For Who or Whom? 25 Common Writing Errors

 1. accept/except

·         The "X" in "except" excludes things. Example: I will accept all forms of payment, except check.  If something is "accepted," it is permitted or approved. "The work was acceptable to Mina, the only exception being when it interfered with her social life."[YL1] 


2. their/they're/there

·         "Their" is a possessive pronoun. Example: The students turned in their papers.

·         "They're" is a contraction for "they are." Example: "I thought Jen and Steve were coming, but they're studying all day."

·         "There" is utilized for everything else. It exists like a preposition, signifying place. Example: "There you are, Jean! I can't find the napkins anywhere…oh, there they are! I see them there on the counter. There is hope that we'll start the party on time, after all!"


3. lay/lie

·         Use "lay" if the subject is acting upon some other object. Example: John lays the stack of textbooks on the floor.

·         Use "lie"" if the subject is "lying down." Example: John lies down in bed at night.

·         Note: To switch into past tense: "lie" à "lain"; "lay"à "laid."


4. than/then

·         Use "than" when comparing things to one another. Example: Margot is taller than Phillip.

·         Use "then" when you are talking about chronology or time. "First, you beat the egg whites. Then, you add the sugar."


5. we're/were

·         "We're" is a contraction of "we are." Example: Today, we're going to learn about stereotypes.

·         "Were" is the plural-past tense of the verb "are." Example: We were going to attend the party, but now we're seeing a movie instead.


6. your/you're

·         "Your" is a possessive pronoun. Example: That is your pen.

·         "You're" is a contraction for "you are." Example: "You're going to the dance tonight, aren't you?"


7. to/too/two

·         "Too" functions like "also." Example: "I want to go, too!"

·         "Two" refers to the number only.



8. who's/whose

·         "Who's" is a contraction for "who is" or "who has." Examples: "Who's attending the auction tonight?" or "Who's taken my jacket?"

·         "Whose" is the possessive form of "who." Example: "Whose notebooks are these?"


9. who/whom

·         "Who" is the subject form of the pronoun. Example: "Who is your date for the dance?"

·         "Whom" is the object form. Example: I had forgotten to whom the project belonged.


10. –er/--est

·         "Est" is only used when comparing three or more items. Example: Of these five countries, America has the largest population.


11. farther/further

·         "Farther" refers to physical distance. "Further" refers to an extent of time or degree.


12. eminent/imminent/immanent

·         "Eminent" means prominent or famous, as in a person.

·         "Imminent" is an adjective which means something that is threatening or about to happen.

·         "Immanent" is used rarely and only used by philosophers to mean "inherent."


13. a lot/alot

·         An informal phrase used to convey a large quantity, “a lot” is spelled as two words, although seasoned writers avoid this generic term altogether. Example: There is a lot of sugar in my coffee.


14. advice/advise

·         "Advise" is a verb and "advice" is a noun. Example: I would advise you to seek professional advice.


15. allusion/illusion

·         "Allusion" is a reference. Example: Melville's "allusion" to Spinoza allows him to make an important philosophical distinction.

·         "Illusion" is a mirage or a trick.


16. aloud/allowed

·         Use "aloud" to convey "out loud," as in "to read aloud."

·         "Use "allowed" to mean something is permitted or accepted: I allowed the children to watch a movie.


17. it's/its

·         "It's" is a contraction for "it is." Example: "It's raining pretty hard."

·         "Its" is a possessive adjective. Example: Please take the present out of its box.


18. accede/exceed

·         Use "accede" to mean "to give into or agree."

·         Use "exceed" when you mean "to go above or beyond." Example: The student always exceeds the teacher's expectations.


·         19.  different than/different fromAlways use "different from" rather than "different than," which is grammatically incorrect. Example:These shoes are much different from others I've bought, but I like them better than yours.


20. can not/cannot

·         “Can not” conveys having the option to not perform an action. Example: I am an adult and I can vote, or I can not vote if I choose not to.

·         “Cannot” conveys the inability to perform an action. Example: I am sixteen and I cannot vote.


22. affect/effect

·         "Affect" is a verb which means "to influence." Example: The drought affected the crops.

·         "Effect" is a noun meaning "the result." Example: The drought affected the crops and bought about adverse effects on their ability to grow.

·         "Effect" is also used as a verb, meaning "to produce." Example: The new senator successfully effected many positive changes during office.


23. loose/lose

·         "Loose" is an adjective. Example: "Her pants were quite loose."

·         "Lose" is a verb. Example: "Don't lose your homework!"


24. desert/dessert

·         "Desert" means dry land.

·         "Dessert" is a delicious treat and is spelled with two S's.


25. perspective/prospective

·         "Perspective" is a noun which deals with sight or view.

·         "Prospective" is an adjective which deals with the future.


Additional Sources:

Purdue University Online Writing Lab

Common Errors in English Usage

Guide to Grammar and Style

Notes on Writing (UCONN)