Let’s be honest- the internet and the like has made us lazy when it comes to writing.  We forget typos, and then are offended when the Grammar Nazis swoop in to chide us- (online though, its as likely as not that they are going on about grammar to avoid making a counterpoint).

So, let’s take a quick glance at five easily corrected mistakes to keep an eye out for.

1) Interchangnig homophones- You remember homophones, right?  The words that sound the same but are spelled different, and have different meanings.  The two big parings are:

a) You’re and Your

and

b) There, Their & They’re

Remember, you can quickly check for the contraction versions by using the full versions- if “you are” or “they are” doesn’t work in context, they don’t work as contractions.  Which leaves the there/their possibility- is it a location or a possessive?  Boom, done, next.

2) Getting “than” and “then” curfuddled- Its problematic, especially since there are times when you can interchange the words and the sentence still works- though the thought it conveys would be different.

Than is comparative, as in “I  would  rather be writing my novel than writing this email,” or “My house is smaller than hers.”

Then deals with time, as in, “I  ate my lunch then I  played World of Warcraft.”

3) Another pair of similar sounding ones- “affect” and “effect”- can cause problems.  Again, meaning is key: “Affect” is a verb, used to denote action, as  in “The injury affected my soccer game” or, “I often affect a British accent to sound more intelligent.” “Effect” is a noun, and is generally the  result of something being affected, (adding to the confusion), as in, “Because the cellphone keeps ringing, the effect of the disruption made it harder to concentrate.”

Certain punctuation can be extremely pesky, dotting the page with  misused  commas or semi-colons. A few rules of thumb to remember:

4) When to use semi-colons (“;”) ?Semi-colons are punctuation marks that separate two complete sentences, (aka, independent clauses), and help tie your writing together nicely; they  help with the flow of writing while helping you avoid choppy sentences.  Also, semi-colons should be used to  separate items that have commas in their names, such as, “I lived in  Tongduchŏn, South Korea; Los Angeles, California; and Blue Hill, Maine.”

5) Overusing commas- The basics of comma usage are to denote a natural pause in writing, or to separate two or more  things. Go back  and read your writing outloud, count the commas, and if you have too many, rewrite the  sentence or separate into another sentence.

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