Using the English language correctly can sometimes feel like you’re fumbling your way through a haunted house with trap doors. But it doesn’t have to be such a scary proposition. Follow these simple rules to refresh your memory and conquer those ghoulish grammar mistakes!
1. Subject verb agreement
Seems so simple, right? But simple subject verb agreement, especially with a prepositional phase stuck in the middle, can be very tricky.
- Incorrect: The new collection of Halloween movies are very scary.
- Correct: The new collection of Halloween movies is very scary.
In the incorrect sentence above, many people will look at the word “movies” as a plural and incorrectly tie the verb “are” to it, rather than to the subject in the sentence. The subject “collection,” however, is singular, requiring a singular verb, “is,” to match.
2. Wrong word usage
I’m going to give this section a little love because, frankly, many people get tripped up by these spooky mistakes! (Pro tip: When in doubt, go to Grammar Girl!)
Accept and Except
Except is a preposition that means “apart from,” and may also occasionally be used as a verb meaning to take out or to leave out.
Accept is a verb that means “agree with,” “take in,” or “receive.”
- I will wear any costume except one that is scary.
- I will accept any costume that makes me look scary.
It’s and Its
You’d be surprised how many times people make this mistake! It’s, with an apostrophe, is a contraction that replaces “it is” or “it has.” Its is a possessive adjective that means “belonging to it.”
- It’s not the scariest monster in the book. (silently say to yourself, does “it is” make sense in this sentence?)
- But, yikes, I think these are its footprints!
Than and Then
Than is a grammatical participle and preposition typically used when comparing something.
Then is mainly used as an adverb when talking about situations in time.
- I think this jack-o-lantern is carved better than that one.
- We’re going to eat dinner and then go trick-or-treating with the kids.
3. Overusing/Misusing Commas
We’ve all probably heard and understand how important a comma can be like in the following sentence:
- “Let’s eat, Grandma!” versus “Let’s eat Grandma.” (Creepy!)
If you’re like me, you learned to put a comma anywhere you’d pause in a sentence. But that’s not really the case. The following article on Your Dictionary gives the top 10 tips for using commas.
While the English language can sometimes feel like a real nightmare, hopefully these tips will help you avoid some ghoulish grammar and spooky spelling mistakes in the future.
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With an MBA from Edgewood College, a bachelor’s degree in journalism from UW-Madison and more than 20 years of marketing, branding and public relations experience, Kitowski provides strategic direction for national and local clients’ marketing and copywriting needs. Previously, Kitowski worked as a marketing manager at Ascension Health where she created and led strategic marketing campaigns to grow major service lines. Prior to working at Ascension, Kitowski was a marketing communications manager for TomoTherapy, a medical device manufacturer, and was also a morning show news producer for NBC-15 News in Madison. Kitowski brings experience in copywriting, advertising, media placement, brand alignment and development, social media, focus group facilitation, and tradeshow and event planning to WBD’s clients.