I think writing is wonderful. It is a fantastic tool to express complex ideas, thoughts and emotions to each other. But with writing, there comes grammar. The nitty-gritty rules you must follow while writing. I find learning about these rules rather tedious simply because of the sheer quantity of them. Sometimes you might even forget these rules and make a few grammar mistakes. It might seem unimportant, but these rules are absolutely essential if you want to come across as competent and professional in your writing. Bad grammar is the literary equivalent of discourtesy.
If you are a writer or a company, you need to make sure that there are no questions about what you are trying to convey in your text. If readers are distracted by grammatical errors or confused by the meaning of a sentence they are not likely to continue their interaction with you, or interact with you in the future.
Even though grammar is very mundane, it is essential for any piece of professional text and is well worth your time to brush up on to ensure you don’t make any of the most common grammatical mistakes.
Here are the 13 most common grammar mistakes that you should avoid at all costs:
- Run-on Sentences
A run-on sentence occurs when you connect two or more independent clauses without proper punctuation and conjunction. It usually feels wrong and resembles a stream of consciousness rather than a proper punctuated sentence.
Incorrect: He opened the door he met his friend.
Correct: He opened the door and met his friend.
Incorrect: It is almost 7 o’clock we have to get home before our parents catch us.
Correct: It is almost 7 o’clock; we have to get home before our parents catch us.
Incorrect: We should invite Fred over he is a very nice guy.
Correct: We should invite Fred over, he is a very nice guy.
This is one of the most common grammar mistakes, but hopefully this helps you. “Your” implies possession; something that belongs to you. “You’re” is shorthand for “you are”. An apostrophe can make a big difference.
Incorrect: Your the most beautiful person I have ever seen.
Correct: You’re the most beautiful person I have ever seen.
Incorrect: Do you mind if I borrow one of you’re CDs?
Correct: Do you mind if I borrow one of your CDs?
Incorrect: Can I come over to you’re house later?
Correct: Can I come over to your house later?
- Dangling Modifiers
A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not clearly stated in a sentence. Sentences that contain a dangling modifier can sound confusing and may cause a reader difficultly when reading a sentence.
Incorrect: Having arrived late for school, a written excuse was needed.
Correct: Having arrived late for school, he needed a written excuse.
Incorrect: Putting on my pants, a mouse ran across the floor.
Correct: While I was putting on my pants, a mouse ran across the floor.
Incorrect: Walking down the street, the sun began to shine.
Correct: The sun began to shine while I was walking down the street.
- Wrong Word Usage
In the English language, there are a variety of words that are confused and misused in sentences because of the similarities between them. The use of these words can completely change the meaning of a sentence and can reflect negligence on a writer. Make sure to always double check your writing!
Incorrect: He excepted her invitation to the party.
Correct: He accepted her invitation to the party.
Incorrect: I was too week to go to football practice.
Correct: I was too weak to go to football practice.
Incorrect: I’m asthmatic, so I have problems with my breathe.
Correct: I’m asthmatic, so I have problems with my breath.
- “I.e.” vs “e.g.”
These two abbreviations are very common in writing, and people often use them interchangeably. But these abbreviations are quite different from each other. I.e. means “that is” or “in other words”, while e.g. means “for example”. Also, these should only be used informally, and should not be written on formal texts.
Incorrect: He likes many different drinks, i.e. Coke, Fanta, and Sprite.
Correct: He likes many different drinks, e.g. Coke, Fanta, and Sprite.
Incorrect: She doesn’t like driving – e.g. she doesn’t own a car.
Correct: She doesn’t like driving – i.e. she doesn’t own a car.
- Misuse of Apostrophes
This misuse of apostrophes is a very common grammar mistake. People often use it to pluralise a word, but the apostrophe is used to indicate possession. If it only belongs to one person you put the apostrophe before the ‘s’, but if it belongs to more than one person you put the apostrophe after the ‘s’.
Incorrect: The cow’s are in the barn.
Correct: The cows are in the barn.
Incorrect: Harrys car is behind the house.
Correct: Harry’s car is behind the house.
Incorrect: The boys suits are ready to be cleaned
Correct: The boys’ suits are ready to be cleaned.
- Its vs It’s
I have already addressed misplaced apostrophes before but this is the most common misuse of an apostrophe and deserves to be addressed in its own segment. “It’s” is used when it is short for “it is”. While “its” indicates possession to something when the possessor is not masculine or feminine, i.e. a thing rather than a person.
