Spooky Scary Grammar Mistakes to Avoid

In honor of Halloween, we’ve put together some of the scariest, frequently found, grammar and language mistakes that people make. There are many common grammatical errors found in writing, on social media, and even in official documents, but as content marketers, we can’t afford to spook our customers with these frighteningly embarrassing grammar mistakes.

Ghastly Idioms

Often people say common idioms and phrases incorrectly but don’t realize it. You might be one of them, let’s take a look!

I Could Care Less

Prepared to Be Scared by Spooky Scary Grammar Mistakes

The point of this idiom is to communicate that you have no regard for something. By saying “I could care less” you are stating that you actually are capable of caring less than you do now, implying that you care about the thing you are claiming to have no regard for. The correct phrase is “I couldn’t care less”, meaning, you cannot possibly care less about whatever the subject is.

I Could Of

“I could of worn my Halloween costume to the office.” This sentence is so wrong it sends spooky tremors up my spine! The phrase “could of” makes absolutely no grammatical sense. The correct phrase is “I could have worn my Halloween costume to the office.” However, this mistake is understandable considering that “could” and “have” can be contracted to become “could’ve” which sounds quite similar to “could of”. The same thing applies to “would of” or “should of” which is really “would have” or “should have!

A 360? Did You Mean a 180?

Have you ever heard someone say something like, “The boss’ mood did a 360 after lunch”? This is often used when someone has a sudden complete change in attitude, opinion, or mindset. Let’s consider a circle, “doing a 360” means ending up at the exact same point you started at, changing nothing. If you are “doing a 180” then you end up at a point on the exact opposite side of the circle from where you are. The correct phrase is “do a 180” which means that your attitude, mindset, or opinion has completely switched from what it started as.

Frightening Grammar Mistakes

Its/It’s and Your/You’re

Two of the most common writing mistakes are “its” versus “it’s” and “your” versus “you’re”. The “its” and “it’s” grammar rule can be confusing since it seems to contradict how possessives are supposed to work. Most possessive nouns end in ’s, but in the case of “its” and “it’s” the opposite is true; “its” is possessive (“the ghost haunts its former office”) and “it’s” is actually a contraction of “it” and “is”.

There is an easy trick for knowing if you’re using the proper term; if “it’s” can be replaced by “it is” and the sentence still makes complete sense, then use “it’s” with the apostrophe; if you can replace “its” with a proper possessive noun, like “ghost’s”, that means you should use “its” in its possessive form, without the apostrophe (see that spooky pun?).

Much like “its” and “it’s”, “your” is possessive and “you’re” is a contraction. Ask yourself if the meaning of the sentence remains the same when you replace “you’re” with “you are”. If so, then using “you’re” is correct. If “your” can be replaced with a possessive noun or a different possessive pronoun (i.e. her or his) then “your” is correct. For example, in the sentence “You’re bringing your candy to the office party today, right?” you could also write it as “You are bringing her candy to the office party today, right?” and while the meaning of the sentence changes slightly, since “her” and “your” aren’t synonyms, the sentence still makes perfect sense.

They’re, Their, and There

upstart group here lies good grammar

As an editor and proofreader, I see this one all the time. While it may be your spell-checker making the wrong call, it’s still one to look for in your content. Look at the sentence “Those mummies over there are going to drive their car to the house they’re hosting the Halloween party at”. “There” indicates a location, “their” is possessive (like “its” and “your”), and “they’re” is a contraction of “they” and “are”. So if that sentence can also be written as, “Those mummies over at the parking lot are going to drive the car they own to the house they are hosting the Halloween party at”, then the corresponding versions of “there” are correct.

Apostrophes

Now let’s talk about the proper use of apostrophes. This is a particular pet peeve of mine: apostrophes do not make a word plural! “The ghoul’s” does not mean there are multiple. If you use “ghoul’s” in a sentence, it needs to be followed with a noun (or adjective-noun combination) such as “favorite chair”. “You’re sitting in the ghoul’s favorite chair!” means you’re sitting in the favorite chair of a singular ghoul.

The plural version of “ghoul” is “ghouls” with no apostrophe. If a word already ends in “s”, such as “ghouls”, the apostrophe goes after the “s” and does not need a second “s” If more than one ghoul has a favorite chair It’s “the ghouls’ favorite chairs”.

Then and Than

If you write “I would rather have a boring meeting, then go to the office Halloween party” you are saying that you would rather go to the party after you have a boring meeting. “Then” refers to time, or sequence of events. “Than” is a comparison (i.e. “I would rather go to a haunted house than be bitten by a vampire”). To check if you’re using these correctly, ask yourself if the sentence is comparing two things (than) or describing a sequence of events (then).

Don’t Spook Your Customers (Or Your Editors!) – Define Your Content Marketing Strategy Today

Your content should inspire your readers rather than spook them with ghoulish grammar. Keep in mind the tricks I mentioned, double check your writing, and your audience will find your writing a treat!

Just like those king-size candy bars come from that one house on the block (you know which one!), great content stems from a great content strategy. If you need help making your marketing strategy as robust as those king-size candies, we are here to help!

If you are ready to grow your company then hop on a broom and take flight with Upstart Group!  Contact us today for a free marketing strategy consultation.