First, one of my pet peeves is verbal pauses when speaking formally or during a conversation: like, um, uh, you know…. You know is certainly a legitimate phrase but using it habitually to fill up space before going on with a sentence is irritating. I sometimes say “no, I don’t know” in a face-to-face conversation just to interrupt the verbal pause. After all, there’s nothing wrong with being silent, until the speaker finds the words to continue. However, when TV commentators and hosts use these verbal pauses, they indicate to listeners that they have little confidence in themselves or what they are reporting.
Then there is that phrase “believe me.” One of Trump’s favorites, used at the end of sentences in his thousands of tweets. Every time I see it or hear it, I say, “NO, I don’t believe you.”
Another habitual end-of-comment phrase is “know what I mean?” or “understand?” Does that indicate that the person talking thinks his listener is stupid?
These words and phrases are primarily irritations, but some words can create goofy gaffes in writing, such as mixing up the use of their, there, and the contraction they’re: “Their are my friends.” Nope. If a person wants to point out his or her friends across the room, for example, it would be There are my friends.
There (no pun intended) are differences of meanings in words that sound alike but spelled differently: hear and here; bear and bare; compliment and complement; course and coarse; capitol and capital; principal and principle; break and brake; your and your’re; to, too and two; by, buy, and bye…
And then there are words spelled the same but have dissimilar meanings, such as:
- She bought a rose. She rose to speak.
- He broke the dishes. He is broke.
- They held a wake for the dead students. Don’t wake the baby.
- She went to her bank to withdraw some money. She sat by the river bank to eat her lunch.
- He used his new bow and arrow at the archery. They knew they had to bow before the king.
Confusing, right? Blame the English language—it is prone to blunders. But who do you blame for punctuation inaccuracies?
As the poster above indicates, the comma has an important role in punctuation. There are numerous websites and English grammar books and articles that discuss the overuse and misuse of the comma. I am not a grammar expert, so I won’t try to explain what to do or not do with the comma. Besides, like many people, when I text or email or post on Facebook, I pay little attention to proper punctuation and use a lot of shortcuts.
One of the most common punctuation errors is it vs it’s. My late husband, a public school teacher, used to rail about his students’ misapplication of the pronoun/noun and the contraction. If he were alive today, he’d no doubt rant about the many times the incorrect usage appears in printed forms, TV captions, and advertisements.
Apostrophes can be tacked inappropriately on lots of words ending in s.
- The girls’ are on the same team.
- There are primarily male administrators’ in the company.
- The new students’ have new desks.
Just erase the apostrophe because the girls, administrators, and students are not possessing anything, which is the meaning of apostrophe s. In other words,
- The girl’s name is the same as mine.
- The administrator’s office has been redecorated.
- One student’s desk is full of papers.
Fortunately, if you are writing on a computer with a word processing program, a spelling/grammar checker might catch mistakes. But don’t count on it. Reading and proofing your words carefully may be your best bet.