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Grammar and Why it Matters – 8 of the Most Common Mistakes

For some people, the correct use of grammar in writing doesn’t seem that important. However, for many more it matters a great deal โ€“ almost to the point of causing genuine distress! Poor grammar can negatively impact the message of your communications and damage your overall credibility.

The English language and our use of grammar is dynamic and changes over time. What used to be considered ‘correct’ can now sound too stuffy and pretentious to general readers. So, how do we get it right?

As a writer in business, your main priority is to get your point across concisely and clearly, using words with the correct meaning that are clearly understood by your audience. Although you don’t have to be aware of many of the more complicated rules of grammar, a good grasp of the basics is essential. There are software applications you can use to highlight errors in your grammar โ€“ such as Grammarly. But these are no substitute for your own proofreading and ability to follow a few simple rules.

Here are eight of the most common grammatical mistakes:

1. Subject-Verb Agreement Errors

The subject of your sentence and the verb of your sentence must agree with each other depending on whether they are singular or plural.

Example

Incorrect: The two best things about the event was the food and the music.”

Correct: “The two best things about the event were the food and the music.”

2. A Missing Comma After the Introductory Element

A comma should be used directly after an introductory word, phrase or clause.

Example

Incorrect: “In the event of an emergency please leave by the nearest exit.”

Correct: “In the event of an emergency, please leave by the nearest exit.”

3. Run-On Sentences

A run-on sentence is when two main clauses are connected without any punctuation.

Example

Incorrect: “The dog was barking but I still went into my mother’s house.”

Correct: “The dog was barking, but I still went into my mother’s house.”

4 Their, They’re There

This is possibly one of the most common mistakes seen.

Remember:

Their โ€“ denotes possession. “Their business was doing very well’.

They’re โ€“ means ‘they are’. The apostrophe replaces the missing letter between the two words.

There โ€“ a location. “A good artist lives there.”

5. Affected by the Effect

Effect is a noun and affect is a verb. This means that ‘affect’ is used to explain that something has been changed and the result of that change are the effect or effects.

Example

“I was dramatically affected by the implications of our negotiations. These effects have prompted me to change my future plans.”

6. Too and To

To’ is a preposition which means ‘toward’ or ‘until’. ‘Too’ is an adverb that means ‘excessively’ or ‘also.’

Example

“I am looking forward to our dinner. I hope your wife is able to come too.”

7. It’s and Its

This is quite an easy one, but many people aren’t sure which version of this word to use.

The rule is that ‘It’s’ means ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. The apostrophe has taken the place of the missing letter.

‘Its’ denotes possession.

Examples

“It’s a lovely day.”

“The dog was beautiful. Its coat was so glossy.”

8. Your and You’re

Another easy one. ‘Your’ denotes possession and ‘you’re’ means ‘you are’ โ€“ the apostrophe replaces the missing letter as in the previous example.

Example

“Your report was well written. You’re an expert in this subject.”

Here’s a light-hearted reminder sheet you may wish to print out for future reference โ€“ although some of the rules it refers to are somewhat pedantic. It is thought to have been written by Pulitzer Prize winning author, William Safire:

How to Avoid Grammatical Mistakes

1 Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

2 Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3 And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.

4 It is wrong to ever split an infinitive?

5 Avoid cliches like the plague.

6 Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.

7 Be more or less specific.

8 Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

9 No sentence fragments.

10 Contractions aren’t necessary, and shouldn’t be used.

11 One should never generalise.

12 Don’t use no double negatives.

13 Eschew ampersands & abbreviations etc.

14 Eliminate commas, that are not necessary.

15 Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.

16 Kill all exclamations!!!

17 Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

18 Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not needed.

19 Puns are for children, not for groan readers.

20 Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

Finally…

Grammar is an extensive and complicated subject. Yet by following a few simple rules, your writing will have more impact and carry more authority. Familiarise yourself with the common mistakes and ensure you check your writing for them. The basic rules will soon become second nature.

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