Monday, October 25, 2010

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda

People tend to write just like they talk, especially in informal communications such as personal e-mails or discussion forum posts.  One mistake I see frequently is using "of" instead of "have" as in the following examples:

      "I could of done more…"

      "She should of been there on time…"

      "It wouldn't of made a difference…"

The correct usage in these examples is "could have," "should have," and "wouldn't have."  But people have a habit of running words together when they speak, which is fine if the words make a natural contraction:  "could have" becomes "could've," "should have" becomes "should've."

Spoken aloud, or even in internal thought, "could've" sounds just like "could of," and "should've" sounds like "should of."  And when people write just like they speak – well, you can see how "would of," "should of" and "could of" creep into written use.

It's still wrong, though.

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