Using the Right Word Part 2 #WritingTips #AmWriting

Following on from last week’s post (here), I thought I’d share some more common grammatical errors. Keep these in mind when writing and you’ll find that correct usage becomes second nature.

Have not of!!!

Why the exclamation marks? Because this is one of the things I absolutely hate! And I mean hate. I don’t know why it winds me up as much as it does, but it does. The problem is that when we say ‘could’ve’, ‘should’ve’ or ‘would’ve’ we pronounce that ‘ve’ in the same way we say ‘of’. So then people think it is ‘of’ and when they’re not using the contraction they say and write ‘could of’, ‘should of’ and ‘would of’ instead of ‘could have’, ‘should have’ and ‘would have’. It’s wrong!!!

I should have gone to the toilet before I left. RIGHT!

I should of gone to the toilet before I left. WRONG!

Misplaced modifiers

A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase or clause that is separated from, or does not relate clearly to, the word it modifies, or describes. This can mean that the sentence changes its meaning, or doesn’t make sense at all.

For example:

Having taking your advice, my cat will be eating a different type of cat food.

Now, although we know that it isn’t likely that the cat is the one who has taken the advice, the sentence is structured in such a way as to make the meaning confusing and silly. This is much better:

Having taken your advice, I will now be feeding my cat a different type of cat food.

How about:

I served lemonade to the guests in paper cups.

So, the guests are in paper cups then? Although we know that is silly, in this sentence, that’s exactly where they are. Just change it around a little:

I served lemonade in paper cups to the guests.

Possessive nouns

One use of the apostrophe is to show possession. Simple? Well, not always.

If the noun is singular, then the apostrophe goes before the ‘s’:

Brian’s trainers were red.

If the noun is singular and ends in an ‘s’, you have two choices. Either the apostrophe goes after the ‘s’:

James’ car ran out of petrol.

Or you can add an apostrophe and another ‘s’:

James’s car ran out of petrol.

The important thing here is consistency. Always do it the same way.

If the noun is a plural, it probably already ends in ‘s’, so you can just add an apostrophe on the end. So, one dog:

The dog’s bone was buried in the garden.

Two dogs:

The dogs’ bones were buried in the garden.

Just to make it more difficult, some nouns have irregular plural forms. For example – the plural of woman is women. So, one woman:

The woman’s clothes were the height of fashion.

A group of women:

The women’s clothes were the height of fashion.

Happy writing!

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    1. That’s not something I’ve particularly noticed. I can see why you could possibly use ‘these ones’ if you needed to differentiate, for example, but it does seem that ‘ones’ would, in most cases, be redundant. ‘Whenever’ should only be used if you are discussing something that happens every time, so ‘I bought chocolate whenever I went to the store’ would mean you bought chocolate every time, whereas ‘I bought chocolate when I went to the store’ would refer to a specific time. But again, ‘whenever’ wouldn’t always be necessary and it’s something I’d remove if necessary when editing.


      1. I don’t use either but I hear young people use the two examples I gave a lot. The word ‘these” in my mind is already plural so the word “ones” to be is incorrect. It’s annoying but maybe that’s just me.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve started playing around with the wrong way to use contractions in poetry for an enhanced effect. It’s a struggle in some ways, as I have that Virgo-ish pull towards correction…yet perhaps poetry is one medium that urges us to let all the rules go. It’s rather freeing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alison, thanks for the advice.
    I’ve been disconnected from the internet for nearly a week (watch for a post about that) but got reconnected today. The war in Ukraine, new Covid variant, increased inflation made me feel like I needed to crawl back into my no-net-hole. But your cat at table made everything all right.
    Like the advice. Love the cat.

    Liked by 1 person

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