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Tackling some of the most common faux pas of English Writing

Oops! Its my bad!
Published by Hermine Chan


Have you ever been confused about where to use an apostrophe or whether to use "I " or "me"? Since the beginning of time, the do's and don'ts of English grammar have confused even the best of us. This quick read aims to highlight some of the most common faux-pas made by English writers and how to correct and also avoid them in the future. After all, what good is a guide if it doesn't help you?

“Should have” vs. “Should of”

You'd be surprised at how many people are often confused about whether to use "should of'' or " should have." When seeing it written out like this, it seems quite simple, doesn't it? The correct phrase is " should have," - but the way our speech slurs together is the root of our confusion. In most texts, "should have'' is contracted to "should've," which sounds an awful lot like " should of." It is essential to understand that the phrase is often used when referring to an action in the past. It also uses the past participle with a modal verb, a key characteristic that defines its use. As we write more informally, minor rules such as these are overshadowed by colloquial language. However, after learning how easily this error is fixed, the chances of making this mistake would be at an all-time low.

“Me” vs. “I”

Have you ever said something like, "Alex had lunch with Mariam and I"? You might be surprised to hear that the sentence written above is actually grammatically incorrect. The correct way to write it is, " Alex had lunch with Mariam and me." The "me" vs. "I" dilemma has been the enemy of many over the years. However, the question simply comes down to using "me" or "I" as a subject or object. "I" is a subject pronoun, whereas "me" is an object pronoun. Confused? Well, fear not. This handy trick will always come to your rescue. Let's suppose the sentence was "Benji and __ went to the store." We ignore “Benji” and just focus on filling the blank with the appropriate pronoun. We would have  “Me went to the store" or "I went to the store". Using our prior English knowledge, we know that the correct pronoun would be "I," which is the subject pronoun. What about, " Would you like to go to the movies with Darla and ___?" If you said "me," you are correct! The word "me" is the correct pronoun and is an object pronoun.

“It’s” vs. “Its”

Let's not forget the apostrophe catastrophe. Apostrophes are used to indicate either a contraction or possession. However, the case of "it's" (contraction) and "its" (possession) causes confusion as it doesn't conform to the general rule. In this case, the rule of contraction outweighs that of possession, and the correct use of the apostrophe is "it's," as in " It's a beautiful day." A sentence like, "India is known for its spices," will use "its" even though it is associated with possession. An easy rule of thumb is that if the word can be broken into two, it may use an apostrophe.

Keeping in mind small rules such as those listed above can significantly impact one's writing and allow it to be more professional. Tips such as those above allow writers from all groups to be more confident in their skills and transform good work into great work.

Happy Writing!

- Jyot K., English as Additional Language Peer  

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