Ask Dr. Diane: What are the Top 15 Writing and Grammar Mistakes You See as a Professor?

Today’s question is:  What are the top mistakes you see students make in terms of spelling and/or grammar?  Here is a list of some of the common mistakes I see on a regular basis:

  1. A lot should be written as 2 words and not as one word as in a lot.
  2. Cannot should be written as 1 word and not as two words as in can not.
  3. Use effect as a noun and affect as a transitive verb.  Example: Something may have a lasting effect.  The delay may affect your plans. 
  4. Use except as a verb and accept as a preposition.  Example:  He counted all of them except the last one.  Please accept my apology.
  5. When including numbers in your writing, be sure that you spell out the number if it is the first word in a sentence.  Example:  It is correct to write:  Fifty people were in the crowd.  It is incorrect to write:  40 people were in the crowd.
  6. Many people still get its and it’s mixed up.  You only use “it’s” when you mean it is.  Example:  It’s getting late.  Use “its” to show possession of something.  Example:  Its case is blue. 
  7. Irregardless should not be used as a word.  You might find it in dictionaries as you would ain’t.  However, it is not proper to use as a word.
  8. Many get lose and loose mixed up as well.  Lose sounds like looze and is used when something is lost.  Loose means not tight and is used as an adjective. 
  9. Use anyway as one word if you mean “in any event”.  Example:  She is going to the party anyway.

10.  It is correct to say between you and me and incorrect to say between you and I.

11.  It is correct to say I couldn’t care less and incorrect to say I could care less.  Interestingly only 1 in 5 people say it correctly. 

12.  When to use e.g. and i.e.  Use e.g. When you mean “for example” and use i.e. when you mean in other words. 

13.  Use farther when you are talking about a more advanced point.  Example:  Drive farther down the road.  Use further when you mean to assist.  Example:  He was trying to further his ambition. 

14.  If someone is from Scotland, they are Scottish and not Scotch.

15.  When to use I or me . . . It is correct to say it has been a good year for Bob and me.  It is incorrect to say it has been a good year for Bob and I.  Take the words “Bob and” out of the sentence and it helps to tell you if you are correct.  For example:  It has been a good year for me sounds correct.  It has been a good year for I does not.