15 Common Grammar Mistakes That Kill Your Writing Credibility | Authority Self-Publishing
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15 Common Grammar Mistakes That Kill Your Writing Credibility

I love to write, but I’m not so crazy about grammar.

Learning about words that dangle, split, and get misplaced isn’t my idea of fun.

However, as an English major in college, I had it drilled into my head that poor grammar revealed laziness and a lack of respect for the reader. It’s the literary form of bad manners and exposes the writer as someone who isn’t serious about the craft.

If you’re an author, particularly a self-published author, you need to do everything possible to win your readers’ hearts and minds. When they are distracted by grammatical errors or confused by the meaning of a sentence, they aren’t likely to buy your next book — or finish the one they are reading.

As tedious as grammar may be to those of us who just want to write, it is well-worth a few minutes of your time to refresh the basics and make sure you don’t fall into one of the problematic grammar traps.

Here are 15 common grammar mistakes that can kill your credibility as a writer:

1. Subject-Verb Agreement Errors

The subject and verb of a sentence must agree with one another in number whether they are singular or plural. If the subject of the sentence is singular, its verb must also be singular; and if the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural.

Example 1:

Incorrect: An important part of my life have been the people who stood by me.

Correct: An important part of my life has been the people who stood by me.

Example 2:

Incorrect: The two best things about the party was the food and the music.

Correct: The two best things about the party were the food and the music.

2. Sentence Fragments

Sentence fragments are incomplete sentences that don’t have one independent clause. A fragment may lack a subject, a complete verb, or both. Sometimes fragments depend on the proceeding sentence to give it meaning.

Example 1:

Incorrect: He gave his mother an extravagant gift after the argument. In spite of everything.

Correct: In spite of everything, he gave his mother an extravagant gift after the argument.

Example 2:

Incorrect: The boys snuck home late that night. Then waited for the consequences.

Correct: The boys snuck home late that night, then waited for the consequences.

3. Missing Comma After Introductory Element

A comma should be used after an introductory word, phrase, or clause. This gives the reader a slight pause after an introductory element and often can help avoid confusion.

Example 1:

Incorrect: In case you haven’t noticed my real name doesn’t appear in the article.

Correct: In case you haven’t noticed, my real name doesn’t appear in the article.

Example 2:

Incorrect: Before she had time to think about it Sharon jumped into the icy pool.

Correct: Before she had time to think about it, Sharon jumped into the icy pool.

4. Misusing The Apostrophe With “Its”

You use an apostrophe with it’s only when the word means it is or it has. Without the apostrophe, its means belonging to it.

Example 1:

Incorrect: I don’t believe its finally Friday.

Correct: I don’t believe it’s (it is) finally Friday.

Example 2:

Incorrect: The cat was licking it’s tail.

Correct: The cat was licking its tail.
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5. No Comma In A Compound Sentence

A comma separates two or more independent clauses in a compound sentence separated by a conjunction. The comma goes after the first clause and before the coordinating conjunction that separates the clauses.

Related: Test Your Proofreading Skills

Example 1:

Incorrect: The man jumped into a black sedan and he drove away before being noticed.

Correct: The man jumped into a black sedan, and he drove away before being noticed.

Example 2:

Incorrect: She was beautiful and she was happy and she was full of life.

Correct: She was beautiful, and she was happy, and she was full of life.

6. Misplaced Or Dangling Modifier

A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that is improperly separated from the word it modifies or describes. Sentences with this error can sound awkward, ridiculous, or confusing. A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not clearly stated in the sentence.

Example 1:

Incorrect: While walking on the sidewalk, Mary found a sparkly girl’s bracelet.

Correct: While walking on the sidewalk, Mary found a girl’s sparkly bracelet.

Example 2:

Incorrect: After finally setting off on the trail, the morning felt more exciting.

Correct: After finally setting off on the trail, he felt the morning was more exciting.

7. Vague Pronoun Reference

A pronoun can replace a noun, and its antecedent should be the person, place, or thing to which the pronoun refers. A vague pronoun reference (including words such as it, that, this, and which) can leave the reader confused about what or to whom the pronoun refers.

Example 1:

Incorrect: When Jonathan finally found his dog, he was so happy. (The dog or Jonathan?)

