Do you make these 5 common grammar mistakes?
The following article by Barb Sawyers highlights the 5 most commonly made grammar mistakes; can you guess what they are? I’ll vouch for the fact that these can be tricky even for seasoned professionals.
With all the writing people are expected to do in the average work day, it’s no wonder grammar mistakes slip through. Unfortunately, these issues can create misunderstandings or make you look bad.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go back to school or read lengthy grammar tomes in order to avoid the five most common mistakes.
1. confusing possessives and contractions, as in “its” and “it’s”
2. mixing up other words that sound similar, such as “then” and “than”
3. using “I” or “myself” when you should use “me”
4. the difference between “that,” “which” and “who”
5. “he/she/it/they” and the words that go with them.
1. possessives and contractions
Its and it’s
Your and you’re
Their and they’re
If you are writing the possessive form of “it,” “you” or “they,” never insert an apostrophe, a punctuation mark that should always be approached with extreme caution. What’s more, remember there is no such word as “its’.”
Alternatively, ask yourself if you could instead say “it is,” “you are” or “they are.” If you could, then add the apostrophe.
2. Other sound-alikes
If you’re even slightly uncertain, Google “homonyms” and check with one of the many lists available online. Soon you’ll soon remember the words you commonly confuse and have to check less frequently.
3. Me, myself and I
Use “myself” only when you’re referring to something you did yourself, as in “I did it myself.”
Write “I” in the subject of the sentence only. So “David and I walked to school,” is correct “The dog followed David and I” is not.
Otherwise, it’s all about “me.”
4. That, which, who
My “that” tip is actually about editing, not grammar, but I’m sneaking it in because it’s so easy. When you review your writing, see how many “that”s can be deleted without undermining your meaning.
Use “which” instead of “that” when you could say “which one.” Or think of “which witch is which.”
Write”who” instead of “that” when you are referring to people, not objects.
5. He/she/it/they and the words that go with them
You can use “they” to refer to a general singular term, as in “The team won the award because they are so good at customer service,” because everyone knows “the team” refers to more than one person. This used to be against the rules, but is gaining acceptance.
If you are writing for people who are fussy about grammar, turn “the team” into a plural, as in “The team members won because they… ” Although you could refer to the team as “it”, that’s dehumanizing.
Turning a singular into a plural also lets you side step the awkward “he or she.”
*With the possessive form of “it,” “you” or “they,” never add an apostrophe. If you can say “it is,” “you are” or “they are,” use the apostrophe.
*If you’re even slightly uncertain other possible sound-alike words, google “homonyms” for a list and check.
*Use “myself” only when you’re referring to something you did yourself. Use “I” in the subject of the sentence only. Otherwise, it’s all about “me.”
*Delete the word “that” from your writing, as long as this doesn’t make it more difficult to understand.
*Use “which” instead of “that” when you could say “which witch is which.”
*Write “who” instead of “that” when you are referring to people, not objects.
*To avoid the awkward “he or she,” make your subject plural, for example changing “the team” to “the team members.” You can also refer to general singulars like “team” as “they,” providing you are not writing for grammatical sticklers.
Although there are many other possible mistakes you can make, these are the most common. The solutions are simple.
Avoid the big grammar traps and you’ll see an immediate improvement in how well people understand and respect you.