10 Common Grammar Mistakes Writers Make [Infographic]

Posted 09 Nov 2015, by

Brendan Brown

This infographic is based on our previous post The 30 Most Common Grammar Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them).

Great writing doesn’t require perfect grammar, and occasionally grammar rules can (and should) be broken.

A writer is better served being engaging, persuasive and entertaining, than a stickler for English rules.

However, a solid understanding of grammar is essential for any writer, whether an author or student. Common errors detract from the reading experience, and cast a shadow on the writer’s competence and concern for their work. If the grammar is poor, it also makes it much harder for your writing to be compelling.

Here are 10 common grammar mistakes that writers make and how you can avoid them.

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The best way to convey ideas in your writing is to use good grammar. Proper grammar gives your writing a professional, confident glow, whereas grammatical mistakes reveal to readers that your grasp of the English language is shaky at best. Although English is a language that is rife with inconsistencies, there is a beauty in its rugged pointedness. The grammar of the English language has had many years of history to arrive at where it is today.

West Germanic is the language from which English came. When the West Germanic people landed in Brittania, England in the 5th century, they brought with them their language, which has subsequently evolved in a drastic manner over 1600 years in England. English grammar was altered by Norse-speaking invaders in the 9th and 10th centuries. Norman-French speaking invaders in the 11th century altered English grammar. In the 16th and 17th centuries, scholars and historians further affected English grammar. William Bullokar wrote and published “Pamphlet for Grammar” in 1586, which was the first book on traditional English grammar.

Even today, modern English grammar is constantly being challenged by globalization and the internet. As English is the dominant language on the internet, many pages on the web are written in English without proper editing. If everyone on the internet had qualified, professional editors for business editing and took English grammar as seriously as they would  thesis proofreading, academic proofreading and editing, then the integrity of English grammar would not be under attack. If bad grammar is so ubiquitous, then proper grammar will separate you from the rest.

What are the ten most common grammar mistakes in the English language? Let’s go through each individually.

There/Their/They’re

These words sound alike (they are homonyms) but their meanings are totally different. “There” is a location. “Their” is a possessive adjective, indicating a relation to “them” or “themselves”. “They’re” is a contraction of “they are”.

The Comma Splice

When a comma connects two independent clauses, this is a comma splice. A run-on sentence is similar to a comma splice because a run-on sentence also joins two complete sentences together, but with no punctuation in between.

Fixing a Comma Splice

“The teacher asked a question about comma splices, the student was befuddled.”

  1. Put a period in between the two sentences.

“The teacher asked a question about comma splices. The student was befuddled.”

  1. Use a semi-colon instead of a comma.

“The teacher asked a question about comma splices; the student was befuddled.”

  1. Coordinating conjunction

“The teacher asked a question about comma splices, but the student was befuddled.”

  1. Subordinating conjunction

“The teacher asked a question about comma splices, although the student was befuddled.”

It’s vs. Its

It’s contains an apostrophe, so it means that it is a contraction of “it is”.

Its is the possessive form of it.

The Split Infinitive

Though it is considered a grammar rule in modern English grammar schoolbooks, the split infinitive was discouraged but not forbidden by Henry Alford in his 1864 book, The Queen’s English.

Your vs. You’re

“You’re” is a contraction, which can be expanded to “You are.”

“Your” is a possessive pronoun.

Passive Voice

This occurs when the writer makes the object of the sentence into the subject. This has the affect of weakening the action. A verb is in the passive voice when the subject is acted upon by the verb.

Passive voice: “The roses in the garden were gathered by me.”

Active voice: “I gathered the roses in the garden.”

Lose vs. Loose

“Lose” is a verb. You can “lose” your loser boyfriend.

“Loose” is an adjective. It describes something that is not tightly bound together. “Loose” is the opposite of “tight”.

Literally

The misuse of the word “literally” has become epidemic. The word means “in a literal sense or manner”. However, “literally” is now also being used for purposes of exaggeration; so much so that Merriam-webster.com has added an additional, secondary meaning to “literally” to reflect this. This is an example of traditional English grammar being altered as we speak.

Affect vs. Effect

Whereas “affect” is a verb which means “to change or influence”, “effect” is a noun which suggests that a change has happened.

“Effect” can be a verb too, whose meaning is “to cause something to happen; to execute.”

Who vs. That

Using “That” when referring to a person makes the person seems less human.

However, you can use “whose”, which is the possessive form of “who”, to refer to both people and things. This is because the English language does not contain a possessive form of “that”. You can say, “The book whose cover is a shade of deep magenta”, but you wouldn’t say, “The book who is sitting on the table.”

And there you have it, the ten most common grammar errors in the English language, all in one place. Let’s all do our part to keep traditional English grammar healthy and strong!

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