Common Mistakes Revisited

I’ve written about common writing mistakes before, in several posts. But the more I read different writings posted all over the internet, the more I feel the need to point out the errors. It’s like the internet has devoured our ability to write.

Now, communication is not a problem. Anyone who has been talking in forums, chat rooms, or sending instant messages for any significant amount of time will be able to decipher the following conversation:

Girl #1: Btw, r u n T gtg gf

Girl #2: DEGT

Girl #1: ?

Girl #2: ihnc

Girl #1: brb

Girl #2: hb

Girl #1: muah

OK, that might be a little exaggerated. But, that is how bad it gets. Anyone coming in on that conversation who is not familiar with the language is lost unless they have the pocket-size internet slang handbook.

But see, that’s the thing. Communication is not in jeopardy. As humans, we will always know how to communicate. But, writing is different. Writing has rules and internet slang is starting to impose itself onto the written word.

So, I thought I would revisit the topic and make a few things clear. These are common mistakes so don’t feel alone. But, they are so common that they need highlighted…more than once…all over the place.

It’s and Its

This is actually a confusing rule that I don’t blame anyone for getting wrong. It’s the reverse of what you would think. So to make it easier for you to remember, just make a note to yourself that this is the rule opposite to all others.

When “It” owns something, the word to use is “Its.” There is no apostrophe even though there is ownership. In anything else, an apostrophe “s” would belong in an expression of ownership. While Bob’s ownership is proper with an apostrophe “s,” its ownership is not.

The contraction of “it” and “is” is written with an apostrophe “s.” That’s why this rule is so weird. But, ownership and contractions both have an apostrophe “s” when it comes to anything else like “that’s interesting” and “what’s the problem.” It would be very confusing if “it” and “is” were written the same as if “it” owned something. So, it’s easier this way.

Know and No

This is so common that it makes a person’s head spin. Sometimes people use “no” in place of “know” just to simplify things. That’s ok online in informal communication situations. But, this is one of those errors that bleed over into homework and work papers.

“Know” is having the knowledge of something. I know you know that.

“No” is the negative. There is no way the two should ever be confused again.

To, Two and Too

These three homonyms are often switched. It mainly comes from the substitution of “2” for any of these three words. I’d like it 2 stop.

“To” is actually a preposition that begins a prepositional phrase. So if you’ve heard the rule, you can’t end a sentence with a preposition. That’s because if it’s supposed to begin a phrase, how can it do that at the end of a sentence? Therefore, “to” is basically a connector from one part of a sentence to another that adds more meaning.

Remember the cloud analogy? A preposition is anything you can do to a cloud. You can go “under” a cloud, “over” a cloud, “around” a cloud and “through” a cloud. Technically, you can also go “to” a cloud. So, these words give you a general understanding of the purpose of a preposition. There are other prepositions like the word “of,” but you can’t “of” a cloud. So, our cloud analogy only gives you a general rule that helps you learn the basics. It’s a starting point and you build from it.

It’s probably easier to understand the word “to” if you learn the other two. “Two” is the spelling of the number. We’re going over three homonyms, but we’ve only covered “two” so far.

“Too” is an adjective. It comes before a noun or an adverb. I’ve written way too much about these three homonyms.

Once you start to see how your informal communication practices are bleeding into your actual work, you’ll look at your papers a little closer. Supa proofreaders already know these common errors and many others. We’re geared to pick them up instantly.

But, it’s not hard to catch them yourself if you put your work up for a few days and then come back to it just before the due date. You’ll see your errors much clearer and I’ve said that over and over. I think I’ll keep saying it just to keep reminding you guys.