This blog was featured on 06/17/2017
Top Five Grammar Pet Peeves and How to Fix Them

Top Five Grammar Pet Peeves and How to Fix Them

By Karen Wojcik Berner


Let’s face it. Grammar is not sexy, but without its proper usage, a Rhodes scholar can look like a middle school dropout. Here is my list of Top Five Grammar Pet Peeves.


Affect, effect

When used as a verb, “affect” means to influence, according to The Associate Press Stylebook. "Effect" means to cause. Used as a noun, “effect” means result.


The weather affects traffic patterns.

The new mayor will effect many changes in the city.


Apostrophes gone wild

I see this error every day, and it makes me cry inside. Perhaps grammar teachers are trying to correct this, but no one is listening. How many of you spotted this egregious error polluting otherwise festive holiday cards? What is wrong with the following line?

Season’s Greetings from The Smith’s

Written as it is, the statement begs for the question “Smith’s what?” The Smith’s dog? The Smith’s island vacation? Neither a dog, nor an island can convey wishes. This merry signature is a victim of apostrophes gone wild.

The line should read as follows.

Season’s Greetings from The Smiths 

It is plural, not possessive. No apostrophe.


Punctuating decades

This is something people get wrong constantly. When punctuating decades, use an apostrophe to indicate the numerals that are left out. Add an "s" to pluralize. No, I repeat no apostrophe before the "s." 


The 1980s had some great music, especially the post-punk, alternative bands.

She loved '80s music.

World War II ended in the mid-1940s.


Good versus well

How many times have you heard the following statement on television or in conversation?

He played good.

Too many times to count? Well, it is wrong. The correct usage is as follows.

He played well. 

But why?

“Well” is an adverb. Adverbs describe verbs. When used as an adverb, “well” means “skillfully.” “Well” as an adjective means “healthy.” You would not say someone played healthy, would you?

“Good” is an adjective. Adjectives describe nouns, not action verbs.


She did a good job.

My breakfast tasted good this morning. 



I hear it's actually in some dictionaries, but I don't care. Irregardless is still not a legit word because it's a double negative. Regardless is correct.


Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0

Every Wednesday on my blog, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?

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About the author

A professional writer/editor for almost 30 years, Karen Wojcik Berner's wide and varied experience includes such topics as grammar, blog content, book reviews, corporate communications, the arts, paint and coatings, real estate, the fire service, writing and literature, research, and publishing. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, Naperville Magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of three contemporary women's fiction novels and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. For more information on Karen, please visit



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