One of the primary goals of education is an educated citizenry.
Ideally, anyone who has completed high school should be able to communicate his ideas coherently in both oral and written expression without too much
difficulty. Frankly, most people haven’t studied grammar and word usage since
they were in elementary school. Yet nothing exposes a person’s educational
level as easily as her manipulation of the language. Certain words and
expressions continually stymie even some of the most erudite native English
speakers. Marketers rely on adults’ sensitivity to this issue to sell expensive
public speaking programs and vocabulary tapes. Nevertheless, mastery of these
usage rules need not be either difficult or expensive. Below is a primer for
some of the most widespread errors in diction. The correct answers appear below.
1. We feel (bad, badly) that we can’t accept your invitation.
2. We (could of, could’ve) responded earlier.
3. Between you and (I, me) I had no intention of going to that party.
4. (Their, There, They’re) food is insipid, and (their,
there, they’re) not that hospitable.
5. (Who, Whom) did you speak with when you declined the
6. Do you think that we need to discuss this (farther,
7. How will this (affect, effect) our relationship as
8. We do see them (continually, continuously) because they live next door.
9. We should have (gone, went) to the movies.
1. bad The adjective follows a linking verb (feel). Otherwise, use of badly
indicates that the sense of touch is inoperable.
2. could’ve The alternative is substandard English.
It’s NEVER “could of, would of or should of.”
3. me The preposition (between) requires an objective pronoun. (always!)
4. Their-indicates ownership, while “they’re” means they are.
5. Whom- The first word in the sentence, is NOT the subject. It’s the object of the preposition (with).
6. Further-means more, while farther indicates distance that can be either literal or figurative.
7. affect- is usually a verb; effect is usually a noun.
8. continually means intermittent, while continuously means non-stop.
9. gone- The perfect tenses require the past participle.
Now, does that clear some problems? Just a little attention to detail can make a
big difference in the impression someone makes in writing or speaking.