The 10 Most Annoying Writing Mistakes [Infographic]

The 10 Most Annoying Writing Mistakes [Infographic]

There’s no such thing as a perfect writer. Even professionals make mistakes from time to time, as our readers never fail to point out. (Thanks for keeping us on our toes, guys!) But some writing errors are so boneheaded and easily avoidable that they infuriate pedants and casuals alike. Here are 10 common screw-ups that every writer needs to avoid, from the embarrassing misuse of homophones to confounding double negatives.

Spelling image from Shutterstock

The below infographic comes from Lawrence Ragan Communications based on a poll of 560 LinkedIn users. They found homophone misuse to be the biggest pet peeve when it comes to writing errors, followed by passive writing and the use of cliches, particularly in corporate settings. You can check out the rest of the top 10 below.

The 10 Most Annoying Writing Mistakes [Infographic]

Keen for more writing advice? Here are ten popular grammar myths, debunked by a Harvard linguist.

[Via Ragan]

This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • How could you leave out the ‘s for plurals? e.g. photo’s, tomato’s, ATM’s, PC’s. It’s usually only used when a word ends in a vowel sound and with abbreviations.

        • I was joking, but apparently there’s debate whether they actually are abbreviations.

          By virtue of the being shortened (i.e. abbreviated), they’re, by definition, abbreviations.

          • From Wikipedia on acronyms (

            “An acronym is an abbreviation used as a word which is formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word. Usually these components are individual letters (as in NATO or laser) or parts of words or names (as in Benelux).”

            on abbreviations (

            “Acronyms and initialisms are regarded as subsets of abbreviations … They are abbreviations that consist of the initial letters or parts of words.”

            Ergo, my describing ATM and PC as abbreviations is correct, but since people want to be really picky, they’re initialisms, but certainly NOT acronyms.

            Interestingly however, the same article says there are some authorities (e.g. New York Times style guide) that actually INSIST that apostrophes be used to pluralise abbreviations.

      • Except those are acronyms, not abbreviations. An acronym is something that is pronounced differently to its fully spelled out version (e.g. PC is said “Pee Cee”, not “personal computer”). An abbreviation is something that is pronounced the same as the long version (e.g. Mr is still pronounced “Mister”).

        Edit: After googling it to confirm, it seems the difference is up to debate. But meh, that’s the way I was taught 😛

  • I was about to get fired up and agree with the article on the use and differentiation of ‘then’ and ‘than’, but the article didn’t mention it (Although it did get ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ so I had at least something to latch onto when shouting in my head).

    • I think the then/than problem is one of utter ignorance and laziness and probably angers me the most. I get that some people don’t know the difference between words that sounds the same, but then and than are completely freaking different!

      It’s like mixing up horse and house.

  • My pet peeve is “off of”, as in “I took the book off of the shelf”. North Americans I’m looking at you.

    What’s wrong with plain old “from”. Why make it *more* complicated?

  • They missed the commonest homophone chestnut:


    A surprising number of my (supposedly professionally literate) colleagues mix these up all the time.

    And don’t get me started on “effect” vs “affect” or “practice” vs “practise”.

  • The one that currently annoys me the most, and I’m increasingly seeing, is the usage of “of” instead of “have”, eg “I could of done that better myself”

    There really is no excuse for this the two words are quite dissimilar and I fail to see how even autocorrect could mix them up.

    • It has come about due to the use of words like *could’ve* and *should’ve*. When some people pronounce these quickly it sounds like *could of*. It is also pees me off and i am usually quick to correct people, before being flamed for being a grammar Nazi.

        • ‘Of’ instead of ‘have’ annoys me no end, as does using ‘an’ instead of ‘and’. I don’t know if it’s due to laziness or pure ignorance. eg. I went shopping an then drove home.

          Argghhhh….. This article has gotten my blood boiling too early in the week! Why, lifehacker, WHY?! (I disagree with the use of multiple punctuation marks, obviously).

  • Using his instead of he is or he’s eg: His my brother.
    Rogue apostrophe’s (see what I did there?)
    Seen instead of saw eg: ‘I seen what you’se done there’
    Them instead of those eg: ‘Try them one’s’

  • Bought vs brought. e.g. “Good thing I bought the picnic basket with me to the picnic”. Seems to be quite common in Australia. Probably just a mispronunciation problem rather than a writing one.

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