The Most Worrisome Words and Pesky Punctuation on the Internet

Updated on April 19, 2019

While I am not a language expert, I recognize the same types of errors made by many different people, over and over, in comments on social media and even in articles by online news writers. Apparently these mistakes are proliferated by repetition in the online world, and thus become even more firmly entrenched. It’s troubling to me, because the rules of grammar and punctuation were drilled into me many years ago in elementary school, but today I see college graduates making some pretty basic errors. A few of these mistakes and more have been covered in other articles, but here is a summary of the most common offenders that I tend to see.

Frequently Misspelled Words

Creative spelling abounds on the Internet. Some frequently abused words include the following:


Very often I see this word uniformly misspelled, usually something like "definatly" or "definately." The root word here is the adjective definite, and with the addition of "ly" it becomes an adverb meaning absolutely or certainly.


Even those attempting to correct the grammar of other online commenters often misspell grammar as "grammer."


Most words that end in "e" retain that letter when the suffix "ment" can be added. Judgment, however, is an exception to the rule, at least in American English, and is properly spelled judgment.


This is another adverb, often misspelled as "publically." It may seem hard to believe that the root word "public" simply needs the addition of an "ly" to become publicly, but this is correct.


Often misspelled as "recieve," but this word is treated differently than "believe" because of the C before the E.


I before E, except after C!


Past and Present Tense Issues

Present Tense
Past Tense


Correct: I didn’t play an instrument, but I led the band.

Incorrect: I didn't play an instrument, but I lead the band.


"Lead" is so often misused that it seems people are unaware of the existence of the word led, which is the past tense of lead. Lead is only pronounced "led" when referring to the metal (i.e., a lead bullet).

Frequently Misused Words

In the following examples, the word used in each case is an actual word, but the spelling can make it incorrect for the context.



He will accept the award.
He will except the award.
I like all flavors of ice cream except strawberry.


How will it affect the results?
How will it effect the results?
It will have an effect on the results.
It will have an affect on the results.


Affect: Generally used as a verb meaning to change or to cause an effect.

Effect: Generally used as a noun meaning a result or change.

A Lot/Allot

There is a lot of material here.
There is alot* of material here.
She will allot the proceeds.


*Alot is not a word but is often misused in the place of "a lot."

Allot is a word, but it does not have the same meaning as “a lot.” It means to apportion something, to give out in portions, as an allotment.


We just crossed the state border.
We just crossed the state boarder.
I have a room to rent, and I need to find a boarder.


Border: A boundary. The edge of a property.

Boarder: A person who pays for shared living space and meals.


I could not breathe.
I could not breath.
It takes my breath away.


I hope I don't lose the case.
I hope I don't loose the case.
This button is loose.


She's reached the peak of her career.
Close your eyes and don't peek.
Close your eyes and don't peak.


Peak: The highest place, the greatest value.

Peek: A quick look.


Safety is our principal consideration.
Safety is our principle consideration.
This is our guiding principle.
This is our guiding principal.


Principal: The main thing, the most important.

Principle: A guideline or rule.


I want to go too.
I want to go to.
Let's go to the store.
Let's go too the store.


Too: Also.

To: In that direction.


She is a real trouper.
She is a real trooper.
Her brother is a state trooper.


Trouper: As in a team player, one of a group of performers, a member of a troupe.

Trooper: As in a member of a troop, such as police or military.


I am weary of this argument.
I am wary of this argument
My dog is wary of strangers.
My dog is weary of strangers.


Weary: As in tired, frazzled.

Wary: As in alert, cautious.


I will wring out the towel.
I will ring out the towel.
I will ring the bell.


Wring: As in twist or squeeze; also to wring one's hands in frustration.

Ring: As in a reverberating sound.


Contractions and the Apostrophe

A contraction is a combination of two words, with an apostrophe in place of the dropped letters.



We're going out to dinner.
We + Are = We're
Were going out to dinner.
Were you at the party?


You're my best friend.
You + Are = You're
Your my best friend.


One of the most pervasive errors out there is the misuse of your for you’re, which of course is a contraction of you and are. Some people even reverse this, and use you’re when they actually mean your.


