That / who
We want to hire someone who is great at grammar, and we will buy books thatwe can use for reference. Use the word "who" when you are talking about people, and "that" when you're talking about objects.
- Me, myself and I
This one got a lot of enthusiastic complaints about people using the word "myself" in sentences like "You will have a meeting with Bob and myself." Myself is a reflexive pronoun, and it's a bit confusing, so I will turn to my favorite source, Grammar Girl, who gives a great explanation about when to use I, me or myself, and when myself can be used to add emphasis, as in "I painted it myself." But the short answer? Please, never say "You'll be meeting with Bob and myself."
- Should have / should of
I think the problem here is that the words "should have" and "could have" were contracted in spoken English to "should've" and "could've" and some people now think that means "should of" and "could of." The correct expression is "should have," "could have," or "would have" and that is how you write it out.
- Pluralizing with apostrophes
The way we make words plural in the English language is usually by adding the letter 's' to the word. So egg becomes eggs and CEO becomes CEOs. Apostrophes are not used to pluralize words. Ever.
- Less / fewer
Fewer is used when you're talking about something you can count, and less is used for things you can't specifically quantify. So if you want to weigh less, you will want to eat fewer candy bars.
- Then / than
This pair got a lot of mention in the other article's comments section. If you're confused on this one, "then" refers to the passing of time, and "than" indicates a comparison. First you need to be better than she is, and then you can win.
- Loan / lend / borrow
This one is kind of tricky. Traditionally, "lend" is a verb and "loan" is a noun. In American English, you go to the bank and ask for a loan, and they lend you money. Or they loan you money, and then you can tell people that they lent you money. Or loaned you money. And now you have a loan to pay off. I told you it was tricky. Our faithful source Grammar Girl has a tip to remember: "loan" and "noun" both have an "o" in them, and "lend" and "verb" both have an "e."
- To / too
I didn't include this because I rarely see it in cover letters, resumes or business correspondence. But apparently others see it a lot, so here you go. "To" means in the direction of, as in They went to the movies. "Too" means in addition to, as in Our daughter came along, too, or to an excessive degree, as in, We left early because it was too hot in the theater. Of course, none of these are the same as the number two.
You're / Your
The apostrophe means it's a contraction of two words; "you're" is the short version of "you are" (the "a" is dropped), so if your sentence makes sense if you say "you are," then you're good to use you're. "Your" means it belongs to you, it's yours.
- You're = if you mean "you are" then use the apostrophe
- Your = belonging to you
You're going to love your new job!
It's / Its
This one is confusing, because generally, in addition to being used in contractions, an apostrophe indicates ownership, as in "Dad's new car." But, "it's" is actually the short version of "it is" or "it has." "Its" with no apostrophe means belonging to it.
- It's = it is
- Its = belonging to it
It's important to remember to bring your telephone and its extra battery.
They're / Their / There
"They're" is a contraction of "they are." "Their" means belonging to them. "There" refers to a place (notice that the word "here" is part of it, which is also a place – so if it says here and there, it's a place). There = a place
- They're = they are
- Their = belonging to them
They're going to miss their teachers when they leave there.
Loose / Lose
These spellings really don't make much sense, so you just have to remember them. "Loose" is the opposite of tight, and rhymes with goose. "Lose" is the opposite of win, and rhymes with booze. (To show how unpredictable English is, compare another pair of words, "choose" and "chose," which are spelled the same except the initial sound, but pronounced differently. No wonder so many people get it wrong!)
- Loose = it's not tight, it's loosey goosey
- Lose= "don't lose the hose for the rose" is a way to remember the same spelling but a different pronunciation
I never thought I could lose so much weight; now my pants are all loose!
Lead / Led
Another common but glaring error. "Lead" means you're doing it in the present, and rhymes with deed. "Led" is the past tense of lead, and rhymes with sled. So you can "lead" your current organization, but you "led" the people in your previous job.
- Lead = present tense, rhymes with deed
- Led = past tense, rhymes with sled
My goal is to lead this team to success, just as I led my past teams into winning award after award.
A lot / Alot / Allot
First the bad news: there is no such word as "alot." "A lot" refers to quantity, and "allot" means to distribute or parcel out.
There is a lot of confusion about this one, so I'm going to allot ten minutes to review these rules of grammar.
Between you and I
This one is widely misused, even by TV news anchors who should know better.
In English, we use a different pronoun depending on whether it's the subject or the object of the sentence: I/me, she/her, he/him, they/them. This becomes second nature for us and we rarely make mistakes with the glaring exception of when we have to choose between "you and I" or "you and me."
Grammar Girl does a far better job of explaining this than I, but suffice to say that "between you and I" is never correct, and although it is becoming more common, it's kind of like saying "him did a great job." It is glaringly incorrect.
The easy rule of thumb is to replace the "you and I" or "you and me" with either "we" or "us" and you'll quickly see which form is right. If "us" works, then use "you and me" and if "we" works, then use "you and I."
Between you and me (us), here are the secrets to how you and I (we) can learn to write better.