Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Ten Most Common Words In English (And The Three Grammar Mistakes They Cause )

The Ten Most Common Words In English (And The Three Grammar Mistakes They Cause )

Just 10 words make up 25 per cent of all written English, according to the Oxford English Corpus. Yet while all of them comprise four letters or less, they’re still associated with three extremely common errors.
Business Insider reports that ongoing analysis of the two-billion word Oxford English Corpus confirms that these 10 words comprise a quarter of everything we write:
  • the
  • be
  • to
  • of
  • and
  • a
  • in
  • that
  • have
  • I
Despite their frequency, there are three obvious errors which occur when these words are used:
  • The most heinous? Mistakenly using ‘of’ instead of ‘have’ in constructions such as ‘would have’, ‘should have’ and ‘could have’. Few expressions appear to rile up Mind Your Language commenters more than “should of”, and I don’t blame them. It’s simply wrong and there’s no excuse for it.
  • Not using a capital for ‘I’, a pestilence which plagues text messages and online forums in particular. To those who argue that shouldn’t matter in informal contexts, we remind you that this is how bad habits are formed .
  • Less frequent than these two but still irritating: using ‘too’ or ‘two’ when ‘to’ is required. (Fortunately, mistakenly using ‘bee’ instead of ‘be’ seems rare.)
Because these words are common, using them correctly should be less of a challenge, but that doesn’t mean you can let your standards slip. Accuracy matters.
Lifehacker’s Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.