Who's your best friend?
Who + Is = Who's
Whose your best friend?
Whose book is that?
Who's book is that?


They're all going out to dinner.
They + Are = They're
There all going out to dinner.
Their flight was canceled.
There are no exceptions.

Plurals, Possessives, and Others

I note extreme confusion about plurals, possessives, and words that end in S. Some people seem to think that apostrophes must be used at all times; others never use them.

To see, to know
More than one apple
Belonging to her
Belonging to it
Amy's hat
Hat belonging to Amy
Amys hat


*It's is correct when used as a contraction meaning it is.


Commas and Semicolons


Semicolons are used to separate independent clauses (related phrases that could each stand on their own):

I will cook dinner; you can wash the dishes.

Commas are used to separate dependent clauses and series.

I will cook dinner, wash the dishes, and clean the kitchen later.

Additional Online Resources



© 2018 KT Dunn


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    • linfcor profile image

      Linda F Correa 

      8 months ago from Spring Hill Florida

      Great article. You hit the nail on the head. If an English teacher ever went on Facebook to correct people, there would be a lot of red marks.

    • KT Dunn profile imageAUTHOR

      KT Dunn 

      13 months ago from United States

      Thanks for your comment, John! There certainly are some differences in both spelling and punctuation. One example in my article is the word "judgment," which I believe is correctly spelled "judgement" in British English. Years ago I transcribed legal documents, so that one always catches my attention.

    • John Welford profile image

      John Welford 

      13 months ago from Barlestone, Leicestershire

      As a Brit, I often notice differences in spelling and punctuation between British and American usage. HubPages sometimes "corrects" spelling/punctuation that is perfectly acceptable on this side of the Pond!

    • KT Dunn profile imageAUTHOR

      KT Dunn 

      2 years ago from United States

      Yes, I've noticed that one quite a bit too, especially since I used to do medical transcription. Another one I've thought about adding is chord/cord. Thanks, Shanmarie! :)

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      2 years ago from Texas

      Here's one brought to my attention when I carelessly used the wrong one in an email to a friend. At least it wasn't something formal. LOL..... Stent/Stint.

    • KT Dunn profile imageAUTHOR

      KT Dunn 

      2 years ago from United States

      I'm very glad to hear that. Thanks for your comment!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 years ago from UK

      As a former English Lit student and having taken some language modules, I found this a very interesting and informative article.

    • KT Dunn profile imageAUTHOR

      KT Dunn 

      2 years ago from United States

      Updated to include wring/ring... More as they come to my attention...

    • KT Dunn profile imageAUTHOR

      KT Dunn 

      2 years ago from United States

      I understand! And I should have used a semicolon after "I know" in my reply...:D

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      2 years ago from Texas

      Wanna know something funny? After posting this comment I found one of those typos in my recent hub. I'd used it's instead of its.... UGH!....How did I miss that before I published?

    • KT Dunn profile imageAUTHOR

      KT Dunn 

      2 years ago from United States

      I know, it's like it's contagious! Thanks so much for your comment, Shanmarie! :)

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      2 years ago from Texas

      These made me laugh. Not because it isn't serious, mind you, but because IT IS. I have a hard enough time keeping track of my tendency to use progressive tense. Whenever I catch myself making one of these obvious mistakes you mentioned, it drives me crazy. And when I see these mistakes on professional things.... Yikes! There's a sign on a store across the street from me that says wellcome. I even had to fight auto-correct to make the misspelling stick.

    • KT Dunn profile imageAUTHOR

      KT Dunn 

      2 years ago from United States

      I agree, Flourish, and thanks so much for your comment!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      2 years ago from USA

      These drive my bananas, especially when I see news outlets use them incorrectly in headlines.

    • KT Dunn profile imageAUTHOR

      KT Dunn 

      2 years ago from United States

      You're welcome, Lisa, and thanks so much for your comment!

    • Lisawilliamsj profile image

      Lisa Chronister 

      2 years ago from Florida

      This is very useful! I am going to have my daughters look at this. I am always noticing basic errors on their social media accounts. Thank you for sharing!


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