Are You Guilty of These Common Grammar Mishaps?

Krystal DeVille

Grandmother writing on desk

Improving your writing skills requires mastering proper grammar, whether you are an experienced writer or an amateur.

However, even the best writers can make mistakes and overlook common grammatical errors, such as confusing homophones or misplaced modifiers. These errors can damage your credibility and negatively impact the clarity of your message.

To assist you in avoiding these common mistakes, we have compiled a list of the top ten most frequently encountered grammatical blunders. Understanding these errors and how to correct them can help you improve your writing skills and communicate more effectively. So, let us explore these common pitfalls and provide practical tips to help you overcome them.

Subject-Verb Agreement

This mistake occurs when the subject of a sentence does not agree with its corresponding verb in terms of singular or plural form. For example: “The group of students is excited to go on the field trip” (correct) versus “The group of students are excited to go on the field trip” (incorrect, as the subject “group” is singular).

Run-on Sentences

This mistake happens when two or more independent clauses are joined without appropriate punctuation, creating a long sentence that can be difficult to read and understand. For example: “I went to the store I bought some milk and bread” (incorrect) versus “I went to the store. I bought some milk and bread.” (correct, with appropriate punctuation).

Comma Splices

This error occurs when two independent clauses are joined by a comma, which is not enough to separate them properly. For example: “She loves to read, she also enjoys writing” (incorrect) versus “She loves to read. She also enjoys writing.” (correct, with separate sentences).

Misplaced Modifiers

This mistake occurs when a descriptive word or phrase is placed in the wrong part of the sentence, making it unclear which word it is intended to modify. For example: “She served a cake to the guests that was chocolate” (incorrect, as it implies that the guests were chocolate) versus “She served the guests a chocolate cake” (correct, with the modifier in the correct place).

Dangling Modifier

This error happens when a descriptive word or phrase is not clearly connected to the noun it is intended to modify. For example: “Walking down the street, the trees looked beautiful” (incorrect, as it implies that the trees were walking down the street) versus “Walking down the street, she saw that the trees looked beautiful” (correct, with the modifier connected to the correct noun).

Incorrect Pronoun Usage

This mistake involves using the wrong pronoun to refer to a person or object, which can create confusion or ambiguity in the sentence. For example: “Me and him went to the movies” (incorrect, as it should be “He and I went to the movies” with the correct subject pronouns) versus “She gave the book to him and me” (correct, with the correct object pronouns).

Using Passive Voice

This error happens when the subject of a sentence is acted upon rather than doing the action, which can make the sentence sound weak or unclear. For example: “The children ate the cake” (passive voice) versus “The children ate the cake” (active voice, with a stronger and clearer sentence).

Confusing Homophones

This mistake involves using words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings, which can lead to confusion and misinterpretation. For example: “Their going to the beach” (incorrect, as it should be “They’re going to the beach” using the contraction for “they are”) versus “Their house is by the beach” (correct, using the possessive form of “they”).

Using Double Negatives

This error occurs when two negative words or constructions are used in the same sentence, which can create confusion or cancel out the intended meaning. Incorrect: I don’t have no time to go to the store. Correct: I don’t have any time to go to the store.

Wrapping Up Common Grammar Mistakes

Proper grammar is crucial for effective communication to ensure that the intended message is accurately conveyed. Grammatical errors can cause confusion, alter the meaning of a sentence, or make it appear awkward and unprofessional.

In a professional setting, such as work or academia, poor grammar can negatively impact the writer’s credibility and competence. Grammatical errors in a resume, cover letter, or business email can make the writer appear careless and unprofessional. It can also lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and mistakes in crucial documents like contracts or legal agreements.

However, correcting grammar mistakes is equally important in personal communication, such as emails, texts, or social media posts. In writing to friends or family, poor grammar can create confusion and misunderstandings. It can also affect the tone and message of the communication, making it sound rude, insensitive, or unclear.

This article was originally published on STEM Education Guide.

25 thoughts on “Are You Guilty of These Common Grammar Mishaps?”

  1. Re: Subject-verb agreement, more and more I’m seeing ‘data’ treated as a singular (“the date is convincing”). I’ve always understood the singular is ‘datum’ and the plural is ‘data – “the data are convincing”. This is an interesting post and i intend to keep and print it. Many thanks!

