5 cringe-worthy linguistic mistakes

From confusing homonyms to using non-words that have entered the slovenly vernacular to—egad!—using the insufferable, ‘I should of done that,’ these verbal gaffes are unforgivable.


I’ve previously discussed why I think proper grammar matters in press releases. It matters in all your writing.

It even matters in blogging, I’d argue. Sure, blogging is less formal, and it’s OK to bend some grammar rules here and there if it helps you communicate more effectively. Heck, I’ve certainly bent and even broken my fair share of rules in my blog—intentionally and unintentionally.

However, there are certain grammatical mistakes that you simply shouldn’t break. When you do, it makes you look just plain stupid, to be quite honest. It causes you to lose credibility with your readers—whether that reader is a guest on your blog or a reporter to whom you’ve just sent a press release.

So, which grammatical mistakes should you avoid at all costs?

1. Using of instead of have

This one drives me a bit insane. The phrase is could have, not could of. It’s should have, not should of. And it’s would have, not would of. I understand that when you hear it said aloud—especially in contractions such as would’ve—it sounds like the person is saying of, but they are (one hopes) saying have.

2. Mixing up your, their, and its with their homonyms

I’ve gone over these mistakes a few times in the past, so I’ve combined them all into the No. 2 spot on this list. Let me repeat what I’ve said to make this easier:

Their indicates possession, such as, “We are going to their house.”

There refers to a place, such as, “Place the bags over there,” or, “There is a bookstore on Linden Place.”

They’re is a contraction of the phrase they are. For example, “They’re coming over for dinner at 6 tonight.”

Your indicates possession. For example, “Do your homework,” or, “Clean your room.”

You’re is a contraction of you are. For example, “You’re going to get in trouble if you don’t clean your room.”

It’s (with an apostrophe) means it is, as in, “It’s going to be a good day.” Its (without an apostrophe) indicates ownership, as in “The dog chewed its bone.”

3. Mixing up loose and lose

Loose and lose are two disctinct words with completely different meanings. It’s not, “Why did you loose my wallet?” It’s, “Why did you lose my wallet?”

And it’s not: “My pants are lose because I lost weight.” It’s, “My pants are loose because I lost weight.”

Got it?

4. Using the invented word irregardless

Regardless of what you might see all over the Internet, irregardless is a word used by ignorant people who should be simply saying regardless.

5. Using the invented word supposably

I have to wrap up this list before I throw my laptop across the room. (By the way, it’s throw, not through.) Supposably isn’t a word. That’s all there is to it. The correct word is supposedly.

What are some other grammatical mistakes that make you shake your head-or your fist?

A version of this article first appeared on PR Fuel.

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