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The 20 Most Common Grammar Mistakes (And How To Fix Them?)

by Barsha Bhattacharya

Even after years and years of education, there are things that people continue to mess up over the years. For you, it could be algebra, but for us, it could be the laws of motion. And for many people, it could be common grammar mistakes. 

It is not easy – we know! Words, phrases, and even sentences might sound great in your head, but when you write them down, they can turn out to be utter gibberish – and that too if you are able to identify your mistakes in the first place. It is very easy to let mistakes slip by, specifically when you are editing your work. 

In fact, the most common grammatical errors1 that people make include:

  • Spelling (50.9%).
  • Fragments (15.7%).
  • Punctuation (9.8%).

Moreover, imagine when someone spots your grammatical errors at work. It’s so damn embarrassing – isn’t it? But don’t let it get to you. After all, we have all made questionable grammatical errors. 

Interestingly, the most common grammar mistakes are not complex problems – but rather simple errors. Yes, these include syntax errors, incorrect word choices, and punctuation mistakes. 

While these mistakes are simple, they can negatively impact the readability of your content. As a result, it is vital to avoid making such errors in your content – the idea is to deliver clear, error-free content. 

So, how can you prevent making such errors when you aren’t even aware of making them?

For starters, let’s check out the most common grammatical errors (we’re all guilty of making at least one). Just make a few mental notes to avoid making the same mistake later. You can also bookmark this page so that you can remind yourself from time to time. 

The Most Common Grammar Mistakes We All Need to Stop Making:

If you look up guides on learning English grammar online, chances are you will come across blogs written and proofread to perfection. Do you know what’s common in all these blogs? How frustrating it is to deal with grammatical errors. 

That is not how we look at it. 

Here’s the truth – everyone, including all the top-profile editors, makes grammatical mistakes. Everyone – from native-speaking children to educated adults and English learners – makes grammatical mistakes regularly. 

And that is all right, particularly when you are speaking. However, while writing a cover letter or doing a presentation at work, it is always a plus to have good grammar. Most importantly, using accurate grammar in professional and formal settings indicates that you are attentive to details and know how to speak in such settings. 

Moreover, there are other settings where good grammar can help you out, such as social situations. It’s simple, really – good grammar is important. 

But you can’t really improve if you don’t spot the most common grammar mistakes most people tend to make! So, without wasting time, here we go – stay tuned. 

At a Glance: The most common grammar mistakes are as follows:
1. Its vs. It’s
2. Your vs. You’re
3. They’re vs. Their vs. There
4. Dangling Modifiers
5. Passive Voice
6. Incomplete Comparisons
7. Affect vs. Effect
8. Do’s and Don’ts
9. To vs. Too
10. Me vs I
11. Who vs. Whom vs. Whose vs. Who’s
12. Between vs Among
13. Fewer vs Less
14. Compliment vs. Complement
15. Farther vs. Further
16. Use of Commas
17. Then vs. Than
18. Lose vs. Loose
19. Semicolons
20. Title Capitalization

1. Its vs. It’s

Its vs. It’s – this one confuses even the best of us! 

While ‘It’s’ is an abbreviation of ‘it is,’ ‘its’ is a possessive pronoun. Most of us get confused with this one because of the misleading apostrophe (‘s) – since the ‘s’ indicates something that is possessive. But in this case, it is a contraction. 

For instance:

  • It’s hot outside today. 
  • The pillow is too small for its case.

Moreover, it is difficult to spot this error manually, but it’s one of the mistakes that everyone can make. So, just tap on control and ‘F’ together and check for this error in your document.

2. Your vs. You’re

The primary difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ is simple. While ‘your’ refers to owning something, ‘you’re’ is a contraction of ‘you’ and ‘are,’ much like ‘it’s’ is a contraction of ‘it’ and ‘is.’ 

For instance:

  • How is your project working out? Are you facing any issues?
  • You completed the work in a single day – you’re so fast!

Did you just spot the difference? While ‘your’ is a possessive pronoun much like ‘its,’ ‘you’re’ is an abbreviation of ‘you’ and ‘are.’ Again, you can’t spot these mistakes manually – it’s always better to check your document with ‘cntrl + F’ to spot such mistakes. 

