Three Grammar Mistakes Smart People Still Make

Y’all are a smart bunch of readers. You know it, I know it. No shame in admitting that.

But we also know that Grammar, she is a tricky mistress, and it’s easy to make mistakes. Even when you’re smart.

The three errors below are sneaky and show up everywhere, even in documents that are well-edited otherwise. The good news is, these mistakes are easy to fix. Read and learn.

1. Every day vs. everyday

“Every day” acts like an adverb, while “everyday” is an adjective. I drive to work every day (adverb), so it’s an everyday occurrence (adjective).

RIGHT: Every day I’m shufflin’.

WRONG: Everyday I’m shufflin’.

I see this a lot in ads. “Working hard to help you. Everyday.” Cringe.

2. One hour vs. one-hour: when to use hyphens

If you wait for one hour, that’s a one-hour wait. Hyphens are for turning the phrase into an adjective. If you’re not using the phrase as an adjective, leave the hyphen out.

If you do the work up front, then it’s up-front work. Combine the words when using as an adjective, leave them separate otherwise. Same rule as every day vs. everyday, actually.

RIGHT: Gilligan went on a three-hour tour.

WRONG: Gilligan went on a three hour tour.

(Update: forgot to mention in the original post, but there are also a lot of other situations where hyphens can be used, besides turning a phrase into an adjective. Just so there’s no confusion.)

3. Till vs. ’til

I used to think that till was for gardening (“she tilled the soil”), but for talking about time, you had to use ’til since it’s a short form of until (“I’ll wait ’til he gets here”).

Wrong.

Yes, till can refer to tilling the land, but it’s also a perfectly good word for talking about time. Till is not a shortened form of until. Rather, till and until are two valid ways of saying the same thing, and ’til is not really correct.

I say “not really correct” because, if enough people make the same English mistake, eventually it just becomes standard English. These days, almost everyone writes ’til even though till is better, and even the dictionaries are starting to come around. So I guess the main point isn’t so much that ’til is wrong, but that till is right.

RIGHT: I kept reading the blog until he brought up grammar.

RIGHT: I kept reading the blog till he brought up grammar.

LESS RIGHT: I kept reading the blog ’til he brought up grammar.

This concludes today’s episode of “Brian rants.” I’ll turn it over to you. What grammar mistakes drive you crazy?

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11 responses to “Three Grammar Mistakes Smart People Still Make

  1. There vs They’re vs Their is probably the most annoying grammar mistake ever…and still one I still make. More due to sloppiness than anything else though.

    And for the record, I thought everyday wasn’t officially a word, that i was supposed to be every day and always be every day.

    (I just noticed that I eat my “be”s. Fingers don’t like typing them apparently.)

  2. When someone uses a comma like this one,and doesn’t put a space after it.

    And, I actually have a question, seeing as I couldn’t find an answer to this on the internet. Roleplay and role-play. Which is right? Roleplay seems to be used more often, but my spell checker doesn’t recognize it. And should there be a hyphen between spell and checker?

  3. Here’s a new one for the internet age. Two spaces between sentences or just one? Convention seems to be that one space is correct on things like a blog or a Facebook post, but incorrect in a manuscript.

  4. When people put apostrophes in their names (or anything that ends in ‘s’) when they do not need them! The Smith’s, the Brown’s. Drives.me.batty! They ruin perfectly good personalized pictures or whatever with that one itty bitty tiny apostrophe! And…couldn’t care less..ugh. And…Me and John are going somewhere. And….Thanks for thinking of John and I.

  5. Do these need to be hyphenated goal setting ,role play, self assessment

  6. I totally agree with Karen Lynn. These mistakes make me crazy TOO!!!!!

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