How to Avoid Most Common Writing Errors

Writing is a necessity in our society. However, according to Andrea A. Lunsford of Stanford University, most writers make similar mistakes. Luckily, you do not need a degree in English to amend common oversights. Recognizing the most common errors can help you improve your writing.

Where Do Commas Go?

The proper use of commas may seem difficult, but it really isn’t. The most common writing mistake is failure to separate two independent clauses with a comma and a coordinating conjunction. Plain English? When you write two complete sentences, sometimes you join them with an “and” or “but.” To be correct, a sentence like this needs a comma before the “and” or “but.” For example, “I went to the store, and I bought some bread.” Insert a comma before the “and” because the phrases on each side are complete sentences. Simple enough?

Another common error is the absence of commas around parenthetical phrases. Put commas around a phrase you could take out of the sentence without changing its meaning. For example, “My best friend, the sweetest girl in the world, will be visiting tomorrow.” Notice the commas around “the sweetest girl in the world.” You could remove that phrase, and the sentence would still make sense. If the phrase is necessary for the sentence to make sense, you do not use a comma. To illustrate, “My student Tom is very smart.” Unless there is only one student, the name is vital to the sentence.

Which Witch Is Which?

In English, it’s easy to confuse similar words. Learn the correct versions of common words. “There” is a place. “Their” is always possessive. “Their house is beautiful.” “They’re” has an apostrophe. It is a contraction for “they are.” “They’re coming tomorrow.”

“Too” refers to an excess or “in addition to.” It has two Os, as in “too much.” The word “to” is a transition word, usually referring to a place or a direction. “Go to the doctor.” And lastly, the number 2 is written as “two.” Think of the “W” as geometric to remind you.

You and Me… Me and You

Pronouns can be tricky. The following phrase in incorrect: “Me and Molly are going to the movies.” The pronoun “me” is incorrect. Take out the other person’s name, and read the sentence. You are left with, “Me are going to the movies.” You wouldn’t say that. You would say, “I am going to the movies.” The correct pronoun, in this instance would be “I.” To revise, “Molly and I are going to the movies.”

Here’s another example: “She wants to go with Sarah and I.” Once more, take away the other name. We are left with, “She wants to go with I.” To correct the sentence, change it to, “She wants to go with Sarah and me.”

Can I Be a Writing Expert?

The online writing lab of Purdue University offers many helpful resources. You can check out their proofreading section at owl.english.purdue.edu. No writer will ever be perfect, but you can avoid most common mistakes.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 at 6:45 am and is filed under Tips. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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