Wordsmith Essays’ Pet Peeves, Part III

We here at Wordsmith Essays read dozens upon dozens of essays, correcting grammatical mistakes, adjusting spelling and phrasing, fixing punctuation, and generally giving advice as how to improve writing.

While doing so, we’ve come across the same errors made time after time.  It doesn’t seem to matter the grade level of the writer, or whether they’re a native English speaker or not—some mistakes just seem to reoccur time and again.  Here are a few more of our recurring pet peeves:

Double Negatives

I can’t get no satisfaction.

In some languages, double negatives are not only acceptable, they’re mandatory.  In Spanish, for example, double negatives are quite common.  In English, however, it’s not accepted as standard English—two negatives sort of cancel each other out.  “I don’t need no education” reads to most English speakers as “I don’t (need no education)” or “I need education”—the negatives interfere with one another.

Double negatives are acceptable as a form of emphasis (I don’t feel bad or I do not disagree) or in dialogue, but most of the time, double negatives are, at best, confusing and, at worst, mean the opposite of what you intend.

Whom

I like who whom you gave the award?

Who and whom are two different words that are used at two different times.  Many writers seem to not understand this!

Who can only be used when it’s the subject of a verb—just like the words I, he, she, we and they.  Whom can only be used when it’s the object of a verb—just like the words me, him, her, us and them.  They are not interchangeable, though whom is slowly falling out of favor.  If you’re writing your essay in 50 years time, maybe it’ll be acceptable to drop the whom—but not today.

A quick rule of thumb is to replace the word in your sentence, and see if it makes sense.  So “[who/whom] paid for the meal” would become “He paid for the meal”, indicating you should use “who”, but “We gave the tickets to [who/whom]” would become “We gave the tickets to her”, indicating you should use “whom”.  It works every time.

Wrong Comparative Modifiers

I picked the smallest smaller one of the two.

If you’re comparing just two things, you never use the superlative modifier, only the comparative.  If you have only two books, one isn’t heaviest, it’s heavier—you’re just comparing it to one other thing.  Your car is faster than your brother’s, not fastest.  Only when you bring in three or more objects do you go to the superlative, to declare one book heavier or one car faster than all the rest—then they are heaviest and fastest.

As always, if you want to ensure that everything in your essay is correct and flows well, stop by Wordsmith Essays’ order page today.  Our team of international editors will help you get the most out of your writing.

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