New Year’s Writing Resolutions



Happy New Year!

To get the New Year off to a new start, unlearning bad writing habits is as important as learning new writing habits. Below is a list of some of the most common usage errors and why you should unlearn them before that next paper is due.

What’s wrong with the following sentences?

I should of taken the dog out.

I could of taken him out this morning.

I would of taken him out, but I overslept.

What’s wrong with these sentences? Each one has the same error.

should have taken the dog out.
I could have taken him out this morning.
would have taken him out, but I overslept.

These similar errors are a direct result of how we speak, but speaking does not always transfer to proper grammar. The spoken form could be very different than the written form. We typically “hear” should of, could of, would of, but the correct written form is should have, could have, would have.

Which of the following do you really mean?

I could care less.

I couldn’t care less.

If you mean you care so little that you actually could not care any less than you already care, then you couldn’t care less. However, if you could care less, you actually do care a little bit, which is not what a speaker usually intends. So “I could care less,” isn’t really logical, though it is used quite often.

Which is correct?

I love you, irregardless of your faults.

I love you, regardless of your faults.

The correct answer is “regardless.” There would never be any instance where you would use the word “irregardless,” because it isn’t a word. Rumor has it the use of irregardless was formed by combining irrespective and regardless, two words with similar meanings.

Which spelling is correct?

I was supposed to go to work today.

I was suppose to go to work today.

For this usage, supposed is correct. “Suppose” is indeed a word, meaning to assume or consider, such as, “I suppose you are right.”

Which sentence is correct?

For all intensive purposes, I have retired.

For all intents and purposes, I have retired.

In student papers, this error is more common than you would think. The second sentence is correct. “Intensive” means a high concentration of a specific quality or element. It’s obviously a word, but using it in this way is, for all intents and purposes, incorrect.

This is one that might pop up in a narrative essay. Which is correct?

I would like to purchase a matching chester drawers.

I would like to purchase a matching chest of drawers.

Forget about how you say it, but consider the words. What is a “chester”? Other than a city in England and Pennsylvania, or maybe a man’s first name, a chester has no meaning. The correct answer is chest of drawers.

To disburse or disperse? That is the question. But what is the answer?

To disburse means to distribute money, to pay out expenditures.

Disperse means to scatter. I suppose you could disperse a stack of $100 bills off a building, but unless you’re rich, probably not likely.

The lawyer will disburse the funds to each surviving heir.

Police dispersed the crowd.

To remember the difference, disburse – with a u – relates to money. U need money.

[Note: Disburse‘s corresponding noun is disbursement, not disbursal. Disperse‘s corresponding noun is dispersal, not dispersement (]
This is a very short list of a few bad writing habits to break to set you on the write coarse for the New Year. I mean right course.

Or did I? 😉



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