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5 Most Common Grammatical Errors

Understanding the five most common grammatical errors can help you improve your writing. When you know which errors to look for, it is easier to act as your own editor.

Error #1: 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: David is very kind, he gave donations to a local charity.
Correct:  David is very kind. He gave donations to a local charity.
Correct: David is very kind; he gave donations to a local charity.
Correct: David is very kind, and he gave donations to a local charity.
Correct: Because David is very kind, he gave donations to a local charity.
Correct: David is very kind; as a result, he gave donations to a local charity.

Error #2: 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, the pronoun must be plural as well. For example:

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

Error #3: Mistakes in 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.
Incorrect: Who’s birthday is it today?
Correct: Whose birthday is it today?

Error #4: Lack of Subject/Verb Agreement

When speaking or writing in the present tense, a sentence must have subjects and verbs that agree in number. If the subject is singular, the verb must be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must be plural as well. For example:

Incorrect: The menus is good for the diners.
Correct: The menus are good for the diners.
Incorrect: She have a money problem.
Correct: She has a money problem.
N.B. However, in cases where subjunctive mood is present, subject-verb agreement may change.

Example: Incorrect: I advise that he takes the bus.

Correct: I advise that he take the bus.

Incorrect: I wish I am/was an angel.

Correct: I wish I were an angel.

Error #5: 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 seven years old, my mother gave me a cat.
Correct: When I was seven years old, my mother gave me a cat.