Correct:  Jonathan was so happy when he finally found his dog.

Example 2:

Incorrect: Don felt a lot of anger and bitterness as a result of Marie’s decision. This is what ended everything. (What ended everything? Don’s anger and bitterness or Marie’s decision?)

Correct: Don felt a lot of anger and bitterness as a result of Marie’s decision. Her choice ended everything.

8. Wrong Word Usage

There are a variety of words and phrases that are commonly confused and misused in sentences. Using them incorrectly can change the meaning of the sentence or simply reflect carelessness on the writer’s part. There are hundreds of these commonly confused words, so when in doubt, always check the definition and correct spelling of the word.

Related: The Oxford Comma 

Example 1:

Incorrect: She excepted his offer to drive her home.

Correct: She accepted his offer to drive her home.

Example 2:

Incorrect: It was a breathe of fresh air to meet someone so genuine.

Correct: It was a breath of fresh air to meet someone so genuine.

9. Run-On Sentence

A run-on sentence occurs when you connect two main clauses with no punctuation.

Example 1:

Incorrect: She tried to sneak out of the house her mother saw her leaving.

Correct: She tried to sneak out of the house, but her mother saw her leaving.

Example 2:

Incorrect: He ran through the field as fast as he could all the while rain was soaking him to the bone.

Correct: He ran through the field as fast as he could. All the while rain was soaking him to the bone.

10. Superfluous Commas

It’s common writing mistake to throw commas around liberally when they aren’t necessary. There are dozens of examples of this error, but here are a few common mistakes.

Related: Should You Italicize Book Titles

Example 1:

Incorrect: The woman never went into the city, because she didn’t feel comfortable driving in traffic.

Correct: The woman never went into the city because she didn’t feel comfortable driving in traffic.

Example 2:

Incorrect: He wants to get a degree in engineering, or medicine.

Correct: He wants to get a degree in engineering or medicine.

Example 3: 

Incorrect: Sam knew immediately, what was going to happen next.

Correct: Same knew immediately what was going to happen next.

Example 4: 

Incorrect: Old cars, that have been left in a junkyard, are an eyesore.

Correct: Old cars that have been left in a junkyard are an eyesore.

Example 5: 

Incorrect: The bouquet of flowers on the table, belongs to Mary.

Correct: The bouquet of flowers on the table belongs to Mary.

11. Lack Of Parallel Structure

Faulty parallelism occurs when two or more parts of a sentence are similar in meaning but not parallel (or grammatically similar) in form. It often occurs with paired constructions and items in a series.

Example 1:

Incorrect: He wanted to learn more about careers in programming, engineering, biochemist, and research scientist.

Correct: He wanted to learn more about careers in programming, engineering, biochemistry, and research science.

Example 2:

Incorrect: The key directives of his boss were clear:

  • Meet monthly sales quotas.
  • Aggressive marketing techniques.
  • Reporting in every day.

Correct: The key directives of his boss were clear:

  • Meet monthly sales goals.
  • Practice aggressive marketing techniques.
  • Report in every day.

12. Sentence Sprawl

A sentence can become a burden to read when there are too many equally weighted phrases.

Example 1: 

Incorrect: Jason was planning to attend his friend’s wedding on June 30, but at the last minute he found out he had jury duty, so he couldn’t attend the wedding, and he felt really guilty about it.

Correct: Unexpectedly Jason was called for jury duty and couldn’t attend his friend’s June 30 wedding. He felt guilty about missing it.

13. Comma Splice

A comma splice occurs when two separate sentences are joined with a comma rather than a period or semicolon. Writers often create comma splices when using transitional words, such as however, therefore, moreover, nevertheless, or furthermore.

Example 1:

Incorrect: My intention was to take her out to dinner, however I decided not to invite her after all.

Correct: My intention was to take her out to dinner; however, I decided not to invite her after all.

Example 2: 

Incorrect: My sisters and I love to go shopping, we then have lunch together when we’re done.

Correct: My sisters and I love to go shopping. We then have lunch together when we’re done.

14. Colon Mistakes

A colon is used after a complete sentence to introduce a word, phrase, clause, list, or quotation. The colon signals that what follows proves or explains the sentence preceding the colon.

