. I can feel my grasp on grammar tightening. I look forward to my abilities to write better after a few more lessons.

Here in the virtual world, only our words describe us as beings. Do we really want to be recognized by our lazy or casual communication skills (so casual, it clearly shows that no thought was employed) or would we rather be seen as articulate and intelligent? What do my word choices say about me? What do they say about my story? Was that what I wanted to convey? A few visits from Calliope and a better grasp of the rules of grammar will not only help me write well, but also communicate more effectively. Well, maybe I don’t need Calliope for that, but she’s always welcome at my side.


2 Hyphenman October 22, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Thanks, Celeste. Grammar is a struggle for all of us. It requires constant caring and vigilance. May Calliope always find you.


3 Greg Tadtman October 30, 2013 at 5:47 am

I’m beginning to understand why foreign-based citizens are hesitant to learn English. It’s a very hard language, if you think about it. That’s a very nice breakdown of some of the many rules of the language. I actually hate texting, because I insist on using proper grammar and spelling. Therefore, it takes a long time to write a text.


4 Hyphenman October 30, 2013 at 11:16 am

Never mind foreigners. Learning English is difficult for native-born Americans. Its ever-changing rules take a lifetime to master and an ongoing commitment to caring. One day soon, for example, “email” will become acceptable and appear in dictionaries. It’s a misjudgment, however, to anticipate that change and to act as if that day has already arrived.


5 Chantal Martin November 6, 2013 at 2:29 pm

The grammatical error that I continue to make is forgetting to add a comma after a greeting in a letter. In fact, I didn’t even know that was the correct format until I read your blog post, so thank you for enlightening me! I am constantly e-mailing professors and students, therefore it is important that my messages are professional and grammatically correct.


6 Hyphenman November 20, 2013 at 6:11 am

Thank you, Chantal. I listed that as the No. 1 error for a reason. FYI: I could have added the punctuation of conjunctive adverbs (however, nevertheless, therefore, etc.) to the list, but these words appear less frequently than some of the others. Using a comma instead of a semicolon before “therefore” as you did in your last sentence, for example, creates a run-on sentence. But I applaud you for getting “e-mailing” right.


7 Lauren Patao November 6, 2013 at 2:31 pm

This was a great post to read. I, many times, struggle with when to use a hyphen or not. It’s interesting how so many words I’ve been spelling out for all of this time have been wrong!

Another thing that really shocked me was the use of a hyphen in e-mail. I never knew this! I have been saying it wrong for so long without knowing that it’s actually e-mail instead of email, which is what most of us are used to writing.

The last thing that helped me a lot was led and lead. I always have difficulty when trying to figure out which one to use, so I usually end up trying to change the sentence so that I can avoid using either of them.

As an aspiring journalist, this is really something that helped me. I love the memory aids because there’s nothing better than something that helps you remember what you’ve just learned. This article doesn’t just spit out information at you. Yet, it helps you so that you can avoid mistakes in the future. In an age where social media is so prevalent, this email really helps me see that spelling is still extremely important – even on the Internet.


8 Hyphenman November 20, 2013 at 6:15 am

Thank you for singling out the memory aids, Lauren. Curiously, however, you forgot about the spelling of “e-mail” in your last sentence. (You also referred to the blog post as an e-mail.) But you do get credit for capitalizing “Internet.”


9 Valerie Lopez November 6, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Great post! This will be very helpful when I’m writing.
Salutations and Omission of the hyphen in a compound are definitely one of the most common mistakes I make.
Thanks for sharing.


10 Hyphenman November 23, 2013 at 8:08 am

Thanks, Valerie. You’re certainly not alone. I could have easily done the “Top 20 Errors,” but I wanted to keep it short and memorable.


11 Diana Rodon November 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Glad that I’m not the only one who notices the constant misuses of grammar on the Internet. Hopefully, lists such as this one will encourage users to be more mindful of their use of grammar on the Internet just as they would for a school essay or professional report.


