poor grammar ain’t funny

This site is the #1 search result for funny lists and as a result I get a continual stream of new submissions. I’ve noticed a few common mistakes that could easily be avoided if people understood the correct usage. Here are a few pitfalls to be aware of.

They’re is the contraction of they are. “They’re funny.”
Their is the possessive form of they. “Their party was great.”

Too denotes excess. “She worries too much.”
To has lots of meanings but usually means towards or in order to. “She went to the store to buy some bread.”

Affect is usually a verb. “The vote didn’t affect the outcome.”
Effect is usually a noun. “The overall effect was breathtaking.”

It’s is the contraction of it is. “It’s a nice day today.”
Its is the possessive form of the pronoun it. “Life has its ups and downs.”

No one is perfect, so proofreading is a good way to catch your mistakes. A spellchecker is also helpful, especially if you’re a habitually poor speller.


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  1. My spelling and grammar mistakes usually pop up out of laziness or just going to fast, but sometimes I see a word that I’ve typed and it just doesn’t look right. I could have typed it a thousand times before but for some reason, at that particular time, it looks completely foreign to me. From the list you’ve given, I would say “effect/affect” is probably the one that makes me pause most often.

    Comment by jason on November 26, 2002 @ 11:17 am
  2. I agree, affect vs. effect often has me rewording the sentence so I don’t have to figure out which one to use. By the way, I got another submission yesterday with a common one that I forgot to list: Your vs. You’re. I hope that it’s people’s laziness, but I have a sneaking suspicion some people don’t know the difference.

    Comment by dan on November 26, 2002 @ 1:08 pm
  3. Jason, I’m guessing that “to vs. too” is another common problem for you:

    “…out of laziness or just going to fast…”

    Comment by Jeff on April 6, 2004 @ 1:26 pm
  4. Hah, that’s funny, especially right after I had talked about its correct usage.

    Comment by dan on April 6, 2004 @ 1:37 pm
  5. I have heard many people use the words, woken up, to describe being awakened. I recently heard a reporter on television say he was, “woken up,” in the morning by the sun. Is this proper grammar? I worry all the time about my own grammar and hope I haven’t made any mistakes in this message.
    Thank you,
    Barb Cantor

    Comment by Barb Cantor on April 17, 2004 @ 9:54 pm
  6. Barb: No need to lose any sleep over your use of proper grammar – everyone makes mistakes. As far as the sentence in question, I would probably say, “I was woken up by the sun” but according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, awoken and woken are both correct.

    Regarding your other question from your e-mail:

    Another one is bathed. You do not bathe the baby, you bath it. If I have made any mistakes please correct me so I know what I am doing wrong.

    I would never have said you bath a baby. I have always considered bath to be a noun, but a look in the dictionary revealed that British usage includes bath as a verb. However, I still maintain that bathe is the more common verb to describe the action.

    Comment by dan on April 18, 2004 @ 12:34 am
  7. I wish I knew how to channel my frustration at those people who form every plural with an apstophe ‘s’. This is becoming rampant and nobody seems to care. Can anything be done? Is the entire country becoming illiterate?
    Frustrated, neigh on resigned

    Comment by william on April 22, 2004 @ 8:49 pm
  8. My biggest pet peeve is the use of grammatical redundancy for effect. Examples include: end result, component parts, actual fact, exact opposite, P.I.N. number, and ATM machine.

    Comment by PINWORM on August 11, 2004 @ 12:55 pm
  9. I cannot stand when some uses the word, anyways. Is that anyways, or anyway’s? Either way, a bell in my head goes off when I hear it.

    Comment by anita on October 3, 2004 @ 10:51 am
  10. i cant understand the form Ain’t ? . i have seen it in the title of songs such as Aint it funny ? and one Alicia keys song . can u explain it to me ?

    Comment by heiden on February 23, 2005 @ 2:53 am
  11. Answers.com explains its history.

    Comment by dan on February 23, 2005 @ 10:01 am
  12. “No one is perfect, so proofreading is a good way to catch your mistakes. A spellchecker is also helpful, especially if you’re a habitually poor speller.”

    I would have thought that a ‘spellchecker’ would be of most use to one who uses spells, eg Witches and Harry Potter etc. Those of us who write would use a spelling checker. It’s a Mircosoft thing I suppose – we have got used to their terminology. It also annoys me when they use ‘spelled’ rather than ‘spelt’, but maybe that’s just me !

    Comment by Andy on March 27, 2007 @ 10:12 am
  13. “Spelled” is the correct past tense of “spell” in English. “Spelt” would set me off because I am not British, and that is where that form is most commonly used.

    Are you suggesting Microsoft does need to check their spells? ;-)

    Comment by John on March 28, 2007 @ 6:38 pm
  14. I meant to say, “Are you suggesting that Microsoft does not need to check their spells?”

    See what happens when you don’t proofread! Point taken! Poor grammar makes poor humor even less humorous!

    Comment by John on March 28, 2007 @ 6:44 pm
  15. Another common grammatical mistake: you’re vs your.

    Comment by Elizabeth on May 12, 2008 @ 9:39 pm
  16. Very true.

    Comment by Dan on May 12, 2008 @ 10:19 pm
  17. Sign on a McDonald’s:


    Comment by Harriet on June 19, 2008 @ 5:39 pm
  18. I hate when people substitute healthy for healthful, as in “I like healthy foods.” They’d better be healthy…

    Comment by richard on December 14, 2009 @ 11:56 am
  19. Which is correct?
    What are you doing today?
    What are you doing, today?

    Also, when to use ‘what’ and ‘which’, i.e., ‘What football team do you support?’, or ‘Which football team do you support?’

    Comment by David on April 25, 2010 @ 1:20 pm
  20. “What are you doing today?” is correct. The decision to use what versus which is changing over time. Neither is wrong.

    Comment by Dan on April 25, 2010 @ 10:28 pm
  21. Be certain to read your paper, letter, etc., after using a spell check. Most do not find grammatical errors. I have had students turn in papers where I can tell they took the first word their spell check program offered, as it gave them a word that made no sense in the sentence. The funniest error, however, was a letter my husband received at his work. The author must have misspelled “inconvenience.” The final sentence read, “I hope this hasn’t caused you any incontinence.”

    Comment by Diane Vesely on February 17, 2011 @ 4:58 pm
  22. @Diane That’s hilarious :)

    Comment by Dan on February 17, 2011 @ 6:11 pm
  23. I prefer to check spelling using spell check

    Comment by Kate on March 30, 2011 @ 3:12 am
  24. “sometimes I see a word that I’ve typed and it just doesn’t look right”
    Past and passed is sometimes confusing. “Remembrance of Things Past”
    Is “remembrance of things which have passed away” just as accurate?

    Comment by TDanby on April 3, 2011 @ 6:34 am
  25. “sometimes I see a word that I’ve typed and it just doesn’t look right”
    Past and passed is sometimes confusing. “Remembrance of Things Past”
    Is “remembrance of things which have passed away” just as accurate?
    As far as using “woken up”…it has always seemed awkward to me. Always use “awakened,” “awoke” or “wakened.”

    Comment by TDanby on April 3, 2011 @ 6:37 am

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