3. They’re vs. Their vs. There

They’re. Their. There.

For starters, these three different words. While ‘they’re’ is a contraction for ‘they’ and ‘are,’ ‘their’ is a possessive pronoun that refers to owning something as a group, and ‘there’ refers to any location. 

For instance:

  • They’re selling the house. 
  • Their dog is always barking.
  • There is something odd about this house.

Most of us are aware of the major difference between the three – you just have to ensure you check twice whether you are using all the right words at the right time and in the right places. 

Typically, it’s best to go through your post for those words with the help of ‘command + F’ on Mac or ‘ctrl+F’ on your PC to find out whether or not you have used these words in the right context. 

4. Dangling Modifiers:

Dangling modifiers are perhaps one of the most common grammar mistakes of all time. Moreover, the name of this error is pretty interesting – it’s so dramatic, almost like a life-or-death situation, like hanging precariously from a cliff. 

Obviously, grammatical errors are not that drastic, but the whole ‘dangling precariously’ situation makes it easy to remember while writing. 

This error typically takes place when any descriptive phrase does not apply to the noun immediately following it. It will be easier to understand this with an example:

After declining for weeks, Rene attempted to do something new to boost sales.

So, what has been declining for weeks? Rene? In reality, the sentence wants to communicate that the sales were declining – not Rene. In order to fix such an error, just flip the structure of the sentence. While doing so, be careful about passive voice. 

The new sentence will look like: 

Rene attempted to do something new to boost sales since it has been declining for weeks.

Sounds better, right? 

5. Passive Voice:

If you are writing sentences with any object within it – usually a noun that gets the action – then you can easily become a victim of passive voice

Yep! When you choose to put the object at the sentence’s beginning instead of the end, the sentence becomes passive. The consequence? Your writing appears to be unclear and sounds weak. 

Here’s an example of passive voice: 

She was surprised to receive an invitation from her boss for dinner on a Friday evening. She decided to go because she was expecting to get promoted anytime soon.”

There’s plenty of passive voice in this sentence. See how this sentence does not have any subject that is acting upon the primary object? When the object is put at the sentence’s beginning, the sentence appears to be clunky and vague.

Passive voice takes place when you use the object of a sentence as a subject. Typically, the sentence’s object appears towards the end after a verb. After all, passive writing isn’t as clear as active writing. Trust us; your readers will appreciate your attention to detail later. 

So, let’s try to write the same sentence in an active voice:

When her boss invited her to dinner on a Friday evening, she was surprised. She decided to go to dinner with him because he was considering promoting her anytime soon.

In this instance, the sentence accurately utilizes the subject to describe the object actively. Does it make sense? It is a sort of a complex thing to describe. But at the same time, active voice actually makes your content clear and active. 

6. Incomplete Comparisons:

To be honest, incomplete comparisons really annoy us, especially when we see them sprinkled all over a blog. 

So, let’s look at an instance first. Here’s a sentence: “Our business model is better, stronger, and more sustainable.

Can you spot what’s wrong with this sentence? ‘Better, stronger, and more sustainable…’ than what? What is the comparison with? Is the business model being compared to? A competitor’s business model? An older business model? 

When you are saying that something is better, then you need to clarify, ‘better than what?’ Otherwise, it will be difficult for your readers to understand what the comparison really means. 

7. Affect vs. Effect

Affect vs effect is definitely one of the most common grammar mistakes we have come across. So many people end up getting confused with the two words, especially in verbal communication. 

So, when you say, ‘That book effected me greatly,’ you are making a mistake. Here, ‘effect’ with an ‘e’ is not used like the verb ‘affect’ is – as a result, the use of ‘effect’ in the sentence above is incorrect. 

So, when you are mentioning the change itself, that is, the noun, you will have to use ‘effect.’ Then the correct sentence will look like:

  • That book had a great effect on me.

Similarly, when you mention the act of changing, that is, the verb, you will have to use ‘affect.’ Then the correct sentence will look like:

  • That book affected me greatly.

8. Do’s and Don’ts

Okay, let’s make one thing clear – we are not going to talk about the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of english grammar here. Instead, we are talking about the actual words – ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts.’ They kind of look odd, right?

