Most of us love writing but hate grammar. It’s a pain, and the rules – especially for English grammar – can seem random, even to experienced writers.
But if you’re writing to be understood, you’ve gotta get it right.
So we ask, ‘why is grammar important?’
Well, think of your reader’s interest (all tangible and spongy) as something that you’re entertaining.
You’re the host; they’re the guest.
Here, bad grammar is the literary equivalent of bad manners, and we don’t want that.
If your readers have shown up to the big event that is your latest blogpost, for example, and they’re then treated poorly – or simply can’t make sense of what you’re saying – you can’t expect them to hang about. It’s polite excuses and mass skedaddles all round.
And so we set the same bar for our writing. We want our readers to stick around and get comfy with what we’re saying, so we must make their stay as stress-free as possible.
By writing engaging copy with as few grammatical blunders as we can manage.
33 Common Grammatical Mistakes
Understanding these common mistakes will quickly make poor grammar a thing of the past. When you know which grammar errors to look out for, it’s easier to act as your own proofreader and editor.
1. Everyday vs Every Day
‘Everyday’ (one word, no space) is an adjective that describes something that’s very common, like an everyday occurrence.
‘Every day’ (with a space) simply means each day.
A quick test to tell which is right: If you can replace the word ‘day’ with a day of the week, you should use ‘every day’.
NOPE: Here are 32 more common grammar mistakes you’re probably making everyday.
CORRECT: Here are 32 more common grammar mistakes you’re probably making every day.
2. Your vs You’re
Here’s one that autocorrect often doesn’t catch because it’s spelled right even if it’s grammatically wrong.
But be careful! ‘You’re’ is a contraction of ‘you are’, whereas ‘your’ is a possessive of ‘you’.
NOPE: Your my favourite person.
CORRECT: You’re my favourite person.
You only need to include am or pm if you’re using standard time (1-12). If you’re using military time (00-23), it’s already clear whether you’re referencing day or night, making am and pm redundant.
NOPE: 09.34am; 22.30pm
CORRECT: 14.00; 2pm
4. That vs Who
Use ‘that’ when you’re talking about things and ‘who’ when you’re talking about people.
CORRECT: We’re actively seeking content writers who pay attention to details that matter.
There’s a space! It’s a lot, always.
6. The Reason Why/Because
Nitpicky but either phrase ‘The reason why is because…’ or ‘The reason is because’ is redundant. When you’re talking about a ‘reason’, you’re already implying a ‘why’ and ‘because’.
Therefore, all you need to say is ‘The reason is…’
7. Hence Why
Similar to the above, the ‘why’ here is redundant. Simply say ‘Hence….’
8. Would Of vs Would Have
This grammatical error must stem from how the contraction ‘would’ve’ sounds. This contraction is short for ‘would have’ exclusively, making ‘would of’ an error.
The same goes for ‘should of’ and ‘could of’ – both nopes.
9. i.e. vs e.g.
Many people use the terms interchangeably, but each one means something different:
i.e. means ‘that is to say’ or ‘in other words’
e.g. means ‘for example’
Also note that each is spelt using two periods, not just one.
10. There vs Their vs They’re
They do sound the same so it’s easy to see why there’s always such a mix up.
‘There’ is a location.
‘They’re’ is a contraction of ‘they are’.
‘Their’ is a possessive.
NOPE: Their going to there office over they’re.
CORRECT: They’re going to their office over there.
As with most simple errors, in-built spell checker software or tools like Grammarly (free to use) are great for flagging to you any mistakes.
11. Quantifier Error
NOPE: How much people attended the event?
CORRECT: How many people attended the event?
RULE: Use much with singular or uncountable nouns and many with plural nouns.
12. Verb or Pronoun Agreement
Either error occurs when the verb or pronoun used does not agree in number with the subject to which it refers. If the subject is singular, the verb or pronoun must be singular too. Likewise, if the subject is plural, the verb/pronoun must be plural as well.
Perhaps better explained by example:
Subject-Pronoun Agreement Error
NOPE: Every girl participating must first check in their belongings.
CORRECT: Every girl participating must first check in her belongings.
Subject-Verb Agreement Error
NOPE: A bouquet of flowers are expected.
