Everyday Grammar Mistakes to Avoid

A few weeks ago, Nikolas Baron from Grammarly got in touch inquiring if I would want to collaborate and/or participate in a slogan contest. When I couldn’t come up with a slogan, I asked him – how about a GUEST POST on my blog? He graciously accepted. So here goes…

Greetings, fellow writers and editors. My name is Nick; I study the writing habits of people for a living. I use that knowledge to help improve the site I work for, Grammarly, but also to help writers the world over improve their skillsets.

I am here today to help the less nerdy of our collective. That’s right; I am talking about you—those countless people who chose to sit in the back during that college level grammar course. Yeah, you were captain of the basketball team and stole my girlfriend, but you still don’t understand the world of grammar, so I WIN.

My apologies—I still have some unresolved issues, apparently. High School memories aside, let’s get back on track. There comes a certain point in a professional’s life when committing simple grammatical errors can have some terrible consequences. It is high time that we all come to understand and follow the rules of basic grammar. This ensures absolute clarity of your message and gives the appearance of professionalism.

Below are some grammar mistakes that should be avoided at all costs:

Mixing Single Objects with Plural Pronouns

For those of you already confused, an object is the thing being acted upon by the subject and a pronoun is simply a word that substitutes for a noun. With that cleared up, it is admittedly easy to lose track of this in a sentence.

Here is an example:

One should always pay their bills to the banker on time, less you lose your home to foreclosure.

In the above sentence you must either change the noun or pronoun to either both singular or both plural.

One should always pay his or her bills to the banker on time…

OR

Everyone should always pay their bills to the banker on time…

Do not use sentence fragments in your writing

This may sound obvious to many, but avoiding sentence fragments in writing is an absolute must. Although it is not uncommon to speak using fragments, writing in sentence fragments is one of the most common grammatical errors.

A complete sentence should use both a subject and a verb to express an idea.

For example:

“Went home” vs. “I went home.”

Writing in fragments, especially in a business setting with reports, letters, emails, and other documents, will have you sitting in your boss’ office sooner than you would expect.

Dangling Modifiers

One of my favorite grammatical errors due to how often they are hilarious, dangling modifiers are ambiguous, adjectival clauses that do not modify the right word or phrase.

For example:

The judge sentenced the killer to die in the electric chair for the second time.

Or

She talked about John Lennon, who was killed in an interview with Richard Hammond.

Because of the dangling modifiers, these sentences have unclear meanings. The first could be taken to mean either that the judge ordered the execution of a man to die in the electric chair as the first time was unsuccessful, OR that he sentenced the killer, for the second time, to die in the electric chair.

The second sentence could mean that either John Lennon was killed during an interview with Richard Hammond OR that in an interview with Richard Hammond, she spoke about John Lennon, who was killed.

See the difference?

Split Infinitives

The very bane of every primary school teacher for generations, split infinitives has been widely regarded as a “no-no” for years. However, the use of split infinitives is now being hotly debated by grammarians the world over (this is perhaps a slight exaggeration). Although okay to use in speech and casual writing, split infinitives should still be avoided in professional writing.

To recap, an infinitive is an unconjugated form of a verb, such as:

To write

To eat

To fall

Here is an example of a split infinitive in a sentence, and its corrected version:

Split–To lovingly write makes all the difference.

Fixed–To write lovingly makes all the difference.

PROOFREAD

Understandably, not everyone has the time to comb over their old high school grammar books and learn the hundreds of rules that make the English language one of the more difficult languages to master. If this is the case, one excellent way to avoid grammar mistakes, especially in a professional setting, is to proofread your work before sending it out.

Simply ask a colleague or a friend to check over your work, though this should preferably be someone who has a better grammatical sense than you. If your friends or colleagues are too busy, try using an online proofreader and grammar checker like Grammarly, which can even apply stylistic edits to your work. Though not as fun as hanging out with a friend, it does an excellent job of ensuring your work is spotless of grammatical error.

Above everything else, proofreading is the easiest way to ensure your work makes sense and is grammatically sound.

MORE ABOUT NICK

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

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