That is because of two things:

  • Do’s’ has an apostrophe to make the same plural, which is usually not true. 
  • The apostrophe in ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ are not put in the same position. 

Sadly, it’s the AP style of writing – as a result, you will just have to live with it. After all, it is a hot angle for most content formats. So, don’t stop using yourself from using these words. However, whenever you are checking your content for common grammar mistakes, remember that apostrophes will be placed in multiple places. 

Please Note: There are various schools of thought on punctuating how to do the same, depending on what content style guide you are using. For instance, the Chicago Manual of Style does recommend ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts.’ 

The most vital thing to do is maintain consistency and stick to a style guide, whether it’s Chicago, AP, or your own style.

9. To vs. Too

Again, a major issue – without a doubt, the ‘to vs. too’ is a major Grammar mistake. Think about it – we have all let go of at least one ‘o’ in ‘too’ when we are in a hurry. However, if the error goes beyond that, let’s go through some rules of use. 

Typically, ‘to’ is used before a verb or a noun. It usually describes an action, recipient, or destination. So, let’s look at these examples:

  • My husband drove me to my yoga appointment – Destination. 
  • I shared the files with my colleagues – Recipient. 
  • I’m going for a cup of coffee – Action. 

On the other hand, ‘too’ is a type of word that is used as an alternative to ‘as well’ or ‘also.’ Also, it is used for describing an adjective in absolute extremes. So, have a look:

  • He, too, is vegetarian. 
  • We both think it is too hot outside. 
  • My boss, Ejaz Ahmed, writes for the Essay Writing Guides too

You might have spotted that there is some interesting use of commas where the ‘too’ word is involved. 

So, when you choose to use ‘too’ in place of ‘as well’ or ‘also,’ the standard rule is to put a comma both after and before. Here, the only exception is when the last word in the sentence is ‘too.’ In that case, you will have to follow the same for a period of time. 

10. Me vs I

Most people have an understanding of the primary difference between ‘me’ and ‘I’ until you have to use both words in a single sentence. 

  • When you are done with your team report, can you share it with Sarmind and I?

This sentence is incorrect, but it does sound correct. 

If you try to take Samind out of this sentence, it sounds weird, right? Of course, you can never ask anyone to share something with ‘I’ when they are done. So, why does it sound weird? It is because the object of the sentence is ‘I’ – and you shouldn’t use ‘I’ in objects. In such situations, you will use ‘me.’ 

So, the right sentence would be:

  • When you are done with your team report, can you share it with Sarmind and me?

So much better!

11. Who vs. Whom vs. Whose vs. Who’s

Whoa! This is one of the most common grammar mistakes – I agree, but it does look like a doozy. So, let’s break these down. 

For starters ‘who’ is used for identifying a living pronoun. So, if you ask, ‘Who ate all the biscuits?’ then the answer is something like ‘I did’ (a person) or ‘the cat did’ (another living person). 

Come on, both happen to be realistic situations. 

But when it comes to ‘whom,’ it gets a little more tricky. It’s typically used for describing someone who is getting something such as a letter – ‘to whom will it be addressed?’ 

However, you can also use it for describing anyone on the action’s receiving end, such as in this sentence, ‘Who did we hire to become a part of the social media team?’

Coming back to ‘whose’ is used for assigning ownership to any person. So, just check whether you can come across any errors in this question: Who’s cardigan is that?

Since the cardigan belongs to someone, it should have been actually written in this way: whose cardigan is that?

On the other hand, ‘who’s’ is used for identifying any living being. It is a contraction for ‘who is.’ For example: who’s pitching for Viacon tonight? 

Did you spot the difference? While ‘whose’ is used to understand who something actually belongs to, ‘who’s’ is used to spot someone who is doing something. 

12. Between vs Among

Let’s clear this up really fast:

The word ‘between’ is used to refer to either two or multiple things that are distinctly separated. On the other hand, the word ‘among’ is used for referring to things that are not separated clearly since they are not part of any group or even a mass of objects. 

So, you can select between a black pant and red pant, but you select among all your pants. Similarly, you walk between Sudder Street and Park Street, but you walk among your friends. 

