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Even the best of us can falter sometimes when it comes to the simple things. This post is to explain a few of those things so that the next time you are writing something, or even saying something, you know better than to make your reader or listener sigh a couple of times!

Maybe or May be?

Maybe is a compound word, and an adjective, and means “possibly” or “perhaps”. Eg – Maybe he thought it was fine to say an expletive in public.
May be is a verb phrase that means “could be”. Eg – He may be angry with you.

Fish or Fishes?

Fish is used either as a singular noun or to describe a group of specimens from a single species. Fishes describes multiple species. Eg – I swam with a school of 100 fish today and then I caught a fish later. There were many fishes, besides trout and tench in the river.

1990s or 1990’s?

An apostrophe indicates ownership (John’s book) or contractions (It’s instead of it is) and when you are talking about the entire decade spanning from 1990 to 1999, you are not referring to either ownership or contraction. Hence, there needs be no apostrophe. Eg – The fashion of the 1990s was ridiculous, to say the least.

Draught or Drought?

Draught, pronounced like the word “draft” is a current of unpleasantly cold air blowing through a room. That is its most common meaning. It can also mean a particular kind of beer, a game, and boats (all still pronounced like “draft”). Do note that in AmE draught is spelled draft. Drought is a long period when there is little or no rain. Here the gh is silent, and the word is pronounced like “doubt”. Eg – A cool draught of air came in through the cracks in the door. Heavy drought has caused a drop in the annual production of rice in the area.

Hear or Listen?

Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound through the ear. Listening is when your brain processes those sounds. Eg – I did not hear the sound because I was listening to music.

These came up in conversation the other day, and in some emails. I’ll put in more of these when I find more such mistakes. Till then, have a good day!