Common spelling and grammar mistakes in online copy

In this article we look at examples of common mistakes in spelling and grammar that have been found in websites. Each example shows the mistake and the correction.

Good spelling and grammar are vital!

This cannot be over-emphasized. Visitors to your website will leave your website if they see that it is riddled with mistakes and will be far from impressed. By checking your pages and ensuring your spelling and grammar are excellent, you will go a long way towards making your website appear professional.

You should treat your website as you would treat any printed material. That is, you should not tolerate mistakes in either of them.

Common examples

  1. It’s or Its?

This is a very common mistake. “It’s” is short for “it is” while “its” is possessive.
An example of incorrect use is: “Its my round, lads!”
This example should be: “It’s my round, lads!” An example of correct use is: “Your car needs its headlight checking”.

  1. Then or Than?

This mistake is usually a keyboard error. “Than” is a preposition that compares things. The word “then” is an adverb that indicates a time.

An example of incorrect use is:  “My house is bigger then your house.”
An example of correct use is: “My house is bigger than your house.”

  1. Effect or Affect

The use of these words often confuses people. “Effect” is a noun and “affect” is a verb. (The word “effect” can also be a verb when it is used with an object. However, this is not so common now.)
An example of incorrect use is:  “My cold really effected me.”
An example of correct use is:  “My cold really affected me.”

An example where effect is a noun

 “That medicine had a strong effect on me”
In this example the use of the word “affect” would be wrong.

  1. There, Their, or They’re

These homophones are often confused because they sound alike and some are easier to type than others. This makes them  easier to forget about and harder  to spot when checking your work.
They’re is a contraction of “they are”. Their is a possessive. There is a location.

Good examples

  1. They’re going to the convention
  2. Their convention tickets have been checked
  3. The groovy sci-fi stand is over there

Bad examples

  1. There going to the convention
  2. They’re convention tickets have been checked
  3. The groovy sci-fi stand is over their
  1. Your or You’re

This is another example of misuse of the contraction and possessive.
“You’re” is a contraction of “you are” like with “they’re”. Your is a possessive. 
An example of incorrrect use is: “Your turning 32 this November.”
An example of correct use is:  “You’re turning 32 this November”

  1. Loose or Lose

This error can be hard to spot. The dictionary defines “lose” as meaning  to “misplace”, while “loose” means “not tight”.
“Lose” is a verb or action while “loose” is an adjective which describes something.

Good examples

  1. I always seem to lose my glasses.
  2. This tie is too loose.

Bad examples

  1. I always loose my glasses.
  2. This tie is too lose.
  1. Accept or Except

This is another example of two different words that sound very similar and so can be used incorrectly. The word “accept” is a verb. It means to receive something willingly. For example, “I accepted the verdict”. The word “except” means “apart from” or “not including”. 

Example: The office is open every day except Sunday

In each case the context of what you are trying to say should be looked at to ensure the use is correct.

  1. i.e. or e.g.

This is an example of two abbreviations being misunderstood. They are not interchangeable. These are abbreviations  for “that is to say” and “for the sake of example”.

You should use “e.g.” when you are giving a specific example of a class of things.

For example, I’ve always preferred classic cars (e.g. Rolls Royce, Aston Martin).

You should use “i.e.” when you’re trying to expand on a phrase.

For example, those last few cars were driving like madmen down the right hand lane (i.e. driving too fast and braking sharply).

  1. Correct Capitalisation

Title case is where every word in the given title is capitalised except for words such as “a”, “an”, “and”, “the”, “is” and other short words. Many debate as to when to use or not use title case. With regard to web design it is used simply for style.
A common mistake is to capitalise the first two letters of a title because the typist forgot to let go of the shift key. Another mistake is to capitalise all the  words of  the title including the short words. 

  1. www, or www. in your URL

This is a typical typographical error which occurs during hand coding HTML. By having a comma in your URL, the hyperlink will break and the page shown will be an error page. All hyperlinks should start with an http:// followed by a www. The rest of the URL should follow that.