12 Hyphenman November 20, 2013 at 6:33 am

Thanks for the comment, Diana. Your reply raises a question I can’t answer. Specifically, I don’t know if it’s flat-out wrong to refer to “constant misuses of grammar.” I do know, however, that “misuse” (singular) would be sufficient. Also, in reference to “lists such as this one,” “like” is preferable to “such as.”


13 Eunice Shriver November 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Great article. Very insightful on the errors that are most commonly found on the Internet. One of the errors that I found to be the most shocking was the confusion that most bloggers have with its and it’s. When I look at both words I find it quite simple to tell the difference and be able to understand when to use one verses the other, but it seems to be the other way around for most people blogging on the Internet.

Another interesting error that I found to be shocking were the salutations. I did not find this error so much to be as shocking because this one I find myself doing quite a bite.

Overall, this was a helpful article and I really enjoyed the memory aid at the end because each one was very helpful and easy to remember. Great piece.


14 Hyphenman November 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Thanks, Eunice. The two errors you singled out — it’s vs. its and greetings (or salutations) — are often committed by highly educated, well-read, and very intelligent people. I think several factors are to blame: not knowing and not caring and making a false distinction between formal and informal writing. All of us are susceptible to errors every time we write. (For example, you inadvertently wrote “verses” when you meant “versus.”)


15 Roxana Maza November 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm

This was a very interesting read. I really enjoyed the subtle humor implemented in the writing, which I feel engages the reader even more — well, it did for me, at least.

As a college student and aspiring journalist, I find I struggle occasionally with some of these common errors. One in particular I am guilty of making is not capitalizing the Internet in writing. As mentioned in the article, it’s mostly due to seeing it spelled capitalized and in lower case. The tip in remembering to capitalize it is quite helpful! I will be sure to repeat it like a mantra until it’s permanently engraved on my brain.

Although I can’t recall whether or not I’ve substituted drastic for dramatic, I can see why someone would make the mistake. I think drastic sounds better — it’s a word that seems to get the point across more…dramatically.

All puns aside, I really enjoyed reading this article. Great writing!


16 Hyphenman November 6, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Roxana. All of us struggle not occasionally but constantly with some of these errors (and others not on the list). As for Internet vs. internet, I think the reason for it is the same reason for most errors: not caring and not checking. Regarding drastic vs. dramatic, that’s an instance of hype over correctness, a practice that TV news perpetuates. (That’s why you see the noun impact used as a verb when what is meant is affected or influenced, as in, “The storm affected [not impacted] 10,000 homes.)


17 Taneisha Cordell November 6, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Great article! I can admit that I am guilty of committing a couple of these errors. With that being said, this list was very beneficial. I am somewhat embarrassed due to the fact that I have been writing incorrectly for so long. For example, after analyzing the list I have realized that I have been writing salutations incorrectly. I now know a comma is needed after the greeting word (hello, hi).

I also never took the time to realize that e-mail needs a hyphen! I have been extremely lazy omitting the hyphen, which is so embarrassing! Thank goodness for your post!


18 Hyphenman November 6, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Thank you, Taneisha. The spelling of “e-mail” raises a very important point for writers. Even the experts concede that the hyphen-less “email” will soon be acceptable. But the fact is it hasn’t happened yet. Writers have to stay abreast of adjustments to the language, which is changing faster than ever today.


19 Erica Adams November 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm

One of the most beneficial parts of this article is the explanation of the compound modifier. For a while now, I have been confused as to when to add the hyphen, and when to omit it. “If it comes after the noun it refers to, no hyphen. If it comes before the noun, hyphenate.” This simple food for thought is exactly what I needed.

I also really agree with the permanent “thinking cap.” In reality, it shouldn’t be called a “cap” because you should never take it off. I feel that the reason this new generation forgets to wear their thinking cap when writing on social media is because of the origins of text messaging.

For a while, text messages were measured in characters. I feel that in order to minimize the number of characters sent in each text, those “texters” cut words in half and made abbreviations like “R U going 2 the mall.”

Nonetheless, I think it is important that we get rid of these bad habits, and begin to communicate in the same professional style on all platforms. Whether it be a text to a friend, an e-mail to a boss, or a post on Facebook, we should remember that our messages represent us, our intelligence, and exist forever.

