Good writing draws you in and keeps you reading. Grammatical mistakes disrupt the flow and ruin your experience. There are many mistakes that must be avoided if you want potential customers to get to the end of your text.
Example: The post title should read ’30 grammatical mistakes that are scaring away your customers’. This was pointed out by one of our readers. Thanks Laura!
Here are the common mistakes we make so often:
Mistakes regarding sentence and paragraph length
1. Merging several paragraphs into one
Example: “John went to the grocery store. He bought two cabbages and three ice creams. Ice cream was awesome as it kept people cool in those hot summer days. The sandwich shaped ones were particularly good.”
The first two sentences are about John and his actions. The second two are about ice cream. The subject has changed; therefore, another paragraph is required.
“John went to the grocery store. He bought two cabbages and three ice creams.
Ice cream was awesome as it kept people cool in those hot summer days. The sandwich shaped ones were particularly great.”
2. Cutting paragraphs short
Example: “John went to the grocery store.
He bought two cabbages and three ice creams.
Ice cream was awesome as it kept people cool in those hot summer days.
The sandwich shaped ones were particularly great.”
Trying to make their text seem easier to read, some writers keep paragraphs to 1-2 sentences max. Such an approach goes against grammatical rules. It makes clients wonder whether they’re reading a bad attempt at poetry.
3. Many short sentences in a row
Example: “John went to the grocery store. He bought two cabbages. He also bought three ice creams. Ice cream is great.”
In another attempt to make their text look easier to digest, some writers cut sentences short. Readers welcome such sentences when they’re properly placed, but having too many of them in a row is just plain silly.
Your clients will instantly spot the unnecessary “effort” and they will not appreciate it.
4. Ten ideas wrapped up in one sentence
Example: “John, the ice cream lover, had gone to the grocery store to buy two cabbages and three ice creams before going home to watch television.”
Here, we have three actions and a description mashed together in one sentence. Although it is readable, it is unnecessary, and it takes away from the text’s clarity. Too many ideas expressed in too small a space, overwhelm your client. As a result, they will inevitably miss a large part of what you’re trying to say.
Correct version: “Before going home to watch television, John had gone to the grocery store. He bought two cabbages and three ice creams. He loves his ice cream.”
There is endless debate over how long paragraphs and sentences should be. Some write half a page paragraphs and three line sentences while others stick to one sentence per paragraph and 5 words per sentence. Both approaches are wrong.
For the sake of your reader and yourself, stick to grammar.
Mistakes regarding punctuation and certain words
5. Punctuation marks and “however”
Example: “John loves ice cream. He did however buy a cabbage too.”
“However” should be used only after a period or a semicolon.
Correct version: “John loves ice cream. However, he did buy a cabbage too.”
As you may have noticed, “however” is always followed by a comma.
As a general rule, a comma is always required after an introductory element like (but not limited to) “however”, “so”, “nevertheless”, “last evening” (when used at the beginning of a sentence), etc.
6. Punctuation marks and “so”
“So” follows similar rules as “however.” But unlike “however,” it can also follow a comma and be used in the middle of a sentence.
For example: “John loves ice cream, so he bought three of them.”
The above sentence is correct.
7. Commas and “but”
Example: “John loves ice cream but hates chocolate.”
“But” used as a conjunction is always preceded by a comma.
Correct version: “John loves ice cream, but hates chocolate.”
To put it simpler, “but” is preceded by a comma whenever it stands between two different ideas, feelings, actions, etc. In this case, it stands between “love” and “hate.”
However, “but” is not preceded by a comma when it helps construct the action, feeling, etc.
For example: “John couldn’t help but grab some ice cream.”
In this case, “but” is a preposition and it helps construct the action of grabbing ice cream (no comma required).
8. Commas and “if”
Example: “If john goes to the grocery store he will buy ice cream.”
Sentences (containing “if”) have two parts: a condition and whatever it is will happen if the condition is met. Whenever a sentence starts with “if,” you must separate the two parts with a comma.
Correct version: “If john goes to the grocery store, he will buy ice cream.”
However, if the two sentences are switched and the condition (the “if” sentence/part) goes last, a comma is no longer required to separate them.
For example: “John will buy ice cream if he goes to the grocery store.”
The above sentence is correct.
9. Commas and nonessential information
Example: “I was thanks to its gruesome ending quite happy with the play.”
“Thanks to its gruesome ending” is not necessary for the overall sentence to make sense. “I was quite happy with the play” can very well stand on its own. The middle part must stand between commas. Otherwise, your client might read “I was thanks to its gruesome ending…”
Correct version: “I was, thanks to its gruesome ending, quite happy with the play.”
10. Using commas as periods or semicolons
Example: “Jack is very shallow, he lacks depth.”
There needs to be a bigger pause between the two sentences (bigger than a comma can provide). In such cases, you must use a period or semicolon.
“Jack is very shallow; he lacks depth.”
“Jack is very shallow. He lacks depth.”
11. Not using commas between independent clauses (sentences)
Example: “My brother is eight feet tall and he likes to listen to Mozart.”
Most of us (including me) are used to not using commas before words such as “and,” “or,” etc.
However, this is only correct when they are not separating two independent sentences. “My brother is eight feet tall” is one sentence. “He likes to listen to Mozart” is a different independent clause.
Therefore, the correct version is: “My brother is eight feet tall, and he likes to listen to Mozart.”
12. Using commas between dependent clauses
Example: “My brother is eight feet tall, and likes to listen to Mozart.”
In this case, the second sentence is “My brother likes to listen to Mozart.” As you can see, the subject is borrowed from the first clause. As a result, the second clause is dependent on the first (it needs the first sentence for it to have a subject).
Correct version: “My brother is eight feet tall and likes to listen to Mozart.”
