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Top Ten Grammar Mistakes People Usually Make

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Here are top 10 common grammar mistakes that people of all ages often make in their resumes, essays, term papers, blogs, or even bestselling novels. Although none of these mistakes is fatal in nature, should it appear in an important document, it can destroy the impression of the reader. Hopefully, the rules below will help some of us avoid making such mistakes in the future.

Who vs. Whom

‘Who’ performs the action. The action is performed ‘to whom’, ‘for whom’, by whom’ etc. It’s all about how the sentence is constructed: “I wanted to know who ordered to kill me but I was too afraid to ask for whom they worked.” You can also use a sentence structure with a dangling preposition but it is less preferable here, e.g., “I wanted to know who ordered to kill me but I was too afraid to ask who they worked for.”

That vs. Which

This is one of the most common mistakes people make, and it is easy to understand why. “That” is a restrictive pronoun vital to the noun to which it is referring. For instance, “I don’t trust people that aren’t my friends.” Here, we are referring to all people who are not friends with the author.

“Which” starts a relative clause and introduces qualifiers that may be inessential. For example, “I suggest that you read any of these books, which can be found in all major stores.”

Affect vs. Effect

This one is easy: “Affect” is a verb, while “Effect” is a noun. For instance, “Your inability to communicate clearly might affect your work” and “The effect of poor communication skills on a person’s professional life is well-known”.

May vs. Might

“May” implies a possibility. We use “Might” when we are very uncertain about something. For example, “You may get into trouble if you have another shot” implies a real possibility of problem. “You might get a ticket if you drive your car when you are not feeling well” implies a possibility that is far more uncertain.

Fewer vs. Less

“Fewer” is used for countable nouns while “Less” implies uncountable nouns, quantities. For example, “This company has fewer employees than its major rivals” and “We have less time than I expected. We should hurry!”

Historic vs. Historical

“Historic” means an important event, e.g., “That was a historic day which people will remember for a long time”.
“Historical” means related to history, something that happened in the past. For instance, “I know very few historical facts.”

More than vs. Over

There is a war between these two phrases. Although they mean pretty much the same, “Over” is considered more substandard and vague. “More than” is preferable in formal writing, whereas both can be used before numbers. Just don’t use “More than” with age!


There is no such word as “Irregardless”. It should always be “Regardless.” For instance, “I want to have that car regardless of its cost!”

The Dangling Participle

When you order a sentence in a confusing way, the so-called dangling participle occurs. “Running to the catch the bus, Rick’s wallet fell out of his pocket” is a wonderful and funny example of the dangling participant. Try instead: “Running to the catch the bus, Rick dropped the wallet that fell out of his pocket.”

The Oxford Comma

When there is a series of three or more terms, you should use what is known as the Oxford comma. It means you should put a comma before the word “and” in a list. For example, “Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh.”

It is OK not to be a grammar geek who knows every single rule there is. You can always pick up the information you need in The Elements of Style or the AP Stylebook!



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