I will make this my personal challenge from now on.


20 Hyphenman November 20, 2013 at 6:50 am

Thank you, Erica. You’ve hit on something that I harp on frequently. That is that our words are us. I’ve often compared grammar and the rest to the clothes we wear to make ourselves look good or at least presentable. We don’t get dressed for formal occasions and then go naked for informal outings. We always leave an impression on people, whether in person or in print.


21 Eric Alvarez December 11, 2013 at 7:05 pm

I found this incredibly helpful; your analogy was great, by the way. I found myself making a few of the mistakes you mentioned; the most common one for me dealt with salutations. I’m constantly writing emails to clients, professors, etc. having a solid grasp on something as simple as a salutation will help me be a little more critical of my writing. I look forward to improving my image via copy, thank you for your insight.


22 Jeanette Hamilton December 11, 2013 at 10:09 pm

It always surprises me somewhat when people do not know these things. Grammar comes fairly easily to me, so it seems strange that some people cannot grasp something like the appropriate time to use a hyphen. This post is really good, but some of the memory tricks seem like they would be difficult to actually remember. Mnemonic devices are not usually several sentences long. In all fairness, though, I cannot think of ways to condense them.

I do feel that “Internet” is evolving, though. As you said, the convention has no real basis. From what I have seen, especially on online forums, both “Internet” and “internet” are becoming acceptable spellings of the word. I am not often a supporter of language evolving to conform to what uneducated people think is correct (especially in the cases of the word “factoid” and the word “literally”). However, I do not see an issue with “Internet” evolving into “internet,” as it is questionable to call it a proper noun.


23 Hyphenman December 13, 2013 at 1:06 am

Thank you, jeanette. As for the hyphen, I don’t find it strange at all that some people do not grasp when to use it. The truth is that most people, regardless of education, don’t grasp it. For a test, see my Pinterest page at Incidentally, I lowercased your name in anticipation of that day when capitalizing or not capitalizing a proper noun like “Internet” becomes the writer’s choice.


24 Gabrielle Beyer December 12, 2013 at 3:32 am

Such an interesting article! I’ll admit I tend to make most of the mistakes you have talked about but I am working on improving my grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Whether I am proofreading someone’s work or reading over my own, I always find mistakes with “it’s” and “its.” It took me a while to learn that they are different. One is a contraction and the other one is a pronoun. The apostrophe in “it’s” replaces the “I” in “is” and is just an informal way of writing. This is still a mistake that I find throughout my writing but I am much more alert of it now. To avoid this mistake, I try to not use any contractions in my work.


25 Hyphenman December 13, 2013 at 1:19 am

Thank you, Gabrielle. Language truly is fascinating. I personally would recommend mastering a rule rather than avoiding its application. (The one notable exception is the singular personal pronoun. Whether to go with “he” or “she” or some variation inevitably leads to forced or clumsy phrasing and is best avoided in the first place.) Contractions, used judiciously, can make your writing sound less stilted. Not to be too schoolmarmish, but in your next to last sentence, you have two choices that would be better. Specifically, “I am much more alert TO it now,” or, “I am much more AWARE of it now.”


26 Alejandro Narciso December 13, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Number 5 is probably the most common mistake of my generation. The root of this grammatical error comes from the way we speak to each other. “I should of gone to the party,” “I could of left early.” Without thinking, we assume that it’s written the way it’s said. If people enunciated clearly, then it wouldn’t be a problem; however, that is not the case. The sad part is that for the next few decades this trend will most likely continue, unless kids start leaving their thinking caps on, haha.


27 Vanesa Rodriguez December 14, 2013 at 5:57 pm

This has got to be one of the most educational posts I’ve seen in a long time! I’m guilty of committing quite a few of these errors, but I definitely make the “Internet” and “e-mail” ones the most.

Had no idea Internet was capitalized and that e-mail was hyphenated. I was also surprised to learn about the missing “of” after the word “couple.” I had no idea that was a mistake.

I appreciate the memory aids and the humor in this post. As an aspiring public relations professional, these are rules I think I’ll never forget!