13. Fewer vs Less

Have you seen how grocery stores have this checkout aisle that says, “15 products or less”? That is not correct grammar. 

But why is it incorrect? 

This is because products are quantifiable – you can actually count 15 products. Ideally, ‘fewer’ is used for things that you can quantify, such as ‘fewer Snickers’ or ‘fewer vacations.’ In contrast, ‘less’ is used for things that you cannot quantify, such as ‘less traveling,’ and ‘less candy.’

14. Compliment vs. Complement

Since both ‘compliment’ and ‘complement’ have the same pronunciation – it is easy to mix it up. But in reality, they are very different. 

So, if anything ‘complements’ anything else, that could have the following meanings: 

  • It makes it perfect. 
  • It enhances it. 
  • It completes it. 

For instance, while two shades can complement each other, a selection of wines can easily complement a dinner. 

Similarly, the word ‘compliment’ has two connotations:

  • As a noun: an expression of praise 
  • As a verb: to express admiration or praise for someone. 

For instance, you can easily compliment your colleague’s new shirt or pay them a compliment for their style. 

15. Farther vs. Further

Most people typically use ‘further’ and ‘farther’ interchangeably to talk about ‘a greater distance.’

However, in several countries, there are subtle differences between the two words. While ‘farther’ is used for referring to physical distance, ‘further’ is used for referring to nonphysical and figurative distances. 

So, while Paris might seem ‘farther’ away from London, a sales team falls ‘further’ away from its goals. In this context, please note that ‘further’ is used for all meanings in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and everywhere else in the Commonwealth of Nations. 

Moreover, you can also use ‘further’ as an adverb or adjective to mean ‘additionally.’ For instance, ‘I have no further obligations.’

16. Use of Commas:

The use of commas is a pretty complex affair – there are courses all over the internet that will teach you how to use commas.

But here, we will be looking at the three most common grammar mistakes that people make while using commas. 

  • To separate elements in a single series. 
  • To separate independent clauses. 
  • To separate introductory clauses and phrases. 

Case 1: Separating Elements in a Single Series

Every element in a single series needs to be separated with the help of a comma. For example: “I bought a cardigan, a jacket, and a blanket for the park.” Also, note that in this case, the last comma is optional. 

Case 2: Separating Independent Clauses

You can opt to use commas for separating independent clauses that are connected by ‘or,’ ‘for,’ ‘but,’ ‘nor,’ ‘yet,’ ‘and,’ or ‘yet.’ For instance: this sentence has been written accurately: “My sister is very clever, and I’ve learned so much from her.”

To make things clear, independent clauses are sentences that can also stand on their own. Here’s how you can test it – if the sentence’s second part, after using coordinating conjunctions, makes a complete sentence on its own, then you can add a comma. However, if it doesn’t, then you can leave it out. 

Case 3: Separating Introductory Clauses and Phrases

At a sentence’s beginning, we typically add an introductory phrase or word that comes with a comma subsequently. 

For instance: “Initially, Mary had not clue about how to use commas.”

17. Then vs. Than:

Here’s a sentence for you to see: “My lunch was so much better then yours.” Can you spot the error? 

In the sentence above, instead of ‘then’ you will have to use ‘than’ – why? It’s because ‘than’ happens to be a conjunction that is primarily used for making comparisons, such as saying one thing happens to be better than the other things. 

So, the correct sentence will be, “My lunch was so much better than yours.”

Similarly, ‘then’ is an adverb that is used to position actions within time. 

For instance: we made lunch, and then we just ate it.”

18. Lose vs. Loose:

When people get confused between ‘loose’ and ‘lose,’ it’s typically because they are spelled similarly, even if people are aware of how their definitions are entirely different. 

As per Merriam-Webster, ‘loose’ is an adjective that means “not tightly fastened, attached, or held.” For instance: ‘loose pants’ or ‘a loose screw.’ 

Similarly, ‘lose’ is a verb that has more than one meaning:

  • “to be not able to find someone or something.”
  • “to fail to win a contest, game, or a competition.”
  • “To fail to hold or keep something valuable.”

For instance: After my promotion, I realized I had too much to lose,” or “After the football match, I realized that I have lost my keys.”

