I was in the midst of deep conversation about the state of modern politics with a relative (a very intelligent and well-educated relative) when it came out of nowhere. A single word which sent shivers up my spine, turned my hands to fists, and completely derailed my focus on the conversation.
The word? Irregardless.
Now, I like to think of myself as a good human instead of a grammar snob, so I didn’t mention it, and we continued our conversation. Regardless (see what I did there?), it continued to bother me. Irregardless isn’t a word. Regardless literally means there is no regard, so the word “irregardless” is not only a double-negative; it’s plain silly.
As you can probably tell, this is a writing pet-peeve of mine, and I’ll be the first to say that it bothers me far more than it should. Regardless (sorry not sorry), it made me think of a whole host of other writing mistakes that even the most intelligent homeschool students seem to miss. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of seven of the most underrated writing mistakes that as a homeschool student or homeschool parent you might not realize you’re making!
I think I’ve made myself clear on this issue.
2) Using “as” as a coordinating conjunction.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I made this mistake throughout college without any intervention. My first week as a Curriculum Creator at Essentials in Writing, a co-worker messaged me to point out that I was using “as” as a coordinating conjunction. A lot. Quickly, I ran through all of the FANBOYS in my head, only to realize that “as” certainly did not make the cut. Yet, it sounds so natural! Take a look at this sentence:
“I went for a walk, as it was nice outside.”
“As” means that something is happening at the same point and time as another event. So this sentence could make sense:
“I went for a walk as it was nice outside.”
Notice that in this case, a comma does not come before “as.” What this sentence means is that you went for a walk, and it just happened to be nice outside at the same time. It does NOT mean that you went for a walk BECAUSE it was nice outside. If that’s what you mean to say, then the word you are looking for is “for.”
“I went for a walk, for it was nice outside.”
It sounds a little stuffy, I’ll admit, but it’s correct. If you want to replace “for” with “because,” that’s just fine. Just remember that “because” is not a coordinating conjunction, so it doesn’t require a comma!
“I went for a walk because it was nice outside.”
Easy enough, right?!
3) Confusing “further” and “farther.”
Believe it or not, many homeschool students don’t realize that they’re two different words! The difference is subtle but easy to remember. “Further” is used when one is speaking figuratively. For example: “Nothing could be further from the truth.” “Farther” refers to physical distance. For example: “The park is farther from my house than hers.” Just remember that “far” refers to distance, and “farther” starts with “far.”
4) “In regards to”
I don’t really understand where this one came from, but it’s so common it’s worth mentioning. The phrase is “in regard to,” not “in regards to.”
5) The improper use of “you and I.”
I’ve heard people gripe about the use of “you and me” in any context. The funny thing? Sometimes “you and me” is correct while “you and I” is incorrect! The easiest way to tell? Just remove “you and” or whoever the other person is, and see if “me” or “I” sounds correct.
Example: “Come with Jen and I!”
This may sound all good and fine, but remove Jen, and you end up with this:
“Come with I!”
Nope. That doesn’t sound okay at all! In this case, the correct way is “Jen and me.”
6) Beginning a sentence with “There is…”
Okay, so this isn’t necessarily wrong, but if you want to improve your writing skills as a homeschool student or homeschool parent, this is a great reminder! Usually, a reader naturally relies on the first three words of each sentence to quickly understand what the writer is saying. By starting a sentence with “there is” you’ve completely wasted your potential to make an immediate impact on your reader. For example:
“There is nothing I enjoy more than a walk on the beach.”
This sentence is okay, but it could easily be revised to say this:
“I enjoy nothing more than a walk on the beach.”
The difference is subtle, but important.
7) Using words with the wrong connotation.
When I’m grading a paper, I can immediately tell when a homeschool student has used a thesaurus to beef up their essay without knowing exactly what their “new and improved” word choices mean. For example:
“I nearly died of embarrassment at the park yesterday.”
A student might decide this sentence doesn’t sound sophisticated enough, so to the synonyms tab on Microsoft Word they go! Here’s the revision Word suggested I give the former sentence:
“I approximately expired of awkwardness at the estate yesterday.”
In a way, it technically means the same thing. But not really. Sentences like these make me expire of awkwardness when I read them.
In conclusion, writing mistakes plague even the most intelligent of homeschool students. As Mr. Stephens often says in our homeschool writing curriculum videos, rereading, editing, and revising your work are essential to writing well. No one writes perfectly, but regardless (sorry, I had to!), these are some mistakes you’ll be less likely to make in the future!