10 Quick Grammar Tips that Make You Look Smart

Grammar is a tough subject, wouldn’t you agree? Even if you’re a grammar nerd (cough) expert, you’ll find that rules change. English is a living language, and what wasn’t correct before can become accepted!

On the flip side, some mistakes are repeated so often that people think they are correct when they aren’t. Here are ten quick grammar tips to avoid common slips and make you look smart.

Tip 1: its/it’s

Wrong: Its rare to see an egg that laughs at it’s own jokes.
Right: It’s rare to see an egg that laughs at its own jokes.

To apostrophe or not to apostrophe? When in doubt, say it is in the sentence because it’s is short for it is. Its shows possession for animals and inanimate objects. It sounds strange to say the cat licked it is paws, but you can say the cat licked its paws.

Photo Credit: Roman Odintsov

Tip 2: must’ve, should’ve, would’ve, could’ve

Wrong: They should of purchased the home when it was a buyer’s market.
Right: They should have purchased the home when it was a buyer’s market.

These words are misused much more often than they should! Must of, should of, would of, and could of were born when we started to spell these expressions the way they sound. Contractions such as must’ve from must have became must of. Time to change should of and would of and could of back to should’ve, would’ve, and could’ve!

Tip 3: there, their, they’re

Wrong: There staring out the window at they’re friends over their.
Right: They’re staring out the window at their friends over there.

These three words sound the same but have different meanings. Remember that they’re makes sense if you can replace it with they are in the sentence. There and here both have “ere” and refer to places. You use their to show possession, such as when someone is the heir to something.

Photo Credit: Suzy Hazelwood

Tip 4: than/then

Wrong: That insurance plan was more expensive then that one.
Right: That insurance plan was more expensive than that one.

Quick tip to remember which is which: then with an “e” is used for time while than with an “a” is used for comparisons.

Tip 5: literally

Wrong: My head literally exploded from all the new information during class that day.
Right: I was overwhelmed by all the new information from class that day.

Some people like to use literally to emphasize what they are saying. But this word means that what you are saying is what really happened. Your head actually exploded, which would have been gruesome. The opposite is also true. Saying you “literally ate three hamburgers in one sitting” is a great accomplishment. But eating is eating.   

Photo Credit: ViTalko

Tip 6: lie, lay

Wrong: He wanted to lay down and sleep under the desk where his boss wouldn’t see him.
Right: He wanted to lie down and sleep under the desk where his boss wouldn’t see him.

Here’s how to remember the difference between lie and lay. The past tense of lie is lay. The past tense of lay is laid. That alone is confusing. Try the following tip.

Lie doesn’t require a direct object but lay requires a direct object. You lie (no direct object) down on the bed. You lay the book (direct object) on the table. Yesterday you lay (no direct object) on the bed. Last night you laid the book (direct object) on the table.

Tip 7: whet or wet

Wrong: She wanted to wet her appetite by taking a sniff of her mom’s food.
Right: She wanted to whet her appetite by taking a sniff of her mom’s food.

There is no moisture involved when you are trying to arouse your desire for food! The expression whet your appetite originated sometime in the 1600s when “whet” referred to making one’s interest or desire more acute.

Photo Credit: freestocks.org

Tip 8: could care less

Wrong: I could care less if you could melt gold with your mind.
Right: I couldn’t care less if you could melt gold with your mind.

I couldn’t care less means I couldn’t be less interested in something. If I could care less, I still have a bit of interest in something. You could still convince me that melting gold is even less interesting if you tried hard enough.

Tip 9: I or me?

Wrong: Mario talked with Luigi and I about the mushrooms.
Right: Mario talked with Luigi and me about the mushrooms.

A tip that will help you to remember whether to use “I” or “me” is to take the other name out of the sentence. Does it sound right to say, “Mario talked with I about the mushrooms”? It sounds better to say, “Mario talked with me about the mushrooms.”

Grammar nerd tip: the rule to remember is that the object pronoun “me” always follows a preposition, such as “with.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Tip 10: due diligence

Wrong: She did her do diligence and looked into the history of the company.
Right: She did her due diligence and looked into the history of the company.

Due diligence is a legal term that means a person will take reasonable steps to satisfy legal requirements, especially when buying or selling something.

Key Takeaway

Many common grammar mistakes have made their way into our written communication. Check your hastily written texts and your rushed emails to ensure you’re not guilty of making these mistakes! Follow these ten grammar tips to make your grammar look polished.

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