19. Semicolons:

Ah semicolons!

These are used to connect two different independent clauses. While the two clauses can stand alone, they are closely associated. For instance: “Call me later ; I’ll have a few answers for you.”

Here, you can see that each clause is a sentence on its own. But in terms of style and grammar, it just makes so much more sense for them to be connected. Moreover, if there’s a coordinating conjunction in the middle of the two clauses, such as ‘but,’ ‘or,’ or ‘and,’ you can also opt for a comma instead. 

Also, you can use semicolons for separating items in any list when the items themselves contain commas. 

For instance:

“You have two options for lunch: chicken and rice, which is low in carbs and high in protein ; or fruit and oatmeal, which is highly fibrous and contains a lot of carbs.”

20. Title Capitalization:

While this is one of the most common grammar mistakes, it is a tough one since different outlets use their own rules on how you can capitalize titles. 

Here are some rules about title capitalization that hold true in almost all cases except the special ones. 

  • Capitalize both the first and the last words. 
  • Capitalize adverbs, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, nouns, and subordinate conjunctions. 
  • Lowercase articles like ‘a,’ ‘an,’ and ‘the,’ prepositions and coordinating conjunctions.
  • Lowercase words like ‘to’ in an infinitive, such as ‘I want to go out and eat momos.’

For instance, let’s look at the title of this blog: The Most Common Grammar Mistakes And How To Fix Them? 

Is it correct? Not really – if we were left to our own devices (remember that we write for a living), we would have chosen to keep ‘and’ and ‘to’ in lowercase. Also, we always double-check, and as a result, guides like these are very valuable. 

Are People Attentive To Common Grammar Mistakes? 

So, let’s assume you are telling your friend a story from your past. When you are narrating the best part of the story, they randomly interrupt you – “The dog and I,” not “Me and the dog.” 

It’s annoying – we know. But is your friend, right? And if you can still understand the sentence, then does it matter? Now, we all have one Grammar Police at least in our lives – these annoying people enjoy correcting people’s grammar when you least expect it. 

But at the same time, there are many of us who can make peace with common grammar mistakes – such as when you are reading a blog or scrolling through comments on Instagram. 

Interestingly, we came across a survey on the internet about exactly how attentive people are to common grammar mistakes. 

So, here’s what we came across. 

The point is grammar has a huge impact on people. It can also affect what people think about you. So, before we talk about the most common grammar mistakes, let’s find out how grammatical errors can influence what people think about you. 

So, How Do Common Grammar Mistakes Impact People’s Opinions Of You?

As per Tidio’s research2, 44.4% of people said that their grammar is a reflection of their intelligence. Moreover, around 20.9% of people also said that good grammar was a reflection of their education level.

On top of that, one individual on Reddit talked about how someone can actually judge you entirely based on the grammatical errors you are making. And it’s true when you think about it – you are writing ‘you’re’ instead of ‘your’ once, and people might just think that you are dumb. 

Also, there are grammar rules for commas. While using commas accurately can be a problem from time to time, there are people who actually write full paragraphs without any commas. 

Moreover, there is a significant relationship between thought and grammar. However, recently, in a Current Biology research paper, people with linguistic impairment are actually capable of complex and abstract reasoning. This actually discredits the theory that good grammar is a marker of intelligence. 

However, this does not change the standard outlook on how we often perceive individuals who make grammatical errors as ‘uneducated’ or ‘lazy,’ especially in work environments. 

And it’s not just people judging others for making simple grammatical errors; but we found out that a brand’s entire image can be impacted negatively due to incorrect grammar. 

When you think about it, you will understand that it makes sense. In fact, visiting your website is the first thing that people do – and if there are errors on your homepage, it will impact the user experience negatively. 

To cut a long story short, grammatical errors can have a major impact on your social and professional reputation. So, it’s best to avoid making any. 

RECOMMENDED READING:


REFERENCES:

  1. According to a study published in researchgate.net, the most common grammatical errors include spelling, fragments, and punctuation. ↩︎
  2. Tidio did a survey recently, featuring 1,839 people to find out how attentive people are to common grammar mistakes. ↩︎

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