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28 Common Grammar Mistakes Editors Want You To Realize

28 Common Grammar Mistakes Editors Want You To Realize

Your words are the most powerful weapons, and yet it’s easy to undermine yourself in written communication by violating simple rules of punctuation. It takes a single tweet or text for you to reveal flaws. Homophones – words that sound alike but are spelled differently are particularly tricky.

These are 28 of the most common grammar mistakes:

1. Periods and commas

Almost never do this: “Almost never do this”. A period or comma goes inside the quote, “like this.”

2. Commas and semicolons

Use a semicolon when you want to link two independent clauses; otherwise, you probably want to use a comma. By virtue of definition, a semicolon links two independent clauses that are related in thought.

3. Spaces

If using a typewriter (or if specified), use two spaces after a period. Otherwise, a single space will do.

4. ! – exclamation point

One is more than enough. Sometimes the saying goes, “quality is more important than quantity.” Same applies here.

5. :) or emoticons

Emoticons are definitely cute, but are not punctuation. Do not use this in an essay. You will probably fail!

6. It’s and Its

“It’s” is a contraction of it is. “Its” on the other hand signifies that “it” possesses something.

Ex # 1: The dog chewed on its bone.

Ex # 2: It’s raining.

In general, if you can rewrite the sentence to say “it is” then “it’s” is suitable. Otherwise, you want to use “its”.

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7. Then vs. Than

“Then” conveys time. “Than” is used for comparison.

Ex # 1: We left the party and then went home.

Ex # 2: We would rather go home than stay at the party.

9. Close-minded, and closed-minded

This is a trick question. “Closed-minded” seems logical. It is considered a correct spelling but the original spelling of this word is “Close-minded.” The same goes for “close-lipped” and “close-mouthed.”

10. Affect vs. Effect

“Affect” is a verb. “Effect” is a noun.

There are however, rare exceptions. For example, someone can “effect change” and “affect” can be a psychological symptom.

Example: How did that affect you?

Example: What effect did that have on you?

11. Your vs. You’re

“Your” is possessive; it is a possessive pronoun. On the contrary, the latter is a contraction of you are.

Example 1: You’re pretty.

Example 2: Give me some of your whiskey.

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In general, if the sentence can be rewritten to say “you are” then “you’re” is appropriate. Otherwise, “your.”

12. Which and That

This is one of the most common mistakes out there, and understandably so. “That” is a restrictive pronoun. It’s vital to the noun to which it’s referring. e.g., I don’t trust fruits and vegetables that aren’t organic. Here, I’m referring to all non-organic fruits or vegetables. In other words, I only trust fruits and vegetables that are organic. “Which” introduces a relative clause. It allows qualifiers that may not be essential.

Example:

I recommend you eat only organic fruits and vegetables, which are available in area grocery stores. In this case, you don’t have to go to a specific grocery store to obtain organic fruits and vegetables. “Which” qualifies, “that” restricts. “Which” is more ambiguous however, and by virtue of its meaning is flexible enough to be used in many restrictive clauses. Example:

The house, which is burning, is mine. e.g., The house that is burning is mine

13. Moot

Contrary to common misuse, “moot” doesn’t imply something is superfluous. It means a subject is disputable or open to discussion.

Example:

The idea that commercial zoning should be allowed in the residential neighborhood was a moot point for the council.

14. Envy and jealousy

The word “envy” implies a longing for someone else’s good fortunes. “Jealousy” is far more nefarious. It’s a fear of rivalry, often present in sexual situations. “Envy” is when you covet your friend’s good looks. “Jealousy” is what happens when your significant other swoons over your good-looking friend.

15. Continual and continuous

They’re similar, but there’s a difference. “Continual” means something that’s always occurring, with obvious lapses in time. “Continuous” means something continues without any stops or gaps in between.

Example: The continual music next door made it the worst night of studying ever.

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Example: Her continuous talking prevented him from concentrating.

16. Nor

“Nor” expresses a negative condition. It literally means “and not.” You’re obligated to use the “nor” form if your sentence expresses a negative and follows it with another negative condition. “Neither the men nor the women were drunk” is a correct sentence because “nor” expresses that the women held the same negative condition as the men. The old rule is that “nor” typically follows “neither,” and “or” follows “either.” However, if neither “either” nor “neither” is used in a sentence, you should use “nor” to express a second negative, as long as the second negative is a verb. If the second negative is a noun, adjective, or adverb, you would use “or,” because the initial negative transfers to all conditions.

