Vogt's Notes: This smalltown weekly newspaper editor is proud to be a word nerd

Read about common grammar mistakes that an online learning community and homework help platform called Brainly identified in a survey of high school students

Illustration, Shutterstock, Inc. / PineandLakes Echo Journal

An email recently came to my inbox proclaiming: “Grammar nerds, rejoice! National Grammar Day is March 4.”

The email caught my eye before I hit the “delete” button because, I realized, I’m a grammar nerd. Or, as the email said, a “word nerd.”

A main reason why I chose my profession is because I thought I had a knack for writing well (or is it good?!). Writing comes easily to me, and I believe I have a great grasp on correct grammar.

Much to my family’s dismay, I can’t help but constantly correct them when they use poor grammar. And yep, I’m one of those people who immediately corrects a misspelled word sent in a text or other kind of chat. It’s just part of who I am.


" Personally, my biggest pet peeve when it comes to grammar is “lie/lay.” No matter how many times I look it up, I’m still never sure which form of either word is correct. So I just avoid those words. "

— Nancy Vogt.

That’s not to say I’m beyond using made up words. My reporters and I use “page oneable” to reference possible stories for our front page. A friend and I now routinely share when we are “snorfeling” food thanks to a texted word gone awry.

I hope our readers don’t find many grammar mistakes on the pages of the Echo Journal. I take great pride in editing each and every news item in our newspaper, from long byline stories to tiny news briefs and everything in between. I aim to have all items written as clearly, succinctly and accurately as possible.

Of course, my reporters and I are human, and we do make mistakes.

But all in all, I feel like we do a fairly good job of publishing readable and grammatically correct stories for our newspaper.

The email I received about National Grammar Day was from Brainly, an online learning community and homework help platform. The email said this was “the perfect day to celebrate the idiosyncrasies of the English language and study up on some of the common grammar mistakes.”

Brainly surveyed 1,700 high school students nationwide to determine the most common grammar mistakes, and I share with you some of those findings that this grammar nerd thinks are quite fascinating.

The top 5 most shocking grammar-related learnings from the survey are:


  • Roughly 53% of single U.S. students said bad grammar is a dating deal-breaker.

  • Nationwide, 66% of students prefer a writing style that uses the Oxford comma.

(For those who don’t know, that’s the final comma in a list. Example: I love the sunshine, blue clouds, and warm air. Newspaper writers do not use the Oxford comma, so would not include that comma after “clouds.”)

  • Nearly 8% of students think their grammar is better than their English teacher’s grammar.

  • 36% of students said writing essays causes more stress than other types of homework.

  • About 43% of students said their most common grammar mistake is not knowing when to use a comma or not.

Not surprising, the top 5 grammatical spelling errors students said they see their peers make most often are:

  • They’re/their/there (32%).

  • It’s/its (24%).

  • Your/you’re (19%).

  • Too/to (13%).

  • Who/whom (12%).

Personally, my biggest pet peeve when it comes to grammar is “lie/lay.” No matter how many times I look it up, I’m still never sure which form of either word is correct. So I just avoid those words.
A simple Google search easily turned up more grammar do’s and don’ts, including the following 10 common grammar mistakes writers should avoid:

  • Overuse of adverbs.

  • Too many prepositional phrases.

  • Ambiguous (“squinting”) modifiers.

  • Misuse of lie/lay. (Ding, ding, ding, says this editor!)

  • Ambiguous pronoun references.

  • Comma splices.

  • Run-on sentences.

  • Wordiness (inflated sentences).

Another common grammar mistake mentioned was passive voice, which happens to be another of my pet peeves. Example: The story was written by Nancy (oh, I just shuddered!); instead of, Nancy wrote the story (ahhh, so much better).
I applaud my fellow word nerds in our attempts to use the English language correctly.

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at

Nancy Vogt - Vogt's Notes.jpg
Nancy Vogt, PineandLakes Echo Journal Editor

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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