CORRECT: A bouquet of flowers is expected.
13. Persay vs Per se
Despite it sounding like it should be, persay is not a word.
Per se is the correct spelling, meaning Latin for ‘by itself’ or ’in and of itself’.
14. It’s vs Its
‘It’s’ is a contraction of ‘it is’.
‘Its’ is a possessive.
CORRECT: It’s not surprising that the dog found its bone.
15. Indefinite Articles: A vs An
The indefinite article (either a or an in English) is the word that introduces a non-specific noun. How the initial letter of that noun sounds will determine whether you use a or an.
If the noun begins with a vowel, go for an.
Noun begins with a consonant, go for a.
NOPE: a industry; an yearly budget; a ice cream; an hospital
CORRECT: an industry; a yearly budget; an ice cream; a hospital
The exception to this grammar rule is nouns beginning with a consonant, but where the first syllable is vowel sounding (typically h). For example:
CORRECT: an hour; an honour
As the first syllable reads as ‘on’ instead of ‘hon’, you’d go for an.
16. UK vs US Spelling
Some simple differences to look out for.
These spelling differences can be so easy to overlook, especially as most of us are exposed to both variations through the internet daily. Be sure to set your language settings to US or UK before you write and let the in-built grammar checker flag these for you.
17. Incomplete Comparisons
NOPE: Our app is fresher, faster, smarter.
Fresher, faster, and smarter … than what? Your competitors’ apps? The earlier version of your app? Etc.
RULE: When you set up a comparative phrase, you must identify what one thing is being compared to.
18. Referring to a Brand or Company as ‘They’
Kind of nitpicky and easy to do as we often think of companies as the multiple people employed rather than as singular entities… but they are just that, a singular entity and not, as is common on the internet, a ‘they’.
NOPE: To accelerate their growth, Amazon widened their inventory.
CORRECT: To accelerate its growth, Amazon widened its inventory.
19. Effect vs Affect
Often confused: effect is the noun, the consequence itself, whereas affect is the verb.
CORRECT: You have a strange effect on me.
CORRECT: You greatly affected me.
20. Accidentally Apostrophising Plurals
People often feel tempted to add an apostrophe when adding an ‘s’ to a word (for example, plural’s), but you shouldn’t. Apostrophes are only needed for contractions and making something possessive.
NOPE: We need to get our sale’s numbers up.
CORRECT: We need to get our sales numbers up.
EXCEPTION: Do’s and don’ts (correct)
21. Comma Splice and Run-on Sentences
You can’t join two independent clauses (complete sentences) with a comma. This grammatical error is called a comma splice. Nor can you simply remove the punctuation – this is known as a run-on sentence.
NOPE: You aren’t wrong, you aren’t right, either. (comma splice)
NOPE: My dog is playful she is also very sociable. (run-on sentence)
RULE: In either example, you have a couple of choices. The easiest being: (1) break the sentence into two; (2) use a conjunction (but, and, yet, etc.) after the comma; (3) use a semicolon.
CORRECT: You aren’t wrong. You aren’t right, either.
CORRECT: You aren’t wrong, but you aren’t right, either.
CORRECT: You aren’t wrong; you aren’t right, either.
22. Sentence Fragments
Sentence fragments (also called incomplete sentences) are also common. A sentence must have a subject and a verb to be considered complete. For example:
NOPE: We offer a wide range of marketing services. From organic SEO to digital PR.
CORRECT: We offer a wide range of marketing services from organic SEO to digital PR.
23. Misapplied Question Marks
People commonly whack on a question mark when they’re unsure of something. Example:
NOPE: I don’t know where you’d like to go later?
It’s an easy error – I guess if you were speaking that sentence, it would be very natural to inflect at the end of that sentence, prompting the other person to respond with a suggestion. However, written down, it is simply a statement being made so a question mark is not needed. Another example:
NOPE: How to find out the best places to eat?
CORRECT (as a statement): How to find out the best places to eat
CORRECT (as a question): How can I find out the best places to eat?
24. Ect vs Etc
Short for et cetera – meaning ‘and the rest’ in Latin – the spelling should always be etc. (with a period closing it off).
25. Apart vs A Part
The space brings two very different meanings to the one phrase.
