WritingCommon Errors in Formal Writing (Part 2) | The Ready Writers

May 30, 2017by readywriters

Formal writing has been beset with a number of errors which might not be noticeable to the writer at the point of writing or editing. That is why we have to consider few of those errors here in order to draw our attention to them. Besides, errors notable here are meant for seeking redress so as we continue to write, we ensure those errors do not show up in our writings.

Take them one after the other:

  1. Affect/Effect: Affect is a verb while Effect could either be used as a noun or a verb.


The weather is affecting everything in our environment. (verb)

The effect of the weather is telling on me. (Noun)

Let us effect a change in weather condition. (Verb)


  1. Apostrophe: This punctuation mark is used to denote possession or contraction of words. Care should be taken when using it in both cases.


For possession: This is Bola’s bag.

Is that not Bola’s bag?


For contraction: Isn’t she informed of the meeting? (Isn’t = Is not)

It’s not late to get on the journey. (It’s = It is)


For plural nouns ending in “s”, it is advisable not to include an apostrophe, as in Teachers office, policemen truck, etc.


For singular words ending in “s” such as a name, the apostrophe comes at the end.


James’ book is over there.

Silas’ pen is with me.



Note: Do not use apostrophe if only a letter is involved, as in:

There are two ts in Tattoo.

Since “ts” could confuse the reader, it is better to say:

There are two “t”s in Tattoo.


  1. Could’ve/Should’ve/Would’ve: The full forms of these are could have, should have and would have.


  1. Its/It’s: The former (its) is used for possession while the latter (it’s) is the short form (contraction) for “it is” or “it has”.


  1. They’re/Their/There: There is the short form for “They are” while “their” is showing possession and “there” is indicating a place or idea.


Example: They’re fond of doing that.

That is their kind of food.

Let us go over there.


  1. Theirs/There’s: “Theirs” indicates the third person plural noun while “There’s” is a contraction for “there is” or “there was”.



  1. To/Too/Two:

“To” is a preposition indicating a place; it also serves as an infinitive when it comes before a verb.


E.g.: I am going to Lagos. (place)

To go home is the next option right now. (Infinitive)


“Too” is used in place of “also” or “as well”.


“Two” is a number.

Often Misused Words

Decimate: To decimate means to reduce by one-tenth and not to reduce to one-tenth.

Literally: This word simply means just saying the fact without any exaggeration.

E.g. Literally, I did not have any excuse for coming late.

But it is wrong saying: Literally, I died of boredom. This is an expression indicating that in actually fact you died, which is not true. Of course using “literally” is unfit for that purpose.


  1. Lose/Loose: “Lose” is a verb and the opposite of “win”. But “loose” is an adjective- the opposite of tight. They should not be confused in writing or expression.


  1. Weather/Whether: “Weather” is the atmospheric condition of a place at a particular point in time, like rainfall, sunshine, cloud-cover etc while “whether” is indicating a condition and it is conjunction that offers alternatives. It is also used in place of “if”.


E.g.: Whether Arsenal win or lose, …

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