Does writing seem daunting to you? For most people, writing doesn’t comes naturally. Here are few most common grammar mistakes in writing that even writers miss. I hope the list help you to avoid them and help you write like a pro!
Common grammar mistakes in writing
As someone who grew up with a healthy dose of books as a part of her childhood, the love for the language and grammar came to me quite easily. But not everyone has the time or interest to do that. Even if you are a native speaker, sometimes these pesky English grammar might get the best of you.
So I put together this nifty list of common grammar mistakes we tend to make while writing to avoid that scenario and the embarrassment.
1) Mixing up common words
Writing in English can be tough, especially if it is not your native language. And one of the most cruel inventions of the language would be the homophones.
I can hear your “the what now?” already.
Homophones are pair of words that sound the same, but have different spelling and different meanings. Some of them are:
- Your or you’re
- It’s or Its
- Their or there or they’re
- Lose or Loose
- Bear or bare
- Whether or weather
- Principal or principle
- Stationary or Stationery
And for obvious reasons, they are one of the most common mistakes people make while writing. All you have to remember which one goes where and you are set for life.
2) Using a wrong word
Not just similar sounding words, but there are few other notorious word pairs that people commonly substitute for.
- I was or I were
- Then or than
- Few or Less
- Accept or except
- Could Of or Could Have
- Who or Whom
- Affect or effect
Take a minute to understand the differences between them and learn to using them appropriately could save some embarrassment in the future.
3) Misusing Commas
Slewing commas randomly in a sentence is not only annoying but also can make the sentence muddled. Neither does missing a comma.
Where do we commonly mess up when using a comma?
- The notorious Oxford commas – just add one before the and when it is a series of items
- Missing a comma when you address directly
Example: Let’s eat, Grandma! Vs Let’s eat Grandma!
- Missing a comma before a conjunction (for, and, but etc) joining two independent clauses
- Missing a comma in case of appositives
Example: Emma, Anna’s sister, just arrived.
The comma rules are, I agree, generally confusing. But if you avoid these most common mistakes, you are almost there.
4) More active, less passive
While it is not grammatically wrong to choose passive sentences in general, using too many of them is a sure shot way to lose the attention of your reader.
Let me give a very simple example:
Passive: It is a young adult book that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Active: People of all ages can enjoy this young adult book.
Also passive voice sentence tend to be more confusing, especially when they are longer. An easy rule to remember is to avoid “is/was” and “by the subject” when framing sentences.
5) (Ab)using quotation marks to add emphasis or irony
I think this is one of my pet peeves.
It annoys me when people use quotation mark to emphasis a word. While It is one thing to use “air quotes” when you talk, using them in business writing context is just plain wrong.
It creates a sort of ambiguity in the reader’s mind about the intention of the writer. Would you “trust” someone who writes “so good”?
Use quotation marks where they are supposed to be – when you quote someone.
6) Improper use of the apostrophe
Apostrophe is one of my favorite punctuation marks. Yes, I have a favorite punctuation marks and it is not that weird given I am a writer!
And the rules regarding the apostrophes are not that difficult, but unfortunately they are one of the most common mistakes in writing.
An apostrophe mark is usually used to show possession (Gayathri’s notebook) or contraction (She’s read it already). There are other cases, but let’s not go into details.
Instead, let me tell you where an apostrophe is wrongly used
- Never use it with a possessive pronoun like hers, his, theirs. (No more hers’ or who’s)
- When it is a plural form, use it after the -s. (Example: Teachers’ lounge, dogs’ park)
7) Vague and ambiguous pronouns
Any good writer strives for clarity in his sentences. And nothing kills that clarity faster than a vague pronoun. A vague pronoun usually includes it, this, that and which.
Example: Emma told Anna that she would meet Carol.
Who is the “she” in the above sentence? Is it Emma or Anna that will be meeting Carol?
Parallelism refers to a matching or parallel grammatical structure within a sentence, much like its geometry namesake. Generally it means there is a repetition of elements, tenses and ideas.
Parallelism makes a sentence concise and easier to read.
Example: We drove through the desert, swam in the seas and living in a tent.
Correct: We drove through the desert, swam in the seas and lived in a tent. (tense has to match)
Example 2: The girls went to back to their respective house.
Correct: The girls went to back to their respective houses. (Plural form should match)
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Which of these common grammar mistakes got the best of you? Do you love English grammar and writing like I do? Do you have a favorite punctuation mark? Let us chat.