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How to Avoid 10 Common Grammar Mistakes

Impress even the pickiest grammarians by avoiding these 10 most common grammar errors.


  • Step 1: Ensure verb tenses match Ensure your verb tenses always match, whether you are speaking about the past, present, or future.
  • TIP: For example, if Sally wears a dress, make sure she goes to the concert. If she wore the dress, make sure she went to the concert.
  • Step 2: Watch for subject-verb agreement Be aware of subject-verb and subject-pronoun disagreement. Whether subject and verb or subject and pronoun, both must agree in number.
  • TIP: For example, say Jenny is going to the beach, not Jenny are going to the beach. Likewise, say Jenny is going to the beach and she will have fun, not they will have fun.
  • Step 3: Do not use comma splices Do not incorrectly join two independent clauses with a comma, such as "Jen and I ate dinner, I enjoyed the chicken." This is called a comma splice. Instead use a period, conjunction, or semicolon.
  • TIP: A run-on sentence like 'I’m not sad I’m happy' is also an incorrect way of joining two independent clauses. Separate the clauses with a period or semicolon.
  • Step 4: Use commas correctly Use a comma to separate independent clauses joined by a conjunction, after an introductory independent clause, in a nonrestrictive clause, to separate three or more words or phrases, when setting off geographical names, when shifting between main discourse and quotations, and to avoid confusion.
  • Step 5: Correctly use apostrophes Correctly use apostrophes to illustrate possession or when omitting letters, such as in contractions.
  • Step 6: Beware of fragments Beware of sentence fragments, or an incomplete sentence missing a verb or subject.
  • TIP: For example, in "I am good at several things. Such as painting and cooking." the second sentence is incomplete because it’s a dependent clause. Connect it to the independent clause by replacing the period with a comma after the word "things."
  • Step 7: Correctly use relative pronouns Don't misuse your relative pronouns: that, who, whom, whose, which, where, when, and why. Relative pronouns join clauses to create complex sentences.
  • TIP: The most common misuse of a relative pronoun is between "that" and "which." Use 'that' with restrictive, or defining, clauses, and "which" with nonrestrictive clauses. Surround "which" phrases with commas.
  • Step 8: Don't misplace modifiers Don't let your modifiers dangle. A modifier describes a word or phrase. Put in the wrong place it can change your meaning.
  • TIP: For example, "At two, my sister taught me Spanish," is incorrect, unless I mean when my sister was two, she taught me Spanish. The correct way is, "When I was two, my sister taught me Spanish."
  • Step 9: Use pronouns Don't be afraid to use pronouns. A common mistake is overuse of a proper name when a pronoun would suffice.
  • Step 10: Proofread Proofread everything. This is your key to detecting unnecessary errors. If you check and double check your work, you will be a grammatical superstar in no time.
  • FACT: June 2009 marked a milestone in the English language -- "Web 2.0" was officially added to the language, making it English's one millionth word.

You Will Need

  • General understanding of English

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