28 James Oliver December 15, 2013 at 6:49 pm

What a great article. People, including myself, make these mistakes constantly, and we don’t realize them until they are pointed out to us.

The point that I like is number five. [HM: No. 5 is using of for the contracted form of have.] I see it all the time, and have to even correct myself many times from making that same mistake. You hit it on the nose. It is very easy to understand that people mess this up because of how it sounds. Personally, I resolve this issue similarly to what you suggested with point number three. I avoid contractions and it helps me avoid using “of.”


29 Sarah Zerdoun December 15, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Comment 9 elaborates on the common confusion between then and than.

This is a mistake that I have always been picky about. Hyphenman makes a valid point when stating that the two words don’t even sound alike. The memory aid for this grammatical error suggests reading the words out loud before writing them down. This is the technique that I use as well because the two words are rarely confused in speech.


30 Robert Combs December 15, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Using than instead of then and vice versa: I was glad to see that this made number nine on your list. I have encountered difficulties with the “then and than” several times before in my writing. I believe the confusion derives from the words having a similar sound. I really enjoyed your memory aid, and look forward to using it next time I write!


31 Rebecca Light December 15, 2013 at 9:55 pm

This article made me realize something I hadn’t previously thought about. Many people assume that grammar rules are changing based off society’s acceptance. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it proper grammar. For instance, your example of “Internet” is a word that I wouldn’t question if spelled with a lowercase “i” since it has become accepted and often used. But now realizing that Internet is a proper noun, just as my name should always be capitalized, it looks foolish to see it written as “internet”. “E-mail” is another word that I have previously spelled without the hyphen. But clearly electronicmail wouldn’t make sense if spelled out.

However, we learn from each other, and if a word is commonly spelled wrong, many people will continue to learn to spell it wrong. But with these simple explanations that you provided to describe an obvious error, that most people don’t pick up on, it makes me wonder how many other grammatical errors I have incorrectly learned without realizing.


32 Hyphenman December 27, 2013 at 12:52 am

Thank you, Rebecca. You’ve hit on the very reason I was inspired to put this list together.


33 Heather Zons December 15, 2013 at 10:52 pm

This was a great find! To be honest, I never completely understood hyphens. Is it “in between” or “in-between?” Whenever I would look on the Internet to try and find the answer, I would be provided with the explanation as to why both of them are accurate. Thank you very much for clarifying it in a way that is simple to understand!

I also never even knew that “whet” was a word, so that was definitely a helpful tidbit! I hope more people see this article and correct their mistakes!


34 Stephanie Lorenzo December 16, 2013 at 1:41 am

Everyone should always have their thinking cap on. Unfortunately, as you said, people tend to take it off. This was a great list with very helpful memory aids. Point #6, omission of the preposition “of” after “couple” is an error I have made on the Internet quite a few times. The memory aid, to ask the question “A couple of what?” is very helpful. It’s definitely going to help me. This list will help a lot of us out. Thank you so much!


35 Hyphenman December 25, 2013 at 2:05 am

Thank you, Stephanie. I wonder how many people sent a link to their friends (hint, hint).


36 Matt Steindorf December 16, 2013 at 2:01 am

Personally, I enjoyed number two because I did not even realize that a hyphen was required in words like e-mail and e-book. Thus, I definitely fall victim to this error quite frequently. I was a little surprised it was number two on the list because I thought more people would know that the “e” stands for electronic, which would infer a hyphen is needed. I also liked the part where the writer says it is stubborn for people who know a hyphen is needed, but still do not use it when writing these words.


37 Hyphenman December 25, 2013 at 2:03 am

FYI: I had an ongoing exchange of e-mails with a published author who fell into the category of “stubbornly stupid.” He went so far as to instruct the editor of his book to misspell e-mail!


38 Allison Findeiss December 16, 2013 at 1:38 pm

The content of this article had important writing and grammar tips. In the fast-paced world of today, everyone forgets the importance of communicating a thought with correct grammar. I agree with Greg Tadtman on this discussion. I am not of the norm for my generation, when it comes to texting. I prefer to write out my text messages rather then substituting “u” for “you”. Though, I’ll admit, I am not the most proficient writer. This is an even better reason to practice consistently, even while sending a quick text message to a friend.


