School teaches proper grammar. When students go out into the real world, though, is it still all that important?
The short answer is yes – if you want the power that comes with strong communication skills.
The problem today is that slangs and bad grammar are somewhat acceptable in a social setting. However, they’re a definite no-no when you’re trying to make a living off writing and your image. If you want to be an influencer, for example, using proper grammar is a must in all the content you publish.
As long as the content is crucial to your business, you should know which mistakes to avoid. Start by reading the most common grammatical errors below.
1. Subject-Verb Disagreement
Subject-verb agreement is one of the earliest lessons in grammar, yet many people find it easy to mess up. Its basic rule is that singular nouns utilize singular verbs. Plural nouns, on the other hand, take plural verbs.
This can be quite easy to remember in simple sentences, such as the following:
Incorrect: “My friend like the jewelry store down the street.”
Correct: “My friend likes the jewelry store down the street.”
Explanation: The subject here is “friend,” which is singular. The verb should then take a singular form, which is “likes” in this case. Making a mistake here could be a simple oversight or if you’re unsure if a subject is singular or plural (e.g. goose, geese).
Some mistakes could stem from a more complicated sentence structure. Some examples are:
Incorrect: “My brother and his dog is in my house at the moment.”
Correct: “My brother and his dog are in my house at the moment.”
Explanation: Both the brother and the dog are the subjects, hence the verb should be plural.
Incorrect: “My friends or my brother are coming over to eat dinner with me tonight.”
Correct: “My friends or my brother is coming over to eat dinner with me tonight.”
Explanation: When there are two or more subjects connected with “either/neither,” and “or/nor,” you base the verb on the subject closest to it. In this example, the closest subject to the verb is “brother,” which is singular.
In cases like the examples above and more, what’s important is the ability to identify the subject.
2. Incorrect Spelling of Homophones
Homophones are words that sound the same but differ in spelling, which is why they’re easy to mix up. Some examples are there vs they’re vs their, your vs you’re, or reign vs rein.
People can avoid most of these mistakes by paying attention to the apostrophe, which can indicate a contraction of two separate words. “They’re” is a shortened “they are,” and “you’re” is a shortened “you are.” Both “their” and “your” are nouns that showing ownership, while “there” refers to a place.
An example of how one can mix up these words:
Incorrect: “There going to eat they’re pizza the pizza their later.”
Correct: “They’re going to eat their pizza there later.”
Explanation: “They are going to eat their pizza (they own the pizza) there (in that place) later.”
The same mistakes also apply to “its” and “it’s.” In the case of “reign” vs “rein,” the only solution would be to remember what these words mean.
3. Sentence Fragments
Sentence fragments are phrases that look like a complete thought but aren’t. A sentence consists of a subject and a predicate, forming one independent clause. If one is missing, it’s a dependent clause, which isn’t a sentence at all.
Incorrect: “A cake”
Correct: “It’s a cake.”
Explanation: “A cake” is only the subject; it doesn’t contain a verb or a predicate. The second sentence has the subject “It,” the linking verb “is,” and a predicate nominative “a cake.”
Another example is putting a period between independent and dependent clauses. The latter then becomes a sentence fragment.
Incorrect: “He was always conscious of everything he did. But not this time.”
Correct: “He was always conscious of everything he did, but not this time.”
Explanation: “But not this time” doesn’t have a subject; it’s a clause that depends on the preceding clause to be a complete thought.
4. Run-On Sentences
On the flip side, some people often create sentences that are wordy and lack punctuations. This could be a result of trying to fit in a lot of information in a single sentence. In this case, it would be best to divide your thoughts into cohesive sentences.
Incorrect: “There are instances that make me feel I have to have a family and a stable career and a robust social life at this age but I’m only 25 years old and I want to be able to enjoy the things I want before making commitments.
Correct: “There are instances that make me feel I have to have a family, a stable career, and a robust social life at this age. Still, I’m only 25 years old, and I want to be able to enjoy the things I want before making commitments.
Explanation: The first sentence is hard to read without pauses and breaks. Putting periods allowed the readers to understand the thought better.
Another example is when there are more words in a sentence than needed.
Incorrect: “I want to be able to enjoy the things I want before making commitments.”
Correct: “I want to enjoy the things I want before making commitments.”
Explanation: The thoughts are the same even with the omission of a few words. These kinds of phrases only bulk up the sentences, which might make them harder to read.
5. Vague Pronoun Reference
This error happens when there are two or more subjects in the sentence and then a pronoun appears. Sometimes, the subject to which the pronoun is referring would be clear, but most of the time, it’s not.
Incorrect: “When Maria finally found the dog, she was already shivering from the cold.”
Correct: “The dog was already shivering from the cold when Maria found her.”
Explanation: In the examples above, you’ll see how it could get confusing. Who was the pronoun “she” referring to, Maria or the dog? The second sentence makes it clearer who exactly was shivering.