Example: He won’t eat broccoli or asparagus. The negative condition expressing the first noun (broccoli) is also used for the second (asparagus)

17. Nauseous

Undoubtedly the most common mistake I encounter. Contrary to almost ubiquitous misuse, to be “nauseous” doesn’t mean you’ve been sickened: it actually means you possess the ability to produce nausea in others. e.g., That week-old hot dog is nauseous. When you find yourself disgusted or made ill by a nauseating agent, you are actually “nauseated.” e.g., I was nauseated after falling into that dumpster behind the Planned Parenthood. Stop embarrassing yourself.

18. Irony and coincidence

Too many people claim something is the former when they actually mean the latter. For example, it’s not “ironic” that “Barbara moved from California to New York, where she ended up meeting and falling in love with a fellow Californian.” The fact that they’re both from California is a “coincidence.” “Irony” is the incongruity in a series of events between the expected results and the actual results. “Coincidence” is a series of events that appear planned when they’re actually accidental. So, it would be “ironic” if “Barbara moved from California to New York to escape California men, but the first man she ended up meeting and falling in love with was a fellow Californian.”

20. Fewer and less

Another common mistake, “less” refers to quantity and “fewer” to a number. For instance, Facebook has fewer than 5,000 employees, but I got less sleep than you last night.

21. Whether and if

Many writers seem to assume that “whether” is interchangeable with “if.” It isn’t. “Whether” expresses a condition where there are two or more alternatives. “If” expresses a condition where there are no alternatives. e.g., I don’t know whether I’ll get drunk tonight. e.g., I can get drunk tonight if I have money for booze.

22.  Run-on sentence or comma splice

A run-on sentence is a sentence that joins two independent clauses without punctuation or the appropriate conjunction. A comma splice is similar to a run-on sentence, but it uses a comma to join two clauses that have no appropriate conjunction.

Fixing a run-on sentence or a comma splice can be accomplished in one of five different ways:

Separate the clauses into two sentences.
Replace the comma with a semi-colon.
Replace the comma with a coordinating conjunction–and, but, for, yet, nor, so.
Replace the comma with a subordinating conjunction–after, although, before, unless, as, because, even though, if, since, until, when, while.
Replace the comma with a semi-colon and transitional word–however, moreover, on the other hand, nevertheless, instead, also, therefore, consequently, otherwise, as a result.
For example:

Incorrect: Rachel is very smart, she began reading when she was three years old.
Correct: Rachel is very smart. She began reading when she was three years old.
Correct: Rachel is very smart; she began reading when she was three years old.
Correct: Rachel is very smart, and she began reading when she was three years old.
Correct: Because Rachel is very smart, she began reading when she was three years old.
Correct: Rachel is very smart; as a result, she began reading when she was three years old.

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23. Misplaced modifiers

To communicate your ideas clearly, you must place a modifier directly next to the word it is supposed to modify. The modifier should clearly refer to a specific word in the sentence. For example:

Incorrect: At eight years old, my father gave me a pony for Christmas.
Correct: When I was eight years old, my father gave me a pony for Christmas.

24. Pronoun Errors

Pronoun errors occur when pronouns do not agree in number with the nouns to which they refer. If the noun is singular, the pronoun must be singular. If the noun is plural however, the pronoun must be plural as well. For example:

Incorrect: Everybody must bring their own lunch.
Correct: Everybody must bring his or her own lunch.

Many people believe that pronoun errors are the result of writers who are trying to avoid the implication of sexist language. Although this is an admirable goal, correct grammar is still important.

25. Impactful

It isn’t a word. “Impact” can be used as a noun (e.g., The impact of the crash was severe) or a transitive verb (e.g., The crash impacted my ability to walk or hold a job). “Impactful” is a made-up buzzword, colligated by the modern marketing industry in their endless attempts to decode the innumerable nuances of human behavior into a string of mindless metrics. Seriously, stop saying this. Impact is a noun, not a verb. A plane can crash on impact. You can have an impact on something. But you cannot impact something. (When you are tempted to use “impact” as a verb, use “affect” instead; see #1.)

26. Care less

The dismissive “I could care less” is incorrect. If you could care less about it, then you’re saying you could care less about the topic, and you’ve lost the impact you meant to have. To use this phrase correctly, insert the word “not” after the word “could,” as in, “I could not care less.”

27. Irregardless

This word doesn’t exist. The word you should use is “regardless.”

28. Apostrophe usage

Apostrophes are used to show possession. However, you do not use an apostrophe after a possessive pronoun such as my, mine, our, ours, his, hers, its, their, or theirs. For example:

Incorrect: My mothers cabin is next to his’ cabin.
Correct: My mother’s cabin is next to his cabin.

In the case of it’s, the apostrophe is used to indicate a contraction for it is. For example:

Incorrect: Its a cold day in October.
Correct: It’s a cold day in October.

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Ramanpreet Kaur

Currently a student but don't know what direction to go in: Let us see if writing gets me anywhere :)

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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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