39 Hyphenman December 25, 2013 at 1:56 am

Good for you, Allison. You’re definitely on the right track. I personally have avoided Twitter because of the way it encourages butchering the language, as if anyone needed encouragement or reinforcement.


40 Joana Vurnbrand December 16, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Great article! I am a foreigner and English is very difficult for me. This really helped me to understand many things that I didn’t know. Especially the difference between “lose” and “loose”. I always confuse those two. Now it is much clearer. Thank you!


41 Hyphenman December 25, 2013 at 1:51 am

Thank you, Joana. Learning and following the rules is a lifelong pursuit, even for native speakers.


42 Marlee Lisker December 16, 2013 at 5:37 pm

I thought this article was a clever way to go about explaining some of the grammar rules. It is a sad reality that, in the age of the Internet, grammar is often overlooked. I appreciate a tool like this article because, even as an avid writer and reader, I still sometimes struggle to remember the more complex rules of grammar. It is nice to read something that not only identifies some of the problems in modern grammar, but offers tricks to help master the specifics.
I found some of the tips to be very clever, such as the first one regarding salutations. I was unaware that this rule even existed, but now it is something I will remember when writing e-mails or letters. One of the most useful tips was the one that differentiated between “its” and “it’s.” I have had to look up the difference between the two more times than I can count while writing a response or working on a paper. For some reason, no matter how many times I think I have mastered the difference, I always find myself struggling to remember the rule. Before reading this article, I had never considered the fact that none of the possessive pronouns use an apostrophe. I find that to be more helpful than the other memory trick you provided, and it is something I will keep in mind. I am hoping this will help cut down on the amount of time I spend frantically looking up the rule online.


43 Hyphenman December 25, 2013 at 1:49 am

Thank you, Marlee. Your response is very articulate. Unlike many of the replies I receive, it’s also free of errors. That’s not to criticize those who commit them, but to praise you for being so careful.


44 zhiwei xia December 17, 2013 at 12:03 am

For me as a student study in America, whose English is the second language. It is so hard for me to remember all the grammars, rules of writing. But your article is really a nice way to analyze some of the rules of the English. This will help me not nervous when I writing an e-mail, text and essay. I think the best way of learning a language is practiced.


45 Hyphenman December 25, 2013 at 1:44 am

Thank you, Zhiwei. English grammar and the rules of writing are difficult for all of us to learn, absorb, and remember. You’re right about practice, as well as finding a guide you like and understand. I recommend Bryan Garner’s Modern American Usage. I use it constantly.


46 Nashua Chedraui December 17, 2013 at 5:36 am

I can definitely identify with some of the common mistakes that were listed above. It surprises me how much we have been getting used to informal writing with obvious mistakes that we don’t recognize. We have forgotten about formal and proper writing. For instance, I have to admit that I have considered weird those people that write with perfect grammar and punctuation in the social media.

I consider this article is very helpful for all of us that are looking for a career that is strongly tied to the social media. This article helps us recognize those mistakes that we consider normal and makes us realize that grammar, punctuation and spelling are necessary even when we are informally writing on mobile devices, blogs or social media pages.

It’s embarrassing that I have to admit that I never use the hyphen in e-mail. It’s a very simple mistake that I can bet that many people do unconsciously. Another mistake that I realized I do a lot, is confusing lose and loose. I have always been confused with the correct use of these two words. Also, I didn’t even know the definition of the word whet before reading the article. All of the points presented by the writer, are simple mistakes that people do because we have stopped giving importance to the correct way things are written.

The “memory aid” was very helpful for me. It’s a great way to not memorize, but actually learn and remember the correct way of spelling or use of words. I consider this article very helpful for a society that has been consumed in the world of informal and incorrect writing.


