March 3, 2009 by Guest Blogger

Diana Gainer

As a long-time English teacher, I’ve read more than a few poorly written essays, most before the advent of the spell checker.  Some people may advise the poor spellers out there to hire a freelance writer to either do their writing for them or to do a bit of judicious editing.  Freelance writers can certainly help if you’ve got a big job, like a brochure or a book, but can also help with smaller tasks like resumes.

One of the most common grammatical problems I’ve seen in freelance writing is forgetting which of a set of homonyms to use.  Take all those words that sound like “too.”  If you wrote that one, try using “also” in its place.  For example, if you wrote, “I went too the store,” try: “I went also the store.”  That’s horrible!  Obviously, you need a different version.  There’s also “two,” but that one is a number.  You only use it when there are a couple of items.  The one that’s left is “to,” so that’s the one we need in the phrase, “I went to the store.”  You knew that!

If you hire a freelance writer, there are a few other minor things you can check.  For example, take the compound subject.  Most people don’t know when to say “He and I” versus “him and me.”  They assume the second one is always wrong because their English teachers always seemed to correct them.  Some people simply substitute “myself” for the second pronoun all the time, hoping to avoid the situation entirely.  Don’t do that.  The easy way to figure out which pronoun to use is to take the other guy out, temporarily.

For example, let’s take “Joe and I prepared the reports together.”  Is that correct?  Take Joe out and see :  “I prepared the reports.”  Yes, that’s correct.  So “I” is the correct pronoun even with “Joe” in there as well.  In a second example, let’s try “The reports were prepared by Joe and I.”  Try taking Joe out this time:  “The reports were prepared by I.”  That’s disgusting!  You’d say, “The reports were prepared by me.”  So you must also use “me” when Joe is in the sentence: “The reports were prepared by Joe and me.”  I could give you a long-winded reason, but you’d fall asleep and spill your coffee on your computer.  Neither of us wants that to happen.  Now, as I always tell my students, read your reports, resume, or brochure over and check to see if you – any words out.

If you have any questions, serious or silly, you can contact me at my regular gig, writing a column at Drop by and vote for a word you’d like to see thrown out of the English dictionary as the “Unword” of the year!

Diana Gainer is an English teacher, columnist, and freelance writer on oDesk.

  • John Livingstone

    Using a well-educated human for spelling checks is critical. I show the copy below to my new staff that think Spellcheck software is the answer. I can’t remember where I first found this but it makes the point –

    Eye halve a spelling checker. It came with my pea sea. It plainly marcs four my revue. Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
    Eye strike a key and type a word and weight four it two say Weather eye am wrong oar write. It shows me strait a weigh.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Deepa Ashith

    This really throws a lot of light! Thank you..

  • Danalyn

    Diana, I love this post!


    These can all be easily avoided (especially when it comes to contractions).

    I think when a job is on the line, it’s not unreasonable to hire someone to proofread your resume. Of course, people have to actually recognize that their work needs editing first…and that’s usually where the problem lies. Some people are dead-set sure that “your” is correct (when they mean the contraction), so they’d never think to have their work checked because to them, it’s all correct!

    I think my biggest grammatical faux pas is the abuse of the comma. I try not to, but I just can’t stay away from it! It’s like an addictive drug or something. My sentences end up with a gazillion commas when I really only need one. Is there a comma-addicts anonymous group out there? ;)