May 31st, 2019 | Updated on June 6th, 2020
Words, spelling, and punctuation are powerful and wrong use of them make an assumption about his or her intelligence or education. But even the most educated people are prone to making common grammar mistakes.
1. Subject-Verb Agreement Errors
The trick to following the basic principle of subject-verb agreement is being able to recognize subjects and verbs in sentences.
- Add an -s to the verb if the subject is a singular noun: a word that names one person, place, or thing.
- Add an -s to the verb if the subject is any one of the third-person singular pronouns: he, she, it, this, that.
- Do not add an -s to the verb if two subjects are joined by and. Example: Jack and Sawyer often argue with each other.
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.
- 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.
- 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. Do Not Separate Sentences With Commas
Commas and periods are the most frequently used punctuation marks. Commas customarily indicate a brief pause; they’re not as final as periods.
- Rule 1. Use commas to separate words and word groups in a simple series of three or more items.
- Rule 2. Use a comma to separate two adjectives when the order of the adjectives is interchangeable.
- Rule 3a. Many inexperienced writers run two independent clauses together by using a comma instead of a period. This results in the dreaded run-on sentence or, more technically, a comma splice.
- Rule 3b. In sentences where two independent clauses are joined by connectors such as and, or, but, etc., put a comma at the end of the first clause.
Click To Find More Such Rules On Commas
You May Also Like: Rules for Comma Usage
4. Avoid Vague Pronouns
Have you ever been in a conversation where a person loses you because they don’t specify about whom they are speaking? If you haven’t, I can assure you that nothing is more frustrating and there isn’t anything that will kill a discussion faster.
As one of the most commonly misused pronouns is “which”. For example, “The company prohibited e-mail use which the employees couldn’t stand”. Can you determine what the “which” is defining? The company or the prohibited e-mail use?
However, the writer could have rectified this by saying, “The company prohibited e-mail use which was a policy that the employees couldn’t stand”.
5. Use The Right Words
English vocabulary is full of pitfalls that you might not be aware of. Don’t let them trip you up.
- Invariably is not frequently
- Comprise or comprised of
- Rein or reign
- Tortuous or Torturous
- Effect or Affect
- Except or accept
- Allusions or Illusions
- Excel or Accel
6. Run-On Sentences
A run-on sentence occurs when two or more independent clauses (also known as complete sentences) are connected improperly.
Example: I love to write papers I would write one every day if I had the time.
There are two complete sentences in the above example:
- Sentence 1: I love to write papers.
- Sentence 2: I would write one every day if I had the time.
One Common Type Of Run-on Sentence Is A Comma Splice
A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are joined with just a comma.
Example of a comma splice: Participants could leave the study at any time, they needed to indicate their preference.
- Sentence 1: Participants could leave the study at any time.
- Sentence 2: They needed to indicate their preference.
7. Superfluous Commas
Do not use a comma to separate a dependent clause from a main clause unless the dependent clause provides nonessential information. See also Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Modifiers.
- Unacceptable: Ever since the atomistic view of matter came to be accepted, it has been a burning question, how to see into the microworld of molecular chemistry.
- Acceptable: Ever since the atomistic view of matter came to be accepted, it has been a burning question how to see into the microworld of molecular chemistry.
8. Colon Mistakes
The colon (:) seems to bewilder many people, though it’s really rather easy to use correctly, since it has only one major use. But first please note the following: the colon is never preceded by a white space; it is always followed by a single white space in normal use, and it is never, never, never followed by a hyphen or a dash — in spite of what you might have been taught in school. One of the commonest of all punctuation mistakes is following a colon with a completely pointless hyphen.