Ten Common Grammatical Mistakes in Writing
When I was at University, I quickly learned that grammar was often the difference between a marginal grade and getting a good grade. Regardless of the content, if people find your article hard to read, then they won’t read it.
Do yourself a favor. Take a little time to correct grammatical errors. Your readers will reward your effort.
Professional writers need to pay special attention to grammar. Writers will be judged on their grammatical errors; however, good the quality of the story can be.
1. Subject-Verb agreement
The subject and verb of a sentence must be in agreement. If the subject is singular, then the verb must also be singular. If the subject is plural, then the verb must be plural.
An example is the use of the words ‘have’ and ‘has.’
A sentence that does not have a subject-verb agreement is:
‘An important part of my life have been the people who supported me.’
A sentence that has subject-verb agreement is:
‘An important part of my life has been the people who supported me.’
2. Sentence fragments
Sentence fragments are incomplete sentences. Sentences should have one independent clause. Fragments may lack a subject or a verb, or both verb and subject.
Example of a sentence fragment:
‘His mother was tired. And he didn’t visit.’
In this example, the second sentence depends on the first sentence to make sense. The second sentence lacks a subject.
Example of a correct sentence:
‘He did not visit his mother because she was tired.’
3. A Comma should be used after an introductory element
A comma gives the reader a chance to pause and help make the sentence make sense.
Example of a missing comma:
‘For the last time don’t forget to add the comma.’
Example of a correctly placed comma:
For the last time, don’t forget to add the comma.’
4. Correct use of the Apostrophe in “It’s.”
It’s is an abbreviation for ‘It is.’ Without the apostrophe, it denotes possessive adjectives.
Example of incorrectly use of the apostrophe:
“Its nice weather today!”
Example of correct use of the apostrophe:
‘It’s nice weather today!’
5. The proper use of a commas
Some examples of when to use a comma:
- A comma separates two clauses in a sentence. A clause has both a subject, a verb, or a verb predicate.
- The comma goes after the first clause.
- Use a comma before any coordinating conjunction (and, or, but, etc.) that links two independent clauses.
- Use a comma to offset appositives from the rest of the sentence. Appositives give more information. For example, “I was reading and saw an apostrophe, a type of punctuation, in a sentence.
- Use a comma in a list of items
Example of a missing comma in a compound sentence:
“He studied very hard but he failed the exam.”
Example of a correctly placed comma in a compound sentence:
“He studied very hard, but he failed the exam.”
6. They’re vs. Their vs. There
‘They’re, there and their‘ can confuse writers. It is confusing because they are ‘homophones’ which means they have the same sound but different meanings. Even though they sound the same, they are not spelled the same.
Their – is the possessive case of the pronoun They. An example is ‘They left their hats at home.’ Their is usually plural but can be singular with words such as someone. An example is ‘Someone left their hat on the boat.’
There is an adverb such as ‘in or at that place.’ An example is, ‘She is there now
They’re – The words ‘They’ and ‘are’ joined together (contraction). An example is ‘They’re at the train station.’
If you are ever confused about which to use
Remember that ‘Their’ contains heir; this indicates possession.
There – Take out the ‘T’ from there and you get here; these are words indicating a place.
They’re – has an apostrophe, which means that it is the product of two words.
7. Your vs. You’re.
You’re with the apostrophe is an abbreviation of you are.
An example is ‘If you go outside, you’re likely to catch a cold.’
Your indicates possession.
An example is ‘Your raincoat is red.’
8. Whose vs. Who’s
Whose is the possessive form for the pronoun who. Who’s is two words joined together Who and is; this may seem simple, but people still have trouble because in English, the apostrophe followed by ‘s’ usually indicates the possessive form of a word. For example, ‘The woman’s purse.’ However, this is not the case with who’s.
When do you use ‘who’s’?
The first thing to figure out is if you need two words or one. Substitute the words who’s with who is or who has.
For example, ‘who’s been sitting in my chair?’; this could be ‘who has been sitting in my chair?’.
When do you use ‘whose’?
The word is possessive and is often used as an adjective. So in this case, use whose to clarify who owns something.
Whose can be used to describe a single person or several people. Whose can also be used to describe inanimate objects such as ‘whose army?’.
Examples of sentences using whose
Whose house is this?
You and whose army?
The sparkle came from an emerald whose light shone brightly.
9. Who vs. Whom
“Who” is a subject pronoun. We use “who” for the subject of a sentence. “Whom” is an object pronoun. We use “whom” for the object of a sentence.
“Who scribbled on the whiteboard?”. The subject of the sentence is “Who”.
“The whiteboard was scribbled on by whom?” The subject is the whiteboard. The object is “whom.”
10. Where vs. Were vs. We’re vs. Wear
It is easy for English learners to mix up these words, they have similar pronunciation but different spelling and meaning.
Where means in or at what place?
An easy way to remember where is to remember that it contains the word ‘here’. Where is the dog?
Were – is a second person past plural. A good way to remember when to use ‘were‘ is that it is similar to ‘w are’, Are is present tense, Were is past tense. For example, “We were in the kitchen.” meaning “We used to be in the kitchen.”
We’re is a contraction of we are. A good way to remember is the replace the apostrophe with the letter ‘a.’
Wear is to have on the body. A good way to remember is that wear contains the word ear, a part of the body.
If you follow these nine simple rules, then you will have a higher chance of being a successful writer. People are more likely to read content with correct grammar. Remember to keep sentences short and to the point.
Summary of eight rules of grammar
- Subject and Verb must be in agreement
- Avoid Sentence fragments
- A comma should be used after an introductory element
- The correct use of the apostrophe in ‘it’s.’
- The proper of a comma in a compound sentence
- The correct use of ‘they’re,’ ‘their’ and ‘there.’
- The correct use of ‘your’ and ‘you’re.’
- The proper use of ‘whose’ and ‘who’s
- Correctly using ‘who’ and ‘whom’ in a sentence
Recommended book for improving writing
On Writing Well should be on the bookshelf of any serious writer. The advice is easy to understand and not academic. Basic common sense is easily understood.
Every chapter contains information the aspiring writer needs to know. He starts by making the most crucial point about wordiness, and each section covers a different aspect of writing. The book is for anyone interested in writing, not just academics. William’s book is a fun read; it is not a textbook.
Recommended books for learning and teaching grammar
Grammarly is an online grammar checker and proofreading tool and can help avoid embarrassing typos and grammatical errors.
A classic developmental skills text for intermediate to advanced students of English, Understanding and Using English Grammar is a comprehensive reference grammar as well as a stimulating and teachable classroom text.
This book provides an easy to use guide with clear rules, real-world examples, and reproducible quizzes.
This is a self-study and reference book. This book includes audio, student book answer key, grammar coach videos, and self-assessments.