47 Hyphenman December 27, 2013 at 12:42 am

Thank you, Nashua. You make some good points. It’s clear to me that the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation were never given their proper due in the early grades. For someone like me to come along at this late stage and emphasize them makes me sound priggish and pedantic. I tried my best to avoid sounding like that in my post. To follow up on what I wrote, I would strongly recommend that every serious writer have a copy of Garner’s Modern American Usage as close at hand as a comprehensive dictionary. I barely scratched the surface in my post, but if it at least got people thinking, it served its primary purpose. (By the way, you made a common mistake that can catch many of us off guard. You wrote that you “considered it weird those people that write with perfect grammar and punctuation in the social media.” It should be “those people who write.”)


48 Nick Carra December 17, 2013 at 4:47 pm

This post is a great read for those looking to improve their grammar skills. Although, one thing I disliked was how adamant you are about the difference between “email” and “e-mail”. I understand if it’s a compound word, but the abbreviation is used for a reason, the hyphen doesn’t really matter, in my opinion. I don’t see you calling Apple stupid for using “iPhone” or “iPad” or Google with “Gmail” for the names of their products and services without the hyphen. Those names apply to the same rule, right?

Other than that, I felt the article was very informative and very useful for those who make these mistakes. Admittedly, I have committed some of these mistakes in the past, and will look to fix them in the future.


49 Hyphenman December 27, 2013 at 12:14 am

I answered this once before, but I must’ve forgotten to save it. So here goes again.

In reference to “Those names apply to the same rule, right?” You have it backwards. It should be: “The same rule applies to those names, right?”

Regardless, the answer is no. The rules of grammar and spelling do not apply to brand names. If I as a manufacturer want to call my product Connoseur’s Kat Foode, that’s my business.

The other point is that my so-called “adamancy” about e-mail is immaterial. If you’re a writer who truly cares about your writing, you’re the one who should be adamant. The careful writer should be embarrassed and ashamed to spell so simple a word incorrectly. It’s the sloppy writer who doesn’t give a damn.


50 Andrea Talmaciu December 17, 2013 at 5:32 pm

This post took me by surprise for various reasons. Not only were there some Internet errors that I found myself guilty of committing, but also there were errors that I couldn’t believe people were commonly engaging in. The most shocking on the list was undoubtedly that people use the word “of” for the contracted form of “have”.

It caught my attention because while editing a friend’s essay the other day I noticed this very mistake. However, I corrected it and let it go convincing myself that she just wasn’t being attentive towards her grammar.

After giving my friend the benefit of the doubt, seeing this error to be one of the top 10 Internet mistakes let me down. This specific mistake showed that people weren’t being negligent, they simply didn’t try to find meaning and coherence in their statements. To me it is evident that the correct term is “could’ve” because what we are trying to say is that we “could have” done something. If people take the time to make sense of their typed messages they could surely come to the realization that using the preposition “of” after the verb “could” is grammatically incorrect. Sometimes I just wish that those who made this common mistake would’ve analyzed the sentence prior to hastily submitting it on the Internet.


51 Michelle Castillo December 17, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Great article. As a PR student, I have made a few of these mistakes in my writing but I never fully understood them. This list has been very helpful! Confusion over the past tense of the verb “lead” has always been one of my common mistakes. The memory aid is very useful; I have recently found myself catching this mistake not only in my writing but on the Internet as well. One could also compare it to the words feed and fed, which rhyme with and have a similar structure to lead and led. The present tense forms lead and feed have four letters; the past-tense forms, led and fed, are both three-letter words.

I really enjoyed reading this article, thanks for sharing.


52 Hyphenman December 27, 2013 at 1:02 am

Good point about “feed” and “lead.” Wish I’d thought of it!


53 Daniel Sayles December 17, 2013 at 9:09 pm

I regularly find myself using the word dramatic incorrectly. I found this post helpful because it provided the difference between dramatic and drastic. I now know that drastic carries a sense of severity and extreme, whereas dramatic is expressing the actual significant emotional state. I plan to correct this bad habit as soon as possible.


54 Randy Nzeakor December 18, 2013 at 1:31 am

What an insightful post!

Terrific job, Hyphenman. I am no stranger to making stupid mistakes when I write. The most common from the list is the usage of hyphens in general. Whether they need to be inserted into electronic terms, like e-mail, or in compounds, I am not entirely sure when I need to use them. If I had not read your 10 points, I would have most likely typed e-mail incorrectly in this very comment. This point, and this post as a whole, is helpful. It was difficult for me to know when to use hyphens properly, but after reading this post, I am more cognizant about using hyphens than I was before, thanks to your blog. Bookmarked!


