Double spacing at the end of a sentence is obsolete. I know this will shock many people out there, but it’s a public service announcement that has clearly not been received by many. Why? Grammar changes more than we think, especially thanks to technology. It’s not something our forefathers signed into permanent agreement; it’s ever-evolving. Actually, I’m quite curious as to how much of our own constitution could be argued as grammatically incorrect based upon this constant evolution. But that’s a thought for another time.
For now I want to share some of the most common (and confusing!) grammatical debates I come across weekly, if not daily, especially in my content-laden line of work. To be clear, I make grammar mistakes as often as most. Professionally and accurately producing content has been the basis of my entire career, but truly, I still can’t get it right 100% of the time.
English is tough, ya’ll!
I so appreciate Dr. Seuss for this very reason. So I have no soap box to stand on, but indulge me for a moment or two as I share some of the most common grammar mistakes I’ve seen even the smartest people make. My hope is that you find the grammatical truth to be as fascinating and enlightening as I do.
**Many of the following points were originally produced by Inc.com who articulated them so well, I couldn’t have said it better.**
Double spacing after the end of a sentence
Unless you are typing on an actual typewriter, you no longer have to put two spaces after a period. Because there is so much extra spacing in the typewritten monospace font, writers using typewriters needed the extra space after punctuation to indicate a full stop. It’s safe to say this is virtually never the case anymore.
I could care less
Think about this one for a minute. The way it’s written above suggests you possess care which still could be allocated to the situation in question. “I couldn’t care less” is correct because it communicates that “I have no more care to give.”
This is not a word. It’s simply “regardless,” as in “Regardless of what you think about grammar, you’ll look silly if you use it incorrectly.”
“I” as the last word in a sentence.
This mistake is remarkably common, yet a correct example would be “Karlee talked with Brandon and me.” The trick to getting this one straight is to take the other person’s name out of the sentence and see if your personal pronoun choice still sounds right. “Karlee talked with I” is awkward and incorrect.
“Me” as the first word in a sentence.
I hear people saying things such as “Me and Jason met at Starbucks this morning” all the time, even though it’s always wrong. “Brandon and I met at Starbucks this morning” is correct. Remember it this way, it’s polite to let other people go first. Refer to yourself last.
Overuse of apostrophes
These little guys are ubiquitously misused. Apostrophes indicate one of two things: possession or letters missing, as in “Sara’s iPad” and “it’s” for “it is” (second i missing). They don’t belong on plurals. “FAQs,” for example, should not have an apostrophe. Also, people often make a mistake with their own last name. If you want to refer to your family but don’t want to list everyone’s first name write “The Johnsons” not “The Johnson’s.” Another big one: Decades should not have apostrophes. For example, “1980s” is correct but “1980’s” is not.
Piece of mind
If you want to share what you’re thinking with someone, this could work if you add “my” before “mind.” But if you’re trying to indicate tranquility, then spell it “peace.”
“Due diligence” is the proper business and legal term. It means you will investigate an individual or company before signing a contract. So then, it’s something “due” not something you must “do.”
Peaked my interest
To pique means to arouse, so the correct phrase is “piqued my interest,” meaning that my interest was stimulated. While the incorrect way it’s written in the heading may suggest that someone’s interest was taken to a high level, it’s still wrong.
Must of, should of, would of, and could of
All those ofs should be “have.” The proper versions were corrupted by contractions such as “must’ve.”
Per say or persay
Both are incorrect because the Latin phrase which means “in itself” or “intrinsically” is spelled “per se.” The best communicators speak and write clearly and concisely and probably avoid phrases like this one anyway.
Worse comes to worse
“Worse comes to worst,”–note the t–is better because it indicates something has degraded from one negative plane to the lowest possible.
Chock it up
The correct version–“chalk it up”– comes from keeping score on a chalkboard.
Nip it in the butt
To “nip” means to pinch or to bite. Therefore, the correct version is “nip it in the bud,” which refers to snipping off a flower bud before it can bloom. The idea is to put an end to something before it gets worse. Also, I’m not quite sure that nipping something in the butt would accomplish much more than angering the subject matter. Stick with bud.
Tie me over
You don’t really want someone to tie you on top of something, do you? The phrase “tide me over” is talking about sustaining someone through a difficult time and refers to the ocean’s tide, which is capable of moving boats to a new location when the wind will not.
Tow the line
To “toe the line” means to follow the rules. It comes from runners who put their toe to the line before running a race.
The word “chock” is an Old English word which means “cheek” as well as “full to the brim.” In other words, “chock-full” means “mouthful.
A mute point
Mute means silent, so would you really want to make a point that doesn’t say anything? A point that is “moot” is debatable or doubtful. So, a point can be moot, but not mute.
Overuse of “literally”
Some people throw this word around as an embellishment to intensify whatever they’re trying to say. But “literally” means “actually” or “in a strict sense.” So, if you say, “My head literally exploded,” you are lying…hopefully.
Jive with the facts
Jive can be defined as a colorful form of speaking, or as referring to certain kinds of jazz or swing music. Since “jibe” means “to agree,” the correct phrase would be “jibe with the facts.”
“For-tay” for forte
If you’re trying to say that something is or isn’t your talent, the technically correct way to pronounce “forte” is “fort.” The only problem: Lots of people understand what you’re trying to communicate if you pronounce it “for-tay,” which is incorrect. So, if you use the correct version you’ll sound intelligent to the grammarians of the world but you risk alienating a certain percentage of people who will not understand your meaning. My approach: Avoid “forte” altogether and say, “It’s not my strength.”
A “peak” is the top of a mountain. The correct word is “peek,” which means a quick look.
Placement of commas and periods with quotation marks
People seem to be all over the board with this one, but here’s the rule. Commas and periods placed at the end of a quote always go inside the quotation marks. Yes, even if you’re ending the sentence with a quote and it really feels like the period needs to be the final character, resist the urge. It should stay within the quotations. Take this for example, “This sentence is about to come to an end, which is also where the quotation mark should be placed.”
Is there another common grammatical error or idiom that you frequently see or hear used incorrectly and want to set the record straight? Let this be your platform! Join in the conversation below by leaving a comment.