Monday, February 4, 2008

Most Frequent Mistake in Writing

Q & A on Writing. Introduction.
First, a trivia question: What is the most frequent mistake in writing? Answer at the end.

I have spent 35 years in teaching and supervising English, and I have learned to anticipate the problems, mistakes and questions most people have in writing, grammar, usage, spelling and punctuation.

So this Web site is for you, your children and your grandchildren—and great-grandchildren—or anyone you know who has a question about writing. Just send me your question(s) on writing, grammar, usage, spelling and punctuation to The answer will appear in my blog. The questioner will be anonymous. The service is absolutely free.

If you need a quick reply, before the answer is published in the blog, I will send it as soon as I can by e-mail.You will find the blog at

Now for the answer to my trivia question. A study in the English education journal College Composition and Communication says that the most frequent mistake in grammar in student writing is the possessive pronoun, “its.”People confuse “it’s,” which is a contraction for “it is,” with the possessive “its”: “the dog ran with its tail between its legs,” etc.

It might help you to remember that there is no apostrophe in the possessive form of “it,” “its,” by noting that NO possessive pronoun uses an apostrophe: “his,” “hers,” “yours,” “theirs” and “its.”The mistake comes from relating the possessive pronoun, “its,” to the normal possessive of singular nouns: “the dog’s coat,” “the horse’s bridle,” etc.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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