Common grammatical errors to avoid – Part Two

We had a fantastic response to our last post on grammatical errors and a lot of people found it very useful. As we simply couldn’t cover all mistakes, we thought it was a good idea to do another post on this subject.

Complement and Compliment

  • Complement – something that adds to or supplements something else, or the act of doing so – “The gravy really complements the chicken.”
  • Compliment – something nice that someone says to you or you to say to someone else – “You look really nice today.”

Fewer and Less

  • If you count it, use fewer – “Jenny has completed fewer assignments than she did last term.”
  • If you can’t, use less – “Aaron has less incentive to do what I say.”

Historic and Historical

  • Historic – an important event – “The war memorial today will be historic.”
  • Historical – something that happened in the past – “The historical events of World War 1 are still being felt today.”

Principal and Principle

  • Principal – noun – the highest in rank or the main participant. Also, it can be used as an adjective to mean the most important of a set.
  • Principle – noun – a fundamental truth, law or standard.


A word that is used too many times for the wrong reasons. Literally means exactly what you say is true, making it very figurative. It should not be used as a metaphor or an analogy.

An example would if you say “I am literally dying of shame.” By saying this, you are telling people you are actually dying because of the feeling of shame, which is highly doubtful.

Lack of Subject/Verb Agreement

When you are speaking in the present tense, a sentence must have subjects and verbs that agree in number. If the subject is singular (about one thing), the verb must be singular. If the subject is plural (more than one thing), the verb must be plural. As an example:

  • Incorrect – The books is good for learning a new language.
  • Correct – The books are good for learning a new language.

A and an

An must always appear before a vowel sound. If it does not start with a vowel sound, use a:

  • A bison.
  • An iguana.

However, people often get confused with the letter h. For example:

  • A helmet
  • An hour

The way to work out whether to use an or a is the sound. It is not a question of whether the words starts with a vowel, but if it starts with a vowel sound.

Already and All ready

Already – adverb that means prior to a specified or implied time or as early as now:

  • “The roses are already blooming this year.”
  • “It is already illegal to own a firearm in the United Kingdom.”
  • “When Harry arrived at the party, it was already over.”

All ready – means completely prepared. It is also slightly more emphatic that just prepared – “Brad is all ready to go.”

Who’s and Whose

  • Who’s – abbreviation of “who is” – “Who’s that attractive person over there?”
  • Whose – use this if you want to talk about who owns something – “Do you know whose football that is?

Again, this is not a comprehensive list and we will be doing more posts on this in the coming weeks. This is quite a lengthy subject so it means that there is still quite a lot of content for us to cover.

Our advice about getting someone else to check any written content you have created still stands and it will make sure that if you do make any errors, they can be easily corrected.



How Exclaimer Can Help:

If you're looking for an easy way to design and manage professional email signatures across your whole organization, we're here to help. Find out more or start your free trial today!

Learn More  Start your Free Trial