Example 1:

Incorrect: People move to Florida for: the warmer weather, the beach, and the theme parks.

Correct: People move to Florida for three reasons: the warmer weather, the beach, and the theme parks.

15. Split Infinitives

An infinitive is the word “to” with a verb. A split infinitive separates the word “to” and the verb with another word (often an adverb). There are no grammar rules that prohibit split infinitives, but many experts disapprove of them. If the sentence sounds awkward by correcting the split, our rule of thumb is to go with what makes the most sense in the context of your writing and for the ease of reading. (For example, “To boldly go where no man has gone before” would sound awkward and less powerful as, “To go boldly where no man has gone before.”)

Example 1:

Incorrect: She tried to quickly finish the book before she had to leave.

Correct: She tried to finish the book quickly before she had to leave.

Example 2: 

Incorrect: He wanted to gradually improve his strength by increasing the weight.

Correct: He wanted to improve his strength gradually by increasing the weight.

As a serious author, you want to put your best foot forward with your writing. There are times and reasons to break some of the rules of grammar, but it’s wiser to break them knowing what they are and why you should stray.

Whenever you’re in doubt about a rule, take a brief moment to look it up. You’ll save yourself some embarrassment, and you’ll show your readers that you respect language and revere the art of writing well.

Here are 15 common grammar mistakes that can kill your credibility as a writer. #grammar #editing #proofreading #writing #writingtips #writingcommunity

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 19 comments
  • Mitch Barrington

    #10 says “it’s common writing mistake” by the way!

    Reply
      shuttlecocker

      Yes good point. I’m going to harp on the word ‘writing’, because it brought to mind another issue. Even though the topic is about grammar, I’d like to ask anyone wants to explain one thing. Why do so many youngsters hold the writing tool, be it a pencil, pen or other in such awkward way? It makes them uncomfortable with the ergonomics. The way in which they hold the pencil (e.g.) only pretty much engages the wrist. The most ergonomically efficient way is for you to hold it so the process engages the two knuckles of the fingers and the one of the thumb. Together they enable you to roll your hand with the wrist to draw smooth flowing concentric circles w/o stopping, pausing etc. That’s the first exercise we were taught to do before starting cursive writing. Once you become adept at it you can be better at tracing, drawing, sketching and painting and so on.
      If you play racket/paddle sports you will likely understand that the ‘grip’ is the ‘foundation’ to hitting adeptly. Without that grip (appropriate to the specific shot/stroke) your shot execution will not be at its peak efficiency.

      Reply
  • SuperPeach

    Oh snap

    Reply
  • Golden Financial Services

    The last point on this page was worded incorrectly. It should say; “He wanted to improve his strength by gradually increasing the weight in each workout.

    Reply
      Alice Crowleyn

      Why though? It seems fine to me. The sentence you used has a different meaning than the one in the example.

      Reply
  • Sancho Panza

    #12 correct suffers from #3. That is, unless “Unexpectedly Jason” is the guy’s name or a trademark or something.
    #15 correct suffers from #6. Nobody WANTS to improve their strength gradually: they want to improve their strength period, and this is done by gradually increasing the weight.

    Reply
  • Heather Busby

    #5 contradicts #13 because although “however, therefore, moreover, nevertheless, and furthermore” are subordinating conjunctions, you can also use subordinating conjunctions with a comma to separate two independent clauses.

    Reply
  • shuttlecocker

    Look, all of the above mistakes as well as numerous other ones are what I’d like to point out.It really irks me when I hear and read stuff that’s wrong. ‘Irregardless’ is not a word. It’s either ‘regardless’ or ‘irrespective.’ How about, ‘the whole entire’? Redundancy!
    I heard some one the other day say ‘I don’t agree with it, although I don’t not agree with it either’. She meant to say ‘I don’t disagree with it either’.
    I can and would love to go on and on with this. I just don’t have the time or patience at the moment. I truly fear for our kid’s and grandkid’s lack of education when I compare it to my education. Cheers!
    Can you point out any mistakes here?

