Grammar mistakes that smart people make

22 Jan

Image Credits: "Business" by oki975

The English language is complex and mysterious, even for those who have never learned any other language. Word choice is the nugget of grammar that trips people up the most. Even refined writers sometimes find themselves reaching for a dictionary when it comes to certain rhetorical devices. Here is a list from Grammar Girl that may surprise you as much as it did me.

1. Blond vs Blonde 

The word can be used as a noun or adjective,  but how do we know when to put the “e” at the end? According to Mignon Fogarty, the woman behind Grammar Girl, the “e” is only used when using the word to describe a female. So, “the blond over there” would indicate a male, but “the blonde” would indicate a female.

“It looks as if the marketing people believe we will love their new roast if we think of it as a woman,” said Fogarty of the Blonde Roast.

2. Flout vs Flaunt

The words may sound the same, but their meanings are not. To flaunt means to parade or show off. You can flaunt your possessionsm your looks, or your new promotion.

To flout is to scoff or mock. You can flout or aunt’s weird hat, someone’s idea, or rules and laws.

“Remember that you flout laws by linking the “out” in “flout” with the idea of being outside society,” said Fogarty.

3. Backward vs Backwards 

As in the towards and toward conundrum, “backwards” is the British standard and “backward” is the American standard. However, there is one exception. When using backward as an adjective instead of an adverb, you never use the “s.”

For residents of the U.S., just remember that it is always without the “s.”

“We like shortcuts here, such as eating dinner in our cars, so you can remember that we’ve lopped off the ‘s,'” said Fogarty.


3 Responses to “Grammar mistakes that smart people make”

  1. ertelg January 22, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    Thankfully I don’t use “flout” often but the other two examples are so helpful! Although I wouldn’t say I’m a genius, these don’t seem too difficult and the fact that smart people still make these mistakes is comforting in a way. And I check on Grammar Girl when in doubt about something I am writing about or words that I am not positive on. Thanks for the post! It is so helpful!


  1. Blog comments « - January 22, 2012

    […] Erica Earl- Grammar mistakes that smart people make- 1/22/12- Thankfully I don’t use “flout” often but the other two examples are so […]

  2. Blog comments- peer « Eliza says… - February 28, 2012

    […] Earl- Grammar mistakes that smart people make- 1/22/12- Thankfully I don’t use “flout” often but the other two examples are so […]

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