English Mistakes to Stop Making Before You Start Adulting: A Few Tips for New Grads

Congratulations! Not only have you worked and played hard for the last four years, but you’ve also survived a once-in-century pandemic. You’re probably equipped with an enviable skill set in your chosen field, and can put together a multi-media presentation on your phone in an hour. Here’s the bad news: In a competitive, post-COVID economy, those up-to-the-minute skills won’t be enough. Like it or not, your employers will likely be aging Gen-Xers who, after a year of Zoom meetings and four years of Trump, are now even more nostalgic for newspapers, long magazine articles, and snappy West Wing banter. In other words, your future bosses — the people you most need to impress — are going to have a blisteringly low tolerance for kids who think they can TikTok their way into a $100,000 salary without knowing how to pluralize a noun.

The real world takes no prisoners, my friends. You don’t have to like it, or agree with it, but employers and other people who can help you get ahead will judge you on your shoes or your grammar, or both. If you’ve already upped your footwear game since adolescence, here are some tips to help you speak and write like a literate adult.

Unfortunately, too many parents and teachers drilled into their kids’ heads that using “me” instead of “I” was bad grammar in every instance, and now everyone’s afraid to say “me”. Get over that.

Don’t let grammar rules freak you out. They’re less complicated than you think. Subject pronouns (I, you, he, she, we, they) perform the action in a sentence. Object pronouns (me, you, him, her, us, them) receive the action in a sentence. Reflexive pronouns (myself, herself, himself, themselves, ourselves) are used when the subject and object are the same people. Just remember not to start a sentence with a reflexive or object pronoun and you’ll be fine!

Wrong: Him and I went to Target.

Right: He and I went to Target.

Wrong: Ashley and me are going to the party.

Right: Ashley and I are going to the party.

Wrong: Myself, Madison, and Sarah will be running the meeting.

Right: Madison, Sarah, and I will be running the meeting.

Wrong: Olivia came to the movie with Cody and I.

Right: Olivia came to the movie with Cody and me.

Wrong: I love this picture of my mom and I.

Right: I love this picture of my mom and me.

Wrong: Do you want to join Channing and I for drinks?

Right: Do you want to join Channing and me for drinks?

Wrong: The problem is between Theo and myself, or The problem is between Theo and I.

Right: The problem is between Theo and me.

A good trick is to ask yourself if the sentence would sound right if you took out the other names. For example, “Him went to Target”, “Myself would like to thank you…” and “Olivia came to the movie with I” sound messed up.

Apostrophes are used to show possession or to make a contraction.

Wrong: We’re having dinner with the Chapman’s.

Right: We’re having dinner with the Chapmans.

Wrong: The restaurant has a fish and chips special on Friday’s.

Right: The restaurant has a fish and chips special on Fridays.

Just, don’t. You’re smarter than this.

Wrong: dinning room (This shows up on buy & sell sites EVERYWHERE)

Right: dining room

Wrong: sneak peak

Right: sneak peek

Wrong: “Here, here!”

Right: “Hear, hear!”

Wrong: supposably

Right: supposedly

Wrong: suppose to/use to

Right: supposed to/used to

Wrong: could of/should of/would of

Right: could have/should have/would have

Wrong: Nip it in the butt

Right: Nip it in the bud (you know, like a flower!)

Wrong: For all intensive purposes

Right: For all intents and purposes

Good luck out there, new grads. The world needs you, your skills, your optimism, your humor, and your enthusiasm more than ever. Keep reading. Keep learning.

Educator. Canadian. Former book publishing and advertising rep. I used to travel.