    Reply
      Jane Schroeder

      Yep – loads! Your first sentence as a whole is awkward – you can’t say ‘all of the above mistakes are what I’d like to point out’. You could fix this by saying ‘I’d like to point out the above mistakes, as well as numerous others.’ Although, pointing out mistakes that have just been pointed out seems redundant. Someone is one word. While it wouldn’t be acceptable in formal writing, people can say ‘I don’t not agree with it either’ to stress their evenly split opinion of something. And you’ve used apostrophes incorrectly twice in a row with ‘kid’s and grandkid’s’ unless you are specifically referring to the lack of education of your one ‘kid’ and your one ‘grandkid’.

      Reply
        shuttlecocker

        Jane Schroeder, I believe you pointed out every mistake I inserted but one. Perhaps if you can or care to take the time, you may/might be inclined to jump on it, lol! Is it ‘may’ or ‘might’ or other in this post? Cheers!

        Reply
          Jane Schroeder

          Hmmm – the missing space between the first sentence and the next? But that is just an easy typo…. Oh, I know! ‘some one’ – should be someone. 🙂

          Reply
            shuttlecocker

            You already pointed out that some one should be ‘someone’. Gotcha! Missing space between the first sentence and the next? No. It’s the ‘period’ (aka, full stop)between the first sentence and the next. It’s not spaced out, lol! 🙂

            Reply
  • Yesspaz

    I hate to point out a grammatical error here, but I think it’s fair due to the nature of the article.

    In #2, example 2, the work “sneak” is incorrectly used. The principal parts for sneak are technically, “sneak, sneaked, has sneaked.” Snuck is used in the jocular sense and will probably one day become official, but for now, it is incorrect.

    Number 11 also needs a comma after the introductory phrase “All the while.”

    Reply
      shuttlecocker

      Jocular sense or colloquial sense?

      Reply
  • Susan L Cartwright

    #2: “Sometimes fragments depend on the proceeding sentence to give it meaning.” Is this irony, or what? Not only have you got a noun-pronoun agreement error (“fragments” are plural, so you must need to give “them” meaning, not “it”, you also have an incorrect word (“the proceeding sentence” makes absolutely no sense – I suspect it should have been “the preceding sentence”).
    You are not a terribly good advert for your own advice…

    Reply
  • Girlvibe

    Number 10, example #3 – Pretty sure Same should be “Sam”

    Example 3:
    Incorrect: Sam knew immediately, what was going to happen next.
    Correct: Same knew immediately what was going to happen next.

    Reply
  • Tim_Sims

    Of these, I think Split Infinitive is the error that is most likely to trip me up. Split infinitives typically “feel” better to me than the correct construction. “To boldly go…” has a clear meaning to me, and feels more dynamic than “To go boldly…” Maybe it’s because I grew up watching Star Trek.

    Reply
  • shuttlecocker

    I once noticed a rather oversized billboard due to its uncommon size. I pulled off the roadway to read the whole thing. Across the top it read ‘ sex ‘ in capital (upper case/block) letters. It went on to say (read) ‘now that we have your attention, we’d like to tell you that the city you’re about to enter is climate controlled’. Hmmm! Envisioning a huge glass dome draped over a small city made me smile. I thought to myself, is this a prototype or a completed product, replete with all the necessary accoutrements? Turns out it didn’t exist. Wow! Why would they even incur the expenses for advertising it? Apparently it was a project someone was working on. Details may be forthcoming, but I’m not sure if that is a fact.

    Reply
  • James West

    My pet peeve is the shifting of nouns into verbs. You can’t “access” information any more than you can “kangaroo” information, but the ship has sailed on that one. Two cars can have an impact, but people can’t be impacted by interesting ideas; that’s because the ideas aren’t really “impactful”. In my day, we could be affected by powerful ideas. It was less painful in a couple of ways. Then there are those who insist on telling us they are “transitioning” from one idea to another, because they thing it sounds more “impactful” than saying “changing.” Children now “transition” from elementary school to secondary school. That’s rather magical, because apparently they do so without making the transition…they’re just “transitioning” during the summer in between. And suddenly, everyone talks about “going forward” and “moving forward” instead of using “in the future” or “later”. This is a spatial reference being used to describe something that is temporal.
    Language changes; that is one of the wonderful things about it. But people adopt catchy new expressions uncritically, and when we use words without thinking about them we are harming ourselves intellectually.

    Reply
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