13. It’s vs. its
Example: “Its wrong to accuse the cat of eating it’s rubber toy.”
“Its” indicates possession while “it’s” means “it is.”
Correct version: “It’s wrong to accuse the cat of eating its rubber toy.”
14. You, your, you’re
Example: “Your quite something. I can’t find you stuff. Actually, you’re teddy bear is mine.”
This is a simple mistake made all too often. Many people (including myself) rush when tipping and forget to add the “r” to “your.” Others confuse “your” (which expresses possession) with “you’re” which means “you are.”
This grammatical mistake is easy to make when impatient. Unfortunately, it is also easy for your clients to spot it.
Correct version: “You’re quite something. I can’t find your stuff. Actually, your teddy bear is mine.”
15. Using colons at the end of incomplete sentences
Example: “I stopped smoking because of: their price, my health and my wife.”
“I stopped smoking because of” is not a proper sentence. It is incomplete without its second part.
Correct version: “I stopped smoking because of the following reasons: their price, my health and my wife.”
Mistakes regarding words in general
16. Eating words and letters
Example: “Sarah went to the Alps weekend and bought back souvenir.”
Quite often, writers get hungry for words and letters while trying to get the job done. Rereading your material after a few hours will help you easily fix this problem.
Correct version: “Sarah went to the Alps this weekend and brought back a souvenir.”
17. Pointlessly repeating the same word.
Example: “John went to the grocery store. He bought two cabbages and three ice creams and John thoroughly enjoyed them.”
We all know not to write the same word 2-3 times in a phrase (unless we’re doing it intentionally for whatever reason). In this particular case, you’ve probably noticed “John” being repeated two times. A bit harder to spot is the word “and” which is also pointlessly repeated.
Many people make the mistake of repeating words such as “that,” “he,” “I,” “and,” etc. when it’s not necessary. If your client spots this, he/she might think you have a limited vocabulary or you were just plain lazy when writing your piece.
Still, don’t turn paranoid whenever you have to repeat something (just try to do it less often).
Correct version: “John went to the grocery store. He bought two cabbages and three ice creams which he thoroughly enjoyed.”
18. Dye or die
Example: “The painter dyed right after dying the hair on his portrait.”
“Die” is used to indicate the ending of life (death). On the other hand, “dye” refers to painting or substances used to paint. Please do not kill off your paintings or paint your dead.
Correct version: “The painter died right after dyeing the hair on his portrait.”
19. Then or than
Example: “Rather then spending my allowance, I would much rather spend yours. I will win and than throw a winner’s party.”
The difference between the two is quite simple: “then” is used in time constructions, while “than” is used in comparisons.
Correct version: “Rather than spending my allowance, I would much rather spend yours. I will win and then throw a winner’s party.”
20. There or their
Example: “Their is a problem here. They simply aren’t willing to do there homework.”
“Their” implies possession. “There” has many uses, but it is never used to show the ownership of something.
Correct version: “There is a problem here. They simply aren’t willing to do their homework.”
21. Loose of lose
Example: “He’s a sore looser.”
“Loose” means not tight or careless. To “lose” means to not win. In this sentence, we need only one “o.”
Correct version: “He’s a sore loser.”
22. Affect or effect
Example: “I was effected by the recent loss. Fortunately, the affect is wearing off.”
To “affect” something means to impact that something. On the other hand, an “effect” is a result of some sort.
Correct version: “I was affected by the recent loss. Fortunately, the effect is wearing off.”
23. Negating your own negation
Example: “John doesn’t want nobody near his ice cream.”
As Microsoft Word would suggest in this case, “nobody” must be replaced with “anybody” because it negates the negation in “does not”.
Correct version: “John doesn’t want anybody near his ice cream.”
24. Me or I/her or she/him or he
Example: “Me and her play piano together. We’re rather horrible at it.”
Remove “her” and you get “Me play piano.” Remove “me” and you get “Her play piano.” Either way, it is obviously wrong.
Correct version: “She and I play piano together. We’re rather horrible at it.”
25. Me or I (part two)
Example: “She slapped you and I.”
Remove “you and” from your sentence. The result is “She slapped I.” Here, we need to replace “I” with “me.”
Correct version: “She slapped you and me.”
26. Parallelism (the lack of it)
Example: “He loves to dance, to sing and swimming.”
When faced with a string of words which serve the same function, we must make sure their structure is also the same.
Correct version: “He loves to dance, to sing and to swim.”
27. Singular vs. plural
Example: “I, with my many friends, are quite famous.”
“With my many friends” is not part of the main sentence. The main sentence is: “I are quite famous” (which makes no sense).
Correct version: “I, with my many friends, am quite famous.”
28. Poorly placed words
Example: “I only stopped running when I got home.”
Here, you are not trying to emphasize the fact that you stopped running, but the fact that you did it only when you got home.
Correct version: “I stopped running only when I got home.”
29. Switching tenses for no reason
Example: “I loved soccer, so I play for the school team.”
If you want the first sentence to be in past tense, you must switch the second one to past tense as well.
Correct version: “I loved soccer, so I played for the school team.”
30. Extra space
Example: “Cleaning the swimming pool is a messy job.”
This is a small error which occurs often. It happens for one of two reasons: either the writer messed up, or the space bar was malfunctioning (which happens way too often).
Correct version: “Cleaning the swimming pool is a messy job.”
There are plenty grammatical mistakes to go around. Programs such as Microsoft Word and Grammarly (free aff link) make spotting them a whole lot easier. But they cannot spot everything.
Your customers must focus on the message, not on your mistakes. For this reason, you must try to master grammar. The above list is a good beginning, but a beginning nonetheless.
Colisnicencu Daniel is a freelance writer, teacher, blogger, karate-ka and entrepreneur. Feel free to pay him a visit at his website www.growupproper.com