I hope you are enjoying this grammar series.
Last week I mentioned how English grammar history has been influenced by Latin. Seeing the journey that English language has taken it is easy to see why it is so complicated. With this in mind, we will be looking at errors which have found their way into everyday language.
A good example of a word which is used incorrectly is Columbia. Apparently the Colombians are tired of their country being spelt Columbia as opposed to Colombia. This is a common mistake and whilst the eagle-eyed will have realised that this has slipped into our vocabulary as an acceptable word, we have to ask how has this happened?
It could be said that over time, many words are now part of mainstream language due to the fact that they are commonly used. All you have to do is look through an old dictionary from ten or fifteen years and compare it with one today and you will see the difference.
Another theory can be found in an article in the Telegraph called ‘People can be too clever to spell’, where Jessica Salter raises some really interesting points about language and how we decipher and try to spell them according to what we know about them.
Salter goes on to say,
Ian Brookes, the managing editor of dictionaries at Collins, said: “The real spelling problems occur when people have learnt the rules or have a bit of knowledge, but then make mistakes in how they apply this.” For the full article see, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/2618011/People-can-be-too-clever-to-spell.html.
If this is the case it seems almost impossible to get things right unless you have a Masters in English and Linguistics. Well, not necessarily. Whilst no one will ever get everything correct, there is a whole host of services and resources to help.
Firstly, use the spellchecker on your computer. Although not perfect as it is limited it what errors it finds, is a start. Next, letting a friend or family member cast their eye over the work is also helpful, as long as they have fairly good grammar skills. Thirdly, the humble home dictionary- either Collins or Oxford.
For a more than just spelling try:
- Online dictionary or thesaurus http://www.dictionary.com or http://www.thesaurus.com.
- Online grammar resources like– grammarbook.com, www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/english or https://www.grammarly.com
- Online articles including http://lifehacker.com/5966826/the-most-common-grammar-gaffes-writers-make-and-how-to-avoid-them.
- The grammar concierge services offered by PM Noble Consultancy services- http://pmnobleconsultancy.wix.com/1-pager-bio.
Okay, so what are these errors that we inadvertently make all the time? There are words where a subtle change in the spelling makes all the difference. The words continuous and continual are prime examples. For an explanation of these words and more excellent examples see, https://litreactor.com/columns/20-common-grammar-mistakes-that-almost-everyone-gets-wrong.
Another example is in the use of the words affect and effect, which many seem to find difficult. For more about this and other grammar tips, see, http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/common-grammar-mistakes-list.
I hope you have found this helpful.
See you next time.