Three Common Grammar Mistakes: “a lot” or “alot”; abbreviating “versus”; and when “nor” is appropriate on its own

Sep 5, 2013 | Grammar and Usage, Other Helpful Information, The Writing Life

grammarAre sticky grammar questions plaguing you? Let Writer’s Relief give you the down and dirty on some common grammar mistakes:

Do you write a lot or alot?

Do you write “Sam ate a lot for breakfast” or “Sam ate alot for breakfast”? Does it matter? Yes. Writing “alot” instead of “a lot” will make a difference in how your writing is perceived. Many writers seem to think they’re interchangeable, but guess what? “Alot” is not a word. Ever. So, unless you want a publisher to question your expertise with the English language, always write “a lot” when you mean to convey “to a considerable quantity or extent.”

We would be remiss if we didn’t note that “a lot” should not be confused with “allot,” meaning to distribute a portion of something. (For example: “Dad’s will allotted $5,000 to each of us.”)


Confused about how to abbreviate “versus”? Is it “v” or “vs”? With the period or without? Or should you not abbreviate “versus” at all and always write out the full form? The Gregg Reference Manual tells us that the abbreviated form of “versus” you use depends on what you are writing. In a legal citation, i.e., the citation of a case in a legal brief or other document, always use “v.” as in “Marbury v. Madison.” In any other work, yes, you can abbreviate “versus” to “vs.” Include the period every time.


One way to use “nor” properly is in its most common use: paired with “neither.” (If that’s not possible, you can always use the conjunction “or” instead.) Examples:

Wrong: “Joe didn’t like the birthday cake nor the chocolate ice cream.”
Right: “Joe didn’t like the birthday cake or the chocolate ice cream.”
Right: “Lee neither colored nor sketched that drawing of you.”

Another way to use “nor” is with other negative expressions. Examples:

Wrong: “I didn’t see the movie in 3-D nor IMAX.”
Right: “He shouldn’t have shown up without an invitation, nor should he have brought a guest.

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