Apart: something separated
A part: a part of something
NOPE: INXS had an instant hit with their ‘80s single ‘Never Tear Us A Part’
CORRECT: INXS had an instant hit with their ‘80s single ‘Never Tear Us Apart’
NOPE: Interested in becoming apart of a brilliant digital marketing agency?
CORRECT: Interested in becoming a part of a brilliant digital marketing agency? Heck yea!
26. Unclear Antecedent
An antecedent is simply the thing that a pronoun represents. In the below example, the dad is the antecedent.
NOPE: The dad found the boy, and he was happy.
In the second part of this compound sentence, the antecedent is rendered unclear. Who was happy – the dad or the boy? A quick fix can be applied by shuffling the wording.
CORRECT: The dad was happy when he found the boy.
27. Currency Symbols
Don’t forget that the currency symbol reads as an actual word.
NOPE: The asking price is £100 pounds.
CORRECT: The asking price is £100.
28. Double or Single Quotations
British style uses single quotes (‘) for initial quotations, then double quotes (“) for quotations within the initial quotation. American style is the reverse of this.
29. Oxford Comma
Often sparking much debate, this is the one that comes before and in a list of three (sometimes called a serial comma). It is optional, just try to be consistent with your choice (use it always or never).
CORRECT: Getting on the property ladder should be done with diligence, care and professional guidance.
CORRECT: Getting on the property ladder should be done with diligence, care, and professional guidance.
Who gives a f**k about an Oxford comma?
Despite the above and the much-loved song, be mindful that there are some occasions when not including an Oxford comma can make your meaning unclear. Note the example below. Without the Oxford comma, the elements following it appear to be elaborations of the first element.
NOPE: We went carolling with our dogs, grandma and grandpa.
It’s examples like this that the diehard Oxford comma-ists will refer to when advocating its necessity.
30. Assure vs Ensure vs Insure
All of these mean, in their own way, ‘making an outcome sure’. However, they aren’t interchangeable.
Assure: to promise or say with confidence. For example, ‘I assure you that you can trust us.’
Ensure: to make certain. For example, ‘To ensure success, we raised our position.’
Insure: to protect against risk. For example, ‘I insure my belongings because I’m forever losing things.’
31. Ranges: Between vs From
When expressing ranges, you’ll typically either use between or from. If between, always use ‘and’; for from, use either a hyphen or to.
NOPE: between 10-12; between 4 to 9; from 9 and 20
CORRECT: between 10 and 12; between 4 and 9; from 9 to 20
Note, when using a hyphen, it’s read as ‘to’ so only use it to showcase a range with ‘from’.
32. Hyphens with Compound Modifiers
When you have a compound modifier before a noun, hyphenate for clarity.
Consider the phrase ‘a small animal veterinarian’. This is potentially misleading. Is it that the animal veterinarian is small? Or that the animals they care for are small?
Therefore, we introduce a hyphen to the modifying phrase ‘small animal’ to remove any ambiguity:
CORRECT: a small-animal veterinarian
Further illustrated below, these are all correct:
We’re looking for a dog-friendly hotel.
He makes one-of-a-kind cakes.
We have cost-effective deals.
If the modifier comes after the noun, there is no confusion, so you do not hyphenate.
The hotel is dog friendly.
His cakes are one of a kind.
Our deals are cost effective.
EXCEPTION: Adverbs (words ending in -ly) are the exception to this rule and should not be hyphenated. This is because adverbs naturally indicate that the word following is another modifier and not a noun. For example:
NOPE: rarely-used journal; dimly-lit studio; environmentally-friendly proposal
CORRECT: rarely used journal; dimly lit studio; environmentally friendly proposal
33. Capitalised Titles
There are typically four title styles to choose from. AP style tends to be preferred due to the way in which it emphasises principle words – making it more dynamic and easier for a skimming reader to digest.
AP Style: Capitalise the first initial of all words, excluding prepositions (e.g., on, in, an, of, to…).
This Is an Example of a Title
Title Case: Capitalise the first letter of every word.
This Is An Example Of A Title
Sentence Case: As with a regular sentence, capitalise the first word only.
This is an example of a title
All Caps: Capitalise EVERYTHING.
THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF A TITLE
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