Thursday, February 18, 2010

Common mistakes in language

I am overwhelmed by the number of mistakes I see – even in the emails of educated people, from whom I expect more precision. I am not referring to typos, but to mistakes which indicate that the person typing does not think logically when transferring their thought to paper (or computer screen).

I see it in every language I use on a daily basis (English, Romanian, Spanish). It seems that mistakes are becoming more common – but it is just a gut feeling. Maybe we are relying more on email and chat programs and comment forums, and I am just reading more “regular people” writing than before, when writings were generally found in books and encyclopedias. However, I also see mistakes fairly often in “serious” (I hate that word) publications.

Most tell me to let these mistakes go, because the message is important, not the actual way it is written (as long as the message is clear). I see the point.

On the other hand, when I see these mistakes, the information conveyed is that writer was either not thinking logically, or has certain gaps in his or her education. Maybe I am being too cruel.

I am wondering why these mistakes occur so often. Is a matter of people automatically typing, without thinking? Perhaps you, my readers, can offer some theories as to why I see these mistakes all the time.

Here are some common ones (in English):

  • · it’s instead of its (not the other way around) – I see this all the time; however, this is a convention that one either knows or doesn’t; this is not a matter of logic, only of (basic) education; e.g. “the dog wagged it’s tail”
  • · there instead of their (and not the other way around); e.g. “there mother told them”
  • · capitol versus capital; e.g. “I am an educated and ambitious fuck and I live in Capital Hill” or “I am very proud of being born and raised in the nation’s capitol”
  • · I’m suppose to instead of I’m supposed to (this is a mistake I generally see black people make)
  • · who’s instead of whose
  • · using an apostrophe to indicate a plural (e.g. “this is for all the amateur photographer’s in the office”)
  • · you’re versus your; e.g. “you’re zipper is open” or “I am smart and your an idiot”
  • · mine instead of mind (again, black people tend to be overrepresented here); e.g. “he changed his mine”
  • · if I was instead of if I were (virtually everyone makes this mistake, so in a few decades it might become the “correct” form officially)
  • · a women instead of a woman (this one is generally done by women, who say things such as “I am a smart, educated, and beautiful women …”)
  • · could of instead of could have
  • · principal versus principle (maybe because they sound alike?)
  • · affect versus effect (maybe because they sound alike?)
  • · renumeration instead of remuneration
  • to loose (as a verb) instead of to lose

And the list could go on and on… is our society being dumbed down? Are too many people having access to a medium for expressing their thoughts publicly, such as blogs? (I see the irony here, don’t worry). Any theories as to why this trend is happening?


  1. It's a matter of the software not being able to detect those mistakes - maybe a smart enough version of word could save people from eternal dumbness (is that a word?). oh, and are you suppose to say "black people"? And why do you think African American people make those mistakes? Hmmm....

  2. The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. Alvin Toffler