The Most Common Grammar Mistakes To Watch Out For And Avoid

Horrible spelling, grammar, syntax, and many common grammar mistakes are easily spotted on the internet. Reading articles online can be a treacherous scape of lexical landmines—a land of grammatical errors for those who notice these details.

All writers of every skill level are prone to making common grammar mistakes. Even experienced writers might admit to making occasional common grammar mistakes. In this modern age of texting and other technologies, syntax, spelling, and grammar are often compromised to communicate fast. Unless autocorrect catches it, proper grammar is probably not slowing many people down.

However, there are some forms of writing where you must avoid making these grammatical errors, such as work, school, or any semi-formal communications. Some grammar mistakes are common and persistent in these settings but must be avoided whenever possible. Here are the most common grammar mistakes.

The Most Common Grammar Mistakes

Punctuation

Everyone is guilty of forgetting punctuation. It can be a pain, and what is the point if the message can be easily understood anyway, right? We often forgo the importance of punctuation in most cases. But in a formal setting, punctuation can make a big difference if you want to send your message across effectively and avoid any potential miscommunications.

Comma

The comma is also part of this list. In fact, there are four common comma mistakes people often commit when using commas. Here are the things you should watch out for.

1. Comma Splice

A comma splice puts a comma between two separate independent clauses. Independent clauses are defined to make sentences by themselves, so effectively, you join two complete sentences with a comma. Example: The dog walked by the tree, and the cat was hiding in the branches.

It is clear that they should be two separate sentences because they are each a complete sentence. Instead, they are joined by a comma. A comma splice is an unnatural union of two happily single clauses. Sometimes, a semicolon is used to connect independent clauses instead of using a comma.

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2. Missing Commas

Be sure to place commas where they need to be to avoid making a run-on sentence. Anything more than two clauses long or covering more than one idea will need a sentence somewhere. Run-on sentences make text harder to read and may confuse the reader.

Here is an example: There was a time in history when Vikings explored the North American continent well before any other European and they had established camps there that have now been identified as Viking settlements and on these locations they have found boat repair tools and food storage sites. 

We have many missing commas there, and after reading the message, you surely found yourself catching your breath because there are no commas or punctuations that separate the ideas in the text.

3. Too Many Commas

If we have missing commas, we also have too many commas. Overusing commas is disruptive and will make reading difficult. Here is an example: When walking, in the rain, always be sure to carry an umbrella, this will help you, to avoid getting too wet, and this can also help to prevent illness, and also be sure to wear a warm jacket.

Even though this might look like a compound sentence, there is an obvious opportunity with it. It also makes you read the sentence like a pre-schooler with unnecessary pauses. A general rule to remember is that commas should only exist where a break in the sentence, such as dividing two independent clauses, needs to occur. Think of them as natural breaks in our speech when we speak.

4. Spaces Before Commas

The last thing you should watch out for when people use a comma is the spaces before the comma. Yes, there should be no space before the comma. Spaces always go after commas, periods, or any punctuations that end a clause.

Mistakes Even the Master’s Make

Some of the most common grammar mistakes are ones everyone makes. If you make these common grammar mistakes, have no shame. Everyone does it when they are writing in auto-mode. But it is important to know that everyone is vulnerable to making these mistakes and that they are so common that everyone should be watching their work for these:

1. Words That Sound Alike

Words that sound similar are called homonyms, and they often play with our brains. Here is a list of homonyms that often confuse people and commit mistakes in their writing.

There vs Their vs They’re

These commonly confused words sound the same but have different meanings. Each one comes with its own use, but they sometimes get accidentally swapped around. Here is a simple way to use each one accurately.

They’re

This is a contraction of ‘they are’. The apostrophe only replaces the letter ‘a’ to pronounce the word pair quickly. This also creates a less formal tone in speech communications. For example, They’re getting ready to go out.

There 

This is an adverb used to refer to a place or position. For example, There is the dog.

Their

This is a determiner and a possessive adjective that refers to the third person in a conversation or story. ‘Their’ is used to show or tell ownership. For example, Their house is big.

It is always a good idea to stop for a moment and actively check that it is the correct version of the word when you come across any form of this word.

Difference Between Your and You’re

This is another common mistake people make because they sound the same. Here are the rules you must remember to avoid making mistakes when using these words.

You’re

This is a contraction of ‘you are’. The apostrophe only replaces the letter ‘a’ to pronounce the word pair more quickly similar to ‘they’re’. This also creates a less formal tone in speech communications. For example, You’re going to love this!

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Your

This possessive pronoun refers to a second person in a conversation or story. ‘Your’ is used to show or tell that something belongs to another person, regardless of the number of people. For example, Your cat ate my food again.

A lot

Many people write ‘a lot’ as ‘alot’. Most likely, it is a habit that some people pick up somewhere. ‘A lot’ implies a volume of something like a vast number of things. ‘A lot’ is also a descriptor. It is important to note that ‘alot’ is not a word. Be sure never to use ‘alot’ in academic, business, or any formal writing. It would be seen as poor grammar by the reader.

