Common writing errors and how to avoid them
There seems to be a perception that writers have perfect grammar and professional writers never need an editor.
The truth is, writers still make mistakes and as much as we try and avoid as many as we can, they still seem to pop up. As writers, we need to remember that we are only people with a passion for writing, but no one is perfect.
We have access to so many spelling and grammar checkers, though, it makes it difficult to believe that there are still writing mistakes out there.
Unfortunately, not everyone uses a checker and some tools are so bad, they don’t pick up basic mistakes. Here is a list of 11 of the most common writing mistakes writers (and everyone else) make.
I could write a book about the incorrect use of apostrophes. Listen, I understand that it can become rather confusing at times. All you have to remember is that if you are combining two words with an apostrophe, it falls where the word would naturally split.
We see this mistake with the following words.
It’s – It is
We’re – We are
They’re – They are
2. To / Too / Two
I am assuming that everyone reading this knows that two is a number. The other two still confuse some writers.
To – This is a preposition and always has a noun following.
I went to the mall.
These shoes belong to Jason.
Too – This is a synonym for the word ‘also’
I believe him too.
I was at the shops too.
3. Spelling errors
Like I said before, there are some good spell checkers online such as Grammarly and it is worth investing in one. For some reason, though, there are words we just can’t seem to get right. If it weren’t for these trusty checkers, we would misspell them. Here is a short list of words constantly written incorrectly.
4. Misused words
Apart from spelling mistakes, there are those words we just love to use in the wrong place. These words sound the same, and both spellings are correct so a spell checker may not pick it up. It’s just that we use it in the wrong context.
Lose vs Loose
Weather vs Whether
Sea vs See
Affect vs Effect
5. Quotation marks
I see a lot of overuse when it comes to quotation marks. If you are using them as a way to sound sarcastic, please stop. Instead of writing a sarcastic remark, as a professional you should write it as is. You should know if you agree or disagree with a statement.
Oh yes, I “love” this girl. (Sarcasm)
I really do dislike this girl. (Truth)
6. Using ‘They’ when referring to an entity
An entity, although employing several individuals, is not plural. Therefore you refer to it as a singular party. We are so used to referring to a person as ‘he’ or ‘she’ so we naturally refer to an entity as ‘they’.
You can rectify this singular and plural confusion by referring to the business as ‘it’. It might feel unnatural at first, but you’ll soon get used to the grammatically correct way of referring to an entity, brand or business.
7. Pronoun Errors
Pronoun errors happen when the pronoun does not match the number of nouns it referred to. When the noun is singular, the pronoun should be singular.
This is the rule you should apply when using pronouns. It all seems very confusing until you look at the rules. Let’s apply this rule to a sentence for better understanding.
Incorrect Use: Everyone must supply their own dinner.
Correct Use: Everyone must supply his or her own dinner.
Even though some writers prefer not to acknowledge gender differences, it is still important to follow all grammar rules.
8. Whether / If
You know you’ve used these two words incorrectly at some stage. That is because it’s really easy to make a mistake. The two words are not interchangeable, and each has its own use.
Whether is used when there are two alternatives in play. If is used when there are no alternatives.
9. Incomplete Comparisons
We do this all the time but if you don’t know it’s wrong how would you be able to correct it? I can better explain this with an example.
My house is bigger, better and cheaper.
This is an incomplete comparison because it not compared to anything. Bigger, better and cheaper than what?
If you are stating that you are comparing something to another, you need to be clear about both sides of the comparison.
10. Irony / Coincidence
Do not assume something as former when it is in fact latter. Irony is when someone says something or something happens, and the underlying meaning is opposite of the literal meaning.
A coincidence is when something happens at the same time by chance. See, there is a clear and distinct difference between the two words.
11. Me / Myself / I
Oh, how would we ever know the difference? You know the difference by simply following the grammatical rules.
Me is used as an object. I is used as the subject. Myself is a reflexive pronoun and is used when you refer to yourself. Sounds easy when you look at it that way.
There is nothing wrong with learning from your mistakes as a writer. We all started somewhere, and sometimes we have to learn this way.
No one was born a professional writer and practice is the only way you’ll achieve your writing goals. When you come across a mistake, or someone points it out, don’t take it personally. How will we ever better ourselves if we never do anything wrong?
When the mistake is made, consciously try and train your brain to remember the mistake and the correction. The next time you come across this word or sentence, you will remember not to repeat the same mistake.
It is just how the learning process works. Practice and practice some more. Write every day until you get to the point where you can edit and proofread your work without being biased.