Incorrect: Its very sunny outside.
Correct: It’s very sunny outside.
Incorrect: The car looks great with it’s new wheels.
Correct: The car looks great with its new wheels.
- Who vs Whom
‘Whom’ is often forgotten about when it comes to referring to people. Instead ‘who’ is more universally used, but this is incorrect. ‘Who’ and ‘whom’ work exactly like ‘he’ and ‘him’. You can work it out pretty simply if you ask and answer the following questions: “Who went to the cinema? He did”, and “Whom should we bring to the party?” Bring him”.
Incorrect: Who should I invite to the cinema?
Correct: Whom should I invite to the cinema?
Incorrect: Whom made the mess in the kitchen this morning?
Correct: Who made the mess in the kitchen this morning?
- Incorrect Use of Semicolons
The use of a semicolon goes beyond forming a winking emoji. It is an important part of punctuation, and the correct use of one is integral to sound sophisticated in your text. A semicolon is most often used to link two independent clauses that are closely related in thought. When a semicolon is used, it gives the two independent ideas equal rank in a sentence.
Incorrect: Some people listen to music on their iPods, others listen using a CD player.
Correct: Some people listen to music on their iPods; others listen using a CD player.
Incorrect: I love my family, however, we get into a lot of fights.
Correct: I love my family; however, we get into a lot of fights
Incorrect: This car is not great, it is too slow.
Correct: This car is not great; it is too slow
- Incorrect Use of Colons
Colons are also not just a tool to convey that you are happy with your friends online. Colons are just as important as any other form of punctuation, and the incorrect use of it can really convey unsophistication. In a sentence, a colon precedes an explanation or list. It indicates that what is to come will prove or explain what came before in a sentence.
Incorrect: Students travel the world for: the fun, the sun, and the experience.
Correct: Students travel the world for three reasons: the fun, the sun, and the experience.
Incorrect: I was so hungry that I ate everything I could get my hands on, bananas, chips, pizza, and ice cream.
Correct: I was so hungry that I ate everything I could get my hands on: bananas, chips, pizza, and ice cream.
Incorrect: Monday was horrible, I had the worst headache and still had to work all day.
Correct: Monday was horrible: I had the worst headache and still had to work all day.
- ‘Fewer’ vs ‘Less’
‘Fewer’ and ‘less’ are often used as equivalents, when in fact they are two very different words. ‘Fewer’ refers to the number of items you can tangibly count, while ‘less’ refers to something that you can’t physically count, like sand or water. So the expression “10 items or less” should actually be “10 Items or fewer”.
Incorrect: I thought there were a lot of biscuits but there are less than I remember.
Correct: I thought there were a lot of biscuits but there are fewer than I remember.
Incorrect: There seems to be fewer sand on the beach today.
Correct: There seems to be less sand on the beach today.
I know we have already referred to the use of wrong words, but the confusion between these homophones deserves to be addressed separately. Use ‘there’ when referring to a place or when you must state something, ‘their’ indicates possession of something, and ‘they’re’ is short for ‘they are’. This mistake is very common so make sure to double check your work.
Incorrect: Their having a great time playing in the park.
Correct: They’re having a great time playing in the park.
Incorrect: There cat has been missing for a few weeks.
Correct: Their cat has been missing for a few weeks.
Incorrect: They’re is no need to get upset.
Correct: There is no need to get upset
- The Oxford Comma
While this is not exactly a mistake, this particular use of a common is often overlooked. The oxford comma, also known as the serial comma, is a comma placed immediately before the coordinating conjunction (and/or) in a series of three or more terms. It is relatively controversial in terms of punctuation because if you don’t use it is still technically correct, but it just affects the flow of a sentence.
Without comma: My favourite animals are cats, dogs and tigers.
With comma: My favourite animals are cats, dogs, and tigers.
Without comma: To Dad, John and Paul.
With comma: To Dad, John, and Paul.
Without comma: We went to London with George, Richard and Stuart.
With comma: We went to London with George, Richard, and Stuart.
These are just thirteen grammar rules; I can assure you there are hundreds more so keep an eye out. When you are writing something that is professional in any way you always have to make a good impression. This good impression is held together by your grammar, so always look over your work and make sure that your grammar is the best that it can be.