55 Adrienne Motley December 18, 2013 at 4:37 am

Very helpful post! The error that surprised me the most was the one about using ground vs. floor. I didn’t realize it was a different meaning when using the two words. One of my most common mistakes is by far using Salutations correctly.


56 Jorge Salas December 18, 2013 at 6:18 am

The most common grammar error I see is the misunderstanding between using “it’s” and “its”. This problem stems from both the confusion and the laziness of writers. Since both “it’s” and “its” are pronounced the same, some writers fall subject to simply using “its” and continue on without realizing their mistake. This issue of which contraction to use poses a problem that I too struggle with. In order to completely eradicate this issue, teachers need to instruct children at a young age about the difference to permanently ingrain the proper use of the contractions in their minds.


57 Savannah Geary December 18, 2013 at 11:46 am

This is a very interesting list! I’ve noticed some of these, but I had no idea that others were even issues. The lose/loose and its/it’s confusion particularly grinds my gears. However, I disagree about the hyphen in “e-mail.” Didn’t the AP stylebook just change the standard to the version without the hyphen?


58 Hyphenman December 22, 2013 at 10:18 am

The AP changed the correct “e-mail” to the incorrect “email” in 2011. But so what? The AP is a guide for the news media only, not for writers in general. The AP also defers to the dictionary in most instances, and in the case of “e-mail,” every major dictionary still spells it with the hyphen. Granted, that undoubtedly will change, but it hasn’t changed yet. The careful writer’s job is to follow the rules that are, not the rules that might or could be in the future.


59 Kacee February 11, 2014 at 3:43 pm
60 Hyphenman February 12, 2014 at 3:24 am

All of the 10+ errors are the result of common usage. A mistake repeated a hundred times or a thousand times is still a mistake. I say it’s time to bow to high standards. The masses and their mistakes will eventually prevail over the misspelling of e-mail. When that day comes, as evidenced in ALL of the major dictionaries, then “email” will be acceptable. That day is not here yet.


61 Nayna Shah December 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm

This article was extremely helpful! I have to admit that I am guilty of forgetting commas in salutations, but now I will be more aware of it.

As a frequent texter, I can agree with you on the “could of/should of” point. I always cringe when I receive texts that say one of those phrases. Even though it’s just a text message, it still proves that the sender is not able to correctly distinguish between the rules of spoken pronunciation and written grammar.

I was never certain whether or not to capitalize the word Internet, but I’m glad that I now have a definitive answer. Thanks for all the tips!


62 Hyphenman December 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

You’re welcome, Nayna. Glad the tips were helpful. I appreciate the compliments.


63 Andrea Tomas December 18, 2013 at 1:27 pm

This information is very helpful, in my personal opinion high schools and universities should show this article, so students may have a better writing skill. I didn’t know I had to put a hyphen in the words e-mail or e-book, now I have understood when to use or omit a hyphen. As English is not my first language I have learned that no matter what is the first verb — would, should or could — the following two words must be verbs too. And to conclude, I used to use very often the “of” preposition. I have noticed that in most cases it is not necessary. Even though it was common sense for me to put two more verbs after should, could or would, I didn’t know it was a rule.


64 Hyphenman December 22, 2013 at 10:40 am

Thank you, Andrea, for the kind words. One caution, however: My 10 errors only covered one instance of using the hyphen (aside from the proper spelling of e-mail and e-book). There are many more rules, some of them practically impossible for anyone to grasp. (That’s partly why I picked “hyphenman” as my moniker.)


65 Christopher Barrett December 18, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Great memory aid and explanation. I have always mixed up the verb led and lead. The more I repeated the sentence to myself, the more confused I would become. I had not realized I was falling under the common mistake of pronouncing the word lead with read and also lead (the metal) with red. To lead in the present and to have led in the past, I have never had it explained to me that way before, thank you. In retrospect, I will remember the three letters instead of four.


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