The Most Worrisome Words and Pesky Punctuation On the Internet

Updated on April 20, 2018

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:

Definitely

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.

Grammar

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

Judgment

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.

Publicly

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.

Receive

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

Remember:

I before E, except after C!

Source

Past and Present Tense Issues

Present Tense
Past Tense
Lead
Led

Example:

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

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

Note:

"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.

Source

Accept/Except

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

Affect/Effect

Correct
Incorrect
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.

Note:

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

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

Note:

*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.

Breathe/Breath

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

Lose/Loose

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

Peak/Peek

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

Note:

Peak: The highest place, the greatest value.

Peek: A quick look.

Principal/Principle

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

Note:

Principal: The main thing, the most important.

Principle: A guideline or rule.

To/Too

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

Note:

Too: Also.

To: In that direction.

Trouper/Trooper

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

Note:

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.

Weary/Wary

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

Note:

Weary: As in tired, frazzled.

Wary: As in alert, cautious.

Wring/Ring

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

Note:

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

Ring: As in a reverberating sound.

Punctuation

Contractions and the Apostrophe

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

Source

We're/Were

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

Your/You're

Correct
Contraction
Incorrect
You're my best friend.
You + Are = You're
Your my best friend.

Note:

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/Whose

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

They're/Their/There

Correct
Contraction
Incorrect
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.

Correct
Meaning
Incorrect
Sees
To see, to know
See's
Apples
More than one apple
Apple's
Hers
Belonging to her
Her's
Its
Belonging to it
It's*
Amy's hat
Hat belonging to Amy
Amys hat

Note:

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

Source

Commas and Semicolons

Examples:

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.

Online Resources

https://www.grammarly.com/

https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 KT Dunn

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      • KT Dunn profile image
        Author

        KT Dunn 7 days 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

        shanmarie 7 days ago

        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 image
        Author

        KT Dunn 3 weeks ago from United States

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

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 3 weeks 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 image
        Author

        KT Dunn 3 weeks ago from United States

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

      • KT Dunn profile image
        Author

        KT Dunn 3 weeks ago from United States

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

      • shanmarie profile image

        shanmarie 3 weeks ago

        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 image
        Author

        KT Dunn 3 weeks ago from United States

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

      • shanmarie profile image

        shanmarie 3 weeks ago

        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 image
        Author

        KT Dunn 3 weeks ago from United States

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

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

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

      • KT Dunn profile image
        Author

        KT Dunn 3 weeks ago from United States

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

      • Lisawilliamsj profile image

        Lisa Chronister 3 weeks 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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