10 Common Grammar Mistakes And How To Fix Them [Infographic]

10 Common Grammar Mistakes And How To Fix Them [Infographic]

Some grammar mistakes manage to trip up the vast majority of writers. Take “affect” and “effect” — no matter how many times this grammar rule is explained to people, many writers continue to mix them up. If you’re regularly tripped up by homonyms such as “who’s vs. whose” and “further vs. farther”, this infographic is here to help.

Cramp image from Shutterstock

We’re confident that most Lifehacker readers have a commanding grasp of the below grammar rules. Nevertheless, it’s smart to have a cheat sheet on hand for those brain-fart moments when an obvious spelling escapes you. Not only do good grammar and accuracy matter, they can also allegedly affect your love life.

For more advanced grammar tips, be sure to check out this guide from Harvard cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker.

10 Common Grammar Mistakes And How To Fix Them [Infographic]

[Via Visually]


  • With due respect to Harvard and Steven Pinker, I’d suggest that “farther” has almost disappeared from common usage in Australia, where “further” is widely accepted as a substitute.

      • I’d suggest @phil_h is right. At least for common use.

        To be fair a lot of the rules in that infographic are actually no longer hard and fast rules. Farther/further and affect/effect are often considered interchangeable these days. Sure not technically right, but the use has become so common it’s just accepted.

        Also of note, on the “its” example, I’d have thought “the dog wanted its bone” was possessive so should be written “the dog wanted it’s bone”. Part of the reason English is so confusing when trying to nut out exceptions.

        • Meant to add, I think as long as the message is immediately obvious then it’s ok, at least for common use. eg: Farther and further are close enough in meaning to be immediately understood. The same with who and whom.

          On the other hand than/then have different meanings so it needs a second read to ascertain the meaning. And other common screw ups like accept/except cause the same problem. In those cases people really need to get it right.

        • AAGHH! Affect and effect are NOT considered interchangable. I’ve never heard anyone say so. Also, it’s and its. I learned this when I was a teeny child at primary school, no more than 7 or 8. it was no problem to me or to my classmates. We were told that there is no apostrophe in ‘its’ when used as a possessive because of confusion that might arise with ‘it’s’, meaning ‘it is’.
          Why does everyone seem to think these rules are difficult? As I said, I learned them when very young. Aren’t they taught these days? Or if they are, are people becoming less able to learn?

  • Why would you separate rules 1, 6, and 10? They each have to do with apostrophes.
    Number 4 is also not correct. “They”, “them”, and “their” can all be used in the singular sense. Not only have they each been used by Shakespeare, Austen, and Dickens, to name a few, but it is also now a much more appropriate pronoun given that gender is a spectrum, not a dichotomy. The singular “they” was even voted Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society.
    I’m surprised that Pinker does not allow for language to adapt in this way.
    (Sorry, it seems I only ever comment here to complain. I’ll write more positive comments in the future now that I have recalled my password.)

    • Not only that but they forgot to mention a very important usage of apostrophes, that are in regards to possession when you are referring to someone’s name.

      If the person’s name doesn’t end with an s, ” ‘s ” is added to the end of their name. But if their name DOES end in an s, just a single apostrophe is added at the end. Example:

      Ben’s car
      Sally’s house
      Lucas’ desk
      Dolores’ coffee

      • I’d have thought that was covered (though not explicitly) in the very first item. It’s about apostrophe use for possession, and the rules are exactly the same whether you’re referring to a generic term eg: Boy’s and Sisters’ or names like Ben’s and Lucas’.

    • Even without the whole gender spectrum issue, using them/they is much nicer to the ear than it or its when describing a person whose gender is unknown. Technically it’s probably more correct to say it when talking about an anonymous person but that sounds like you’re referring to an object not a person.

    • Basically, if you can whittle down the (masculine) subject to a “he” or a “his” then it’s “who”. If you instead end up with “him” then it’s “whom”. It doesn’t work with female subjects quite so well, since “her” and “her” don’t really help. It can be hard because the subject is usually in the response rather than the question

      Q: Whom does the ball belong to.
      A: It belongs to him
      ‘Whom’ is correct

      Q: Who pasted a US grammar guide onto an Australian English site?
      A: He did
      The ‘who’ is correct.

    • most of them are the same.

      the only different ones are spellings (color vs colour, encyclopedia vs encyclopaedia, organize vs organise) and punctuation (in the usa, punctuation always goes inside quotation marks, whereas everywhere else punctuation only goes inside if it’s a part of direct speech).

  • Yes, and the apostrophe is now regularly used in both mainstream print media and in internet media as an abbreviation for ‘is’ … e.g. The school’s getting a new sports hall. That usage is different, but fine with me.

    Grammarians like to turn the patterns of language into ‘rules’ and then complain when the rules are broken. But that doesn’t allow for the fact that language is spoken by real living people who constantly change the way they speak (and write).

    One reason some people complain is because we learn our first language when we are very young, at the infant and toddler stage, when our brain is very flexible and is developing many connections. So our language becomes ‘built-in’ to our brain structure. As we become older it is harder to change that and when the next generation develops its own language patterns these are harder for us to incorporate and we tend to get annoyed.

  • The most common error by even fine writers is the “Whom shall I say is calling?” error. I’ve twice caught even The New Yorker on that one.

    • I think “whom” is often used to indicate a certain air of “snobbery”. Even when the usage is incorrect it’s used just to indicate that the person is “acting fancy”. It’s why you see it used whenever there’s a butler talking or rich people in New Yorker cartoons.

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