The Worst Kinds of Typos ...


Most of the errors I see in print are in articles I’m editing. It's my job to find them. So I've never shocked to see that mistakes happen. Writers, even very good writers, make mistakes they know better than to make.

I’m talking about the absent-minded typos like “your” in place of “you’re” made by people who have demonstrated many times over that they know the difference.

 But when I read message boards, blogs, and other stuff online, I see a lot of errors that I know aren’t just careless. A lot of people really just don’t know better, and you can tell because they make the same mistakes over and over.

So, after a morning of skimming Internet message boards, here are the ones that, at the moment, get my "For the Love of Pete Don’t Make This Mistake" Award.

 “A lot” shows up a lot as “alot.” In some ways, that seems pretty understandable. It’s just a very easy mistake to make. On the other hand, it’s downright iconic: People who have taken the trouble to learn anything about grammar and spelling don’t make this mistake. So the ones who write "alot" make a strong statement about how they want to be identified by readers.

 “It’s” as a possessive shows up quite a bit. Again, understandably so. When you think about how to form the possessive of “it,” the points of reference that pop into your mind are usually singular possessives like “dog’s” and not possessive determiners like “ours.” But, in fact, “its” is a possessive determiner. In other words, it's more like an adjective than a possessive noun. And, like “ours,” it takes no apostrophe. The "it's" with the apostrophe is a contraction of “it is” or "it has."

The No. 1 "For the Love of Pete Don’t Make This Mistake" mistake is similar to the “its” vs. “it’s” problem. It happens when people use apostrophes for form plurals.

Do the bus’s run all night?

Where can we get good empanada’s?

How are the noodle’s?

Awful stuff. Never form a plural with an apostrophe unless you’ve tried it without one and ending up with something too weird, like when you say your child got all A’s in school and without an apostrophe your reader really could think you meant the word "as."


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2 Responses to “The Worst Kinds of Typos ...”

  1. "Breath" and "breathe" seems to be something I see on blogs that generally don't make the more common mistakes (I usually stop reading if I see much bus's or alot). Drives me crazy. I sometimes give a pass on "it's" since blogging from your phone sometimes yields that as an auto-correct.

  2. I have begun to see an increase in the number of homophones used incorrectly. Just today, I saw 'grizzly' used to describe a crime scene, when clearly the word 'grisly' was meant. I saw this on In my opinion, instances like this always put a dent in the editorial credibility of the source I'm reading.