    Reply
  2. Don’t forget that the pronouns “they” their” and “them” are always plural
    and should not be used to refer to individual persons. Use he or him if male
    and she or her if female.
    Also learn the difference between “lie” and “lay”
    and “your” and “you’re”.

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  3. I disagree that his pronoun guidance is not true. The English language does not allow an individual to bastardize it in order to fulfill one’s own gender beliefs. If one does not wish to be designated as male or female, we have the word “it” for an individual not “they”.

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  4. Oops! You’ve got the same example for both passive and active voice in that section. I had to laugh! Happens to the best of writers! 🙂

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  5. My pet peeve is the incorrect use of the indefinite articles “a” and “an”. The Indefinite article “a” should be used before a consonant sound and “an” should be used before a vowel sound. This is regardless of spelling. I watch a lot of news programs every evening and I am hearing a lot of reporters and anchors using these articles improperly. “It was a honor.” “It was an historical event.” I assume (dangerous thing to do) that these are college educated people and they should know better.

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  6. Actually, the passive voice is not incorrect. Novelists are encouraged to use the active voice to make a story stronger. Yet, sometimes the passive voice is required. Example: The bacon was cooked to perfection. Another error above is starting the sentence with the word ” however.” This word should be in the middle of the sentence. Then, there is usually a semi-colon before the conjunction.

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  7. Susan Berry told you above that you had erred by writing the same sentence for both passive and active voice examples. For the sake of those who did not realize what the passive voice would say, I submit, “The cake was eaten by the children.”

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  8. My biggest complaint is when someone is going to “try and do something.” What is “try”? The person is not going to do two things, but one. The correct phrase is, “try to do something.”

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  9. ^^The Passive Voice section uses two identical sentences to provide contrast. Check again… That’s what was funny. (Good for you, Susan!)

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  10. Regarding comma splices: how about all those story teasers you see on line that say, “Always [do thus-and-such], here’s why.” That comma should be either a period or a semicolon.

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  11. While the above corrections are grammatically correct, one really does need to remember a critical fact…

    Contemporary languages are living languages. Too many grammarians try to treat English as though it is a ‘dead language’ whose rules and usage are graven in stone.

    Worse, they pass along their arrant snobbery to others in a sort of ‘chain of linguistic abuse.’

    As anyone who’s read Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings (and other works of his) will note… he had many paragraphs that were one single sentence. And they were not two-line paragraphs, either!

    As for one specific quibble with a singular correction above, “they/their/them” are used for single individuals when they are objects in a sentence in a gender-neutral fashion.

    “English is a LIVING language!”… Stop treating it like a Dead Language! “

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  12. I would omit “Using Passive Voice” (which by the way shows a verb being used like that: “is acted upon”) since often the causative principle is either unknown or unimportant. Instead, replace it with using “from … to … to”. For example: “Magnesium helps with everything from arthritis to heart disease to dementia.” Here the required continuum is undetermined. Correct: “Magnesium helps with everything including arthritis, heart disease, and dementia.”

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  13. My pet peeve people mixing tenses. Example: The car needs washed. Should be ‘The car needs to be washed” or “The car needs washing”.

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  14. One of the most common is the non agreement of the subject and the modifier. Example: Everyone get their coat (incorrect). Everyone is singular and the sentence should read:
    Everyone get his or her coat.

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  15. one of the most common grammar errors is confusing “then” and “than”. “She dated men older then herself” should be “than” herself. We see this all the time, even in newspapers.

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  16. My pet peeve is the use of the objective pronoun in place of the objective one at time when a preposition has more than one object, such as in the (incorrect) “He gave the books to he and I,”, as opposed tp (correct) ” He gave the books to him and me.” I even had college students argue with me about the correct usage. I see that particular error everywhere. While I agree that English is a living language, this particular construction is a fundamental one. so much so that no one makes the error when the object of a preposition is in the singular.

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  17. Donald Jones, your comment is not a complete sentence, yet you ended it as though it were a complete declarative sentence by the use of a period. Actually, it is a question,
    so where is the question mark?
    Perhaps it could have been written like this:
    What about two spaces between sentences…?

    To respond to your presumes question: I did leave two spaces between two sentences.
    I now ask you: What difference does it make if there is one or two spaces between sentences? If one prefers two spaces between sentences, then leaving two spaces seem to be appropriate for that person. If someone else prefers one space between sentences, then leaving one space seems to be appropriate.

    Reply

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