Education

Don’t say “first-come, first-serve”

Embarrassing Mistakes Even Smart People Make

When someone uses grammar incorrectly do you make an assumption about his or her intelligence or education? Like it or not, words, spelling, and punctuation are powerful and can leave a lasting impression on others.

But even the most educated people often unknowingly make common writing and speaking flubs. Check out this long list of ubiquitous grammar mistakes.

Guarantee: You’ll either learn something new or find a few of your biggest pet peeves here. (And likely, you’ll find fault with my own use of the English language. I welcome your thoughts, critiques, and insults in the comments.)

1. First-come, first-serve

It should actually be “served.” Without the d, the phrase above suggests that the first individual who arrives will be the one who serves everyone, which is not the idiom’s intent.

2. I could care less
Think about this one for a minute. The way it’s written above suggests you possess care which still could be allocated to the situation in question. “I couldn’t care less” is correct because it communicates that “I have no more care to give.”

3. Irregardless
This is not a word. It’s simply “regardless,” as in “Regardless of what you think about grammar, you’ll look silly if you use it incorrectly.”

4. “I” as the last word in a sentence.
This mistake is remarkably common, yet a correct example would be “Karlee talked with Brandon and me.” The trick to getting this one straight is to take the other person’s name out of the sentence and see if your personal pronoun choice still sounds right. “Karlee talked with I” is awkward and incorrect.

5. “Me” as the first word in a sentence.
I hear people saying things such as “Me and Brandon met at Starbucks this morning” all the time, even though it’s always wrong. “Brandon and I met at Starbucks this morning” is correct.

6. Shoe-in
“Shoo-in” is what you really want to write when you’re trying to say that someone is a sure winner. It’s because when you “shoo” something you’re urging it in a certain direction.

7. Emigrated to
“Emigrate” and “from” always go together, as do “immigrate” and “to.” To emigrate is to come from somewhere, and to immigrate is to go to somewhere. “Colin emigrated from Ireland to the United States” means the same as “Colin immigrated to the United States from Ireland.”

8. Overuse of apostrophes
These little guys are ubiquitously misused. Apostrophes indicate one of two things: possession or letters missing, as in “Sara’s iPad” and “it’s” for “it is” (second i missing). They don’t belong on plurals. “FAQs,” for example, should not have an apostrophe. Also, people often make a mistake with their own last name. If you want to refer to your family but don’t want to list everyone’s first name write “The Johnsons” not “The Johnson’s.” Another big one: Decades should not have apostrophes. For example, “1980s” is correct but “1980’s” is not.

9. Prostrate cancer
This one is a simple spelling mistake resulting from an extra r. “Prostrate” actually means to lie face down. The “prostate” gland is a part of the male reproductive anatomy.

10. Slight of hand
A “slight” is an insult, whereas “sleight” indicates dexterity or cunning. It’s why “sleight of hand” is commonly used in the world of magic and illusion.

…to be continued

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