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Embarrassing Usage Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

[ Instructors: Download the exercise and its key at the end of this post.]


Sometimes, even the most intelligent people make mistakes when using common phrases, leading to some embarrassing moments. Can you identify what’s wrong with the phrases below? Check your responses against the solution key.


  1. Baited breath
  2. Boldface lie
  3. Chalk full
  4. Do diligence
  5. First-come, first-serve
  6. Given free reign
  7. Honed in
  8. I could care less
  9. Irregardless
  10. Must of/should of/would of/could of
  11. Mute point
  12. Peaked my interest
  13. Per say
  14. Piece of mind
  15. Shoe-in
  16. Slight of hand
  17. Through the ringer
  18. Tie me over
  19. Tow the line
  20. Wet your appetite

Adapted from 43 Embarrassing Grammar Mistakes Even Smart People Make,


Here's an online version of this exercise:


You can add this activity to your MindTap course! Right click here to copy the link to the exercise, then follow the video below to use the Add Weblink Activity in MindTap.



This was very interesting.  I lecture on the "Per Se Rule" by the FTC, so luckily I spell it correctly on the board.

Valued Contributor

I love everything about this post! This would be a fun activity to share with my first-year writing students. 


Fun activity for any class...possibly even an icebreaker to get them to discuss and get to know each other

Valued Contributor

This is an amazing read.. tells you how commonly these mistakes are made. Should be a fun activity for a writing/communications class.

Even my Stats students could use it. They are starting projects right now, and could give the test to collect data on percent correct and on which question is easiest or hardest. 😉 See, everything leads to statistics!
Frequent Commenter

Interesting exercise! Really makes you think!


These are common errors!  I’ll be using the exercise!


I plan to use this activity in my class!