6. Dangling or Misplaced Modifiers
A modifier should always be next to the word or phrase it’s referring to. Otherwise, the sentence could get awkward or plain confusing. Below are some examples of grammar errors of this sort:
Incorrect: “John found a soaked woman’s shoe while he was walking to work.”
Correct: “John found a woman’s soaked show while he was walking to work.”
Explanation: The noun that “soaked” refers to is the shoe. The first sentence seems to say that the modifier refers to the woman.
Another grammar mistake is when a subject is missing altogether after the modifier:
Incorrect: “After passing the entrance exam, the whole family went to a restaurant to celebrate.”
Correct: “After passing the entrance exam, John and his whole family went to a restaurant to celebrate.”
Explanation: The first sentence seems to imply that the whole family passed the test when the modifier was referring to John.
7. Incorrect Use of Words
The incorrect usage of words might be due to different reasons: the words might sound similar, the words might have similar meanings, or the English teacher might not have explained it in a proper manner.
Examples are “affect” and “effect,” which sound almost similar yet have different meanings. The first one is a verb, while the latter is a noun. Here’s how they would fit in a correct sentence:
Example: “The storm affected many families and properties, leaving behind a devastating effect.”
The words “less” and “fewer” have similar meanings, and people often interchange them. However, these terms are not interchangeable.
We use “less” for uncountable nouns, such as love, information, and rice. “Fewer” is for nouns that you can count, like cars, fruits, and animals. Here’s an example:
Example: “Fewer dogs means less happiness.”
The problem with these is that people might not know the difference between these words. The only way to fix these grammar errors is to learn what they mean. In other examples, though, people will sometimes misuse a word for embellishment.
A notorious example is when people use the word “literally” in a figurative sense. Unless the sentence, “My head literally exploded,” means that the something blew apart the speaker’s head into pieces, the usage of that word is wrong.
8. No Sentence Parallel Construction
A sentence should be consistent; its parts should have the same grammatical structure. This makes reading and understanding easier.
Unfortunately, some grammar mistakes happen when writers don’t take this into account. Here’s an example below:
Incorrect: “Last week, my friends and I went to hang out, watch some movies, get snacks, and video games.”
Correct: “Last week, my friends and I went to hang out, watch some movies, get snacks, and play video games.”
Explanation: Note that the before “video games,” the speaker listed activities with verbs. “Video games” isn’t an activity, which makes it not parallel to the structure of the sentence. Parallelism also applies to lists with both bullets and numbers, such as in the example below:
Incorrect: “This lesson taught us:
– to be careful in identifying the subject
– importance of using proper punctuations
– to know the meaning of a word before using it.”
Correct: “This lesson taught us:
– to be careful in identifying the subject
– to know the importance of using proper punctuations
– to learn the meaning of a word before using it.”
Explanation: The explanation for this example is the same as in the first one; the second item should be similar in structure to the other items.
9. Misuse or Lack of Commas
The use of commas is to make sentences less confusing to readers, but the usage of punctuation mark itself can get pretty confusing. Some of the most common grammar errors involving commas are:
- not putting one after an introductory phrase
- comma splicing or using commas where there should be a period
- using commas where they’re unneeded
Here are some examples of these errors and how to fix them:
Incorrect: “When she arrived the water was already boiling.”
Correct: “When she arrived, the water was already boiling.
Explanation: When you use a dependent clause to start a sentence, you always use a comma after it. What follows is then the independent clause.
Incorrect: “There was a loud commotion outside, the neighbors looked out the windows.”
Correct: “There was a loud commotion outside. The neighbors looked out the windows.”
Alternative: “There was a loud commotion outside, so the neighbors looked out the windows.”
Explanation: The two clauses are independent, so the comma is unnecessary. If you want to use a comma, make sure to put a coordinating conjunction between the two clauses as well.
Incorrect: “Michelle, and his brother, went home to get some rest.”
Correct: “Michelle and his brother went home to get some rest.”
Explanation: The commas shouldn’t be there as you don’t need to separate the two phrases.
10. Split Infinitives
Infinitives are the basic forms of verbs appearing with the word “to” before them (e.g. “to run”). A split infinitive, therefore, is when a word, which is usually an adverb, separates the word “to” from the verb.
Incorrect: “He wanted to quickly finish the test before anyone else does.”
Correct: “He wanted to finish the test quickly before anyone else does.”
Explanation: The second sentence flows better by not splitting the infinitive.
However, there’s no rule that states this is completely wrong, and there are exceptions to this as well. When a sentence reads better by splitting the infinitives, then do so.
An example would be, “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” This sentence reads more powerful than if you relocated the adverb to after “to go.”
These Common Grammatical Errors Might Cost You
Correcting these common grammatical errors are important when you’re writing a blog. It’s even more so when you’re writing a book.
You’d want to always look professional. Don’t forget that a simple mistake can cost you a client who might think you don’t have an eye for details.
If you need professional content sans the writing process, contact us. We deliver high-quality content every time.