Updated date:

The Most Worrisome Words and Pesky Punctuation on the Internet

Author:

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.

worrisome-words-and-pesky-punctuation

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.

worrisome-words-and-pesky-punctuation

Past and Present Tense Issues

Present TensePast 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.

worrisome-words-and-pesky-punctuation

Accept/Except

CorrectIncorrect

He will accept the award.

He will except the award.

I like all flavors of ice cream except strawberry.

 

Affect/Effect

CorrectIncorrect

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

CorrectIncorrect

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.

Border/Boarder

CorrectIncorrect

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.

Note:

Border: A boundary. The edge of a property.

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

Breathe/Breath

CorrectIncorrect

I could not breathe.

I could not breath.

It takes my breath away.

 

Lose/Loose

CorrectIncorrect

I hope I don't lose the case.

I hope I don't loose the case.

This button is loose.

 

Peak/Peek

CorrectIncorrect

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

CorrectIncorrect

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

CorrectIncorrect

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

CorrectIncorrect

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

CorrectIncorrect

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

CorrectIncorrect

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.

Contractions and the Apostrophe

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

worrisome-words-and-pesky-punctuation

We're/Were

CorrectContractionIncorrect

We're going out to dinner.

We + Are = We're

Were going out to dinner.

Were you at the party?

 

 

Your/You're

CorrectContractionIncorrect

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

CorrectContractionIncorrect

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

CorrectContractionIncorrect

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.

CorrectMeaningIncorrect

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.

worrisome-words-and-pesky-punctuation

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.

Additional Online Resources

1. https://www.grammarly.com/

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

© 2018 KT Dunn

Comments

Linda F Correa from Spring Hill Florida on October 06, 2019:

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 (author) from United States on April 24, 2019:

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 from Barlestone, Leicestershire on April 24, 2019:

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 (author) from United States on April 17, 2018:

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! :)

Shannon Henry from Texas on April 17, 2018:

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 (author) from United States on April 02, 2018:

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

Liz Westwood from UK on April 02, 2018:

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

KT Dunn (author) from United States on April 01, 2018:

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

KT Dunn (author) from United States on April 01, 2018:

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

Shannon Henry from Texas on April 01, 2018:

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 (author) from United States on April 01, 2018:

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

Shannon Henry from Texas on April 01, 2018:

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 (author) from United States on April 01, 2018:

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

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 01, 2018:

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

KT Dunn (author) from United States on March 30, 2018:

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

Lisa Chronister from Florida on March 30, 2018:

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!

Related Articles