Then Vs. Than

Some people find it confusing to distinguish ‘then’ from ‘than’ since they almost look and sound the same. With this perplexity, let us examine their functions to know which is to be used between the two in different communicative scenarios.

Examples of Sentences Using ‘Then’

The word ‘then’ can take the role of a noun, an adjective, or an adverb:

  • ‘Then’ as a noun means ‘that time.’ For example, Alice has been more optimistic about what life could bring since then.
  • ‘Then,’ functioning as an adjective, means existing during the mentioned time. For example, The then class president took responsibility for the class’ misbehavior toward the visitors.
  • ‘Then,’ acting as an adverb, has various meanings. It can be used as an alternative for the phrase ‘at that time,’ and in other cases, it illustrates what is ‘following next in a series.’ For example, Oliver asks his colleague to return his self-help book first, and then he can borrow another book of a different genre. In the previous example, ‘then’ means ‘at that time.’ Another example is Chris went out to see his friend whom he had not seen for a long time, and then another person appeared in the meeting place. ‘Then,’ in the previous statement, is used to denote an event ‘being next.’

Examples of Sentences Using ‘Than’

The word ‘than’ can either function as a conjunction or a preposition. As a conjunction, ‘than’ is utilized when comparing; it is used with adjectives and adverbs in their comparative degrees.

For example, Nathan deals with things more carefully than his older sibling. Another example is She is faster than he. It is noteworthy to bear in mind that ‘than’ can be regarded as a preposition that is used in comparisons in informal writing. For instance, He is more charitable than her. Notice that ‘her’ is an object of the preposition ‘than.’ Its formal counterpart is He is more charitable than she.

Into Vs. In To

‘Into’ and ‘in to’ are usually present in everyday conversations. These two concepts are almost overlooked during dialogues as they sound similar. However, a glaring error might occur when both are used in a written piece.

‘Into’ is used as a preposition signifying something or someone is entering, is going toward a direction, or is interested in something. For example, The main character got into conflict because of a lack of foresight. Another example is Our neighbors are into classical music.

On the other hand, ‘in to’ should be taken as two separate words that appear adjacently. ‘In’ and ‘to’ appear next to each other on many occasions. ‘In’ is frequently paired with a verb to form a phrasal verb like the word give in. ‘To’ is combined with a verb to form an infinitive such as to grant. For example, I give in to grant your requests. In this case, in and to appear next to each other. 

2. Verb Tense Shift Error

Another area of common grammatical errors is verb tense shifts. If you are writing in the present tense in one sentence, then suddenly change to the past tense in the next, it will confuse the reader about when the event happened. The reader already has a sense of where in time the story is taking place, so if the verb tense suddenly shifts, it is like picking up the reader and placing them in a different dimension. It takes the reader out of the story and disrupts their reading.

This must be avoided to keep your readers’ experience smooth by preventing potential confusion. Hence, it is important to keep your verb tenses consistent until something indicates that the tense has a reason to change.

3. Capitalization

This is always part of our writing experience, but this is also one of the most common grammatical errors we make. If other people say that the rule around punctuation use has many gray areas, it is similar to capitalization rules. Many people write in lowercase when texting or chatting with their friends in this digital age unless the autocorrect changes them.

It is often similar in workplaces because people find it quicker if they do not need to press the shift or caps lock key to capitalize their text. As a result, it has changed our work habits. There are only a few simple rules that can help eliminate capitalization errors.

Proper Noun

In the English language, other than the first word in a sentence, the only words that get capitalized are proper nouns and acronyms. The rule to remember what is a proper noun and what is a common noun is this:

A common noun is a general thing, such as cat, dog, airline, and things are all examples of common nouns because they are not specific. A proper noun is a name that needs a capital letter. Any name that likely warrants a capital letter at the start of the name, such as Fluffy, Rover and Lufthansa, are all examples of proper nouns because they are specific names.

Informal vs. Formal

If you are going to Paris with a friend, you will likely be texting the word as “paris’. However, suppose you are using the name in professional communication. In that case, it is best always to remember to capitalize “Paris” appropriately since it is a proper noun, a specific name of a place.

4. Incorrect Capitalization

This is a common grammar mistake and tends to favor words that the writer considers important. For instance, in a note to their mother, a teen might write, “I really want Chicken Wings for dinner!” Chicken Wings are important to the teen, so they have capitalized the noun for effect. Still, it is not the name per se of a company or a brand of chicken wings, so technically, it does not need to be capitalized. In this sense, the food, chicken wings, is a common noun.

5. Misuse of Active Voice

The active voice places the subject before the verb. For example, Ken kicked the ball. Ken is the main subject in the sentence, kicking the ball. Simply put, this is the best form of voice to use unless you are writing scientific papers.

6. Misuse of Passive Voice

The sentence focuses on the ball in passive voice, moving the noun, Ken, after the verb. For example, The ball was kicked by Ken.

In conclusion

Anyone can make writing mistakes, even the most grammatically correct teachers out there. So it is best to know the most common grammar mistakes to avoid making them in your sentences. Even professional writers working under deadlines can make mistakes, so it is always a good practice to double-check and edit your work thoroughly to ensure you avoid these common grammar mistakes.

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