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Top 10 Grammar Mistakes to Avoid

It’s a well-known fact that not everyone cares as much about grammar as we writers do. And that’s okay – but for those of us who do care, nothing makes us want to pull our hair out more than a misused “it’s” or “its” or, even worse, a “their,” “there,” or “they’re” that doesn’t belong.

Even if bad grammar doesn’t bother you, it will hurt you in when submitting a foundation proposal. Turn in a grant proposal chock-full of errors and it might not get a second look from a proposal reader.

As we all rely more heavily on spell check and autocorrect and find ourselves writing in “text talk” (come on, u know u do it 2), it becomes more and more important that we make an effort to hang on to our grammar skills.

We’ve compiled a list of ten of the most common grammar mistakes – and how to fix them.

1. It’s vs. Its

“It’s” is a contraction of “it is.” “It’s imperative that you use correct grammar.”

“Its” shows possession. “The dog loves its ball.

2. They’re, Their, There

“They’re” is a contraction of “they are.” “They’re going to the concert tonight.

“Their” shows possession. “The Smiths are buying furniture for their new house.”

“There” indicates location. “My phone is over there.”

3. Your and You’re

“Your” shows possession. “I love your shoes.”

“You’re” is a contraction of “you are.” “You’re going to need sunscreen at the pool today.”

4. Who vs. Whom

This can be difficult to figure out. To determine when to use who or whom, replace who/whom with he/him and see what makes sense. Here’s an example.

“Who/Whom wrote that book?”
“Him wrote the book” doesn’t make sense. “He wrote that book” does. Therefore, who is correct.

5. Me, Myself, and I

To decide when to use me, myself, and I, take the other person out of the sentence. “My husband and I bought a car” becomes “I bought a car.” If the sentence had been “My husband and me (or myself) bought a car,” that would have become “Me (or myself) bought a car,” which doesn’t make sense.

6. Then vs. Than

Then is to be used when talking about time. “She’s going to the store, then she’s going to the doctor.”

Than is used when making comparisons. “She is so much nicer than her sister.”

7. Affect/Effect

Affect is a verb. It does something. “Your credit card balances will affect your credit score.”

Effect is a noun. “Headaches are a side effect of that medication. 

8. Fewer/Less

Fewer should be used when you’re counting. “My son has fewer shoes than my daughter.”

If you can’t count it, use less. “I like television shows less than I like movies.”

9. Literally

Literally means what you’re saying is 100% true. So when you say, “I literally died when I tripped in front of him!” you’re not telling the truth. You didn’t really die.

10. i.e. vs. e.g.

These terms are often used interchangeably when someone wants to provide an example of something. (“Please provide us with proof of residency, e.g. Driver’s license, electric bill in your name, etc.”). But they don’t mean exactly the same thing; i.e. loosely means “that is”and e.g. loosely means “for example.” So you use i.e. when you want to site very specific examples of something – it’s almost like a complete list. Use e.g. when you’re just providing an example of something.

Here are a couple examples.

“My daughter is 24 months old, i.e., two years old.”

“I love classic novels, e.g. Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights.”

Don’t let poor grammar stand in your way of getting funded. Now that you’re aware of some important grammar mistakes to avoid, please take time to re-read your proposals so you don’t make any of these common errors.

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