Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Blogs. As you scroll through your feeds, you see a well thought-out post and take the time to read it. It seems so organized and captivating, until you suddenly see – oh no! What is it? It’s a typo! Immediately you think to yourself that the person rambling on Facebook has lost all credibility because of failure to spellcheck.

Let’s face it. Not everyone is part of the Grammar Police. In fact, some just don’t take notice. But that’s not us. As self-proclaimed Word Nerds, we take no prisoners when it comes to committing a word crime. Still, we’d like to share our knowledge to help you become a better writer rather than find you guilty of a word crime.

“Word Crimes” video courtesy of Weird Al Yankovic’s YouTube channel.

It’s important to pay attention to your spelling and grammar. Every media platform, after all, comes with its own set of Grammar Police. Here are some of the most commonly mixed up words and mistakes you will want to avoid in your writing:

1. Than/Then

Although the incorrect usage of “than” and “then” might not have been at the top of your mind, it’s one of the most common incorrect usages we see on a daily basis. People frequently post about how they “love their cat more then anything.” I’m glad you love your cat, but your post might be a bit more effective if you used the correct word, which is “than.” As a reminder, “than” is used for comparison, whereas “then” is used in regards to time. You loved your cat first. THEN, you decided to share that love with your Facebook friends.

2. They’re/Their/There

This is one that really gets to us. We cannot even emphasize how many times we were repeatedly taught the proper usage of these three words growing up.

Let’s not forget the role of contractions; they condense two words into one. Therefore, “they’re” is short for “they are.” It’s not a pronoun. It’s also not an adverb that describes position.

Also, please remember that “their” refers to more than one person. If you are talking about one person, then you need to correctly match the respective singular pronouns, which would be “he,” “she” or “it.” “One person left their pen in the office” might sound correct, but it is not. Since “one person” is singular, you must use “he or she” instead of “their.” This is a common misusage, and it might be difficult to abandon, but for the sake of grammar, please try your best.

3. A lot/Alot

“A lot” can be used to appropriately describe an abundance of objects, such as, “There were a lot of people at the theater on Friday.” Contrary to popular belief, “alot” is not a word – at all. Please do not use it. Ever.

4. Your/You’re

This is another one that has been honed into our heads growing up, so we’re surprised how frequently we see these two words mixed up in every day grammar. “Your” is possessive, as in “this is your coffee.” “You’re,” on the other hand, is a contraction, so it is short for “you are.” “You’re going to get coffee before work.” This is a simple concept, yet so many mix up these two words. Please only use “your” for possessive purposes.

5. Who/Whom

This may seem strange, but “whom” is a word that has a role in everyday life! Many forget that “whom” exists completely and only will use the word “who” (incorrectly, of course). “Who” is used as a subject, or complements the subject, and it refers to a person or to people. “She wondered who had written her a note.” In this sentence, “who” refers to the unknown letter-writer.

“Whom” is used as an object. “To whom did he write a letter?” In this case, we are using the word “whom” as the object of the letter-receiver. In short, “who” can be answered with “he” or “she,” while “whom” can be answered with “him” or “her.”

Who wrote the letter?”
He wrote the letter.”

“To whom was the letter given?”
“The letter was given to her.”

Although many of us like to live in a fast-paced environment where we hardly give ourselves time to think, we cannot forget the common rules of grammar. Next time you write anything, please remember these five common word crimes. A well-spoken thought is only well spoken if you actually speak properly. Happy writing!