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Grammar and Punctuation: 5 Common Grammar Mistakes

Five Common Grammar Mistakes 

Do you ever look at a text and wonder why it just doesn't make sense? Here are four sets of words that are commonly mixed up in English, and one other common grammar error to avoid.

1. Your vs. You're 

Do you ever look at a text and wonder why it just doesn't make sense? Here are four sets of words that are commonly mixed up in English, and one other common grammar error to avoid.

2. It's vs. Its

Do you ever look at a text and wonder why it just doesn't make sense? Here are four sets of words that are commonly mixed up in English, and one other common grammar error to avoid.

3. There vs. Their vs. They're

“There” is used many ways, including as a reference to a place (“let’s go there”) or as a pronoun (“there is no hope”). “Their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their bags” or “their opinions.” "They're" is like the above examples, and represents "they are." Always do the “that’s ours!” test—are you talking about more than one person and something that they possess? If so, “their” will get you there.

4. Affect vs. Effect

“Affect” is a verb, as in “Your ability to communicate clearly will affect your income immensely.” “Effect” is a noun, as in “The effect of a parent’s low income on a child’s future is well documented.” By thinking in terms of “the effect,” you can usually sort out which is which, because you can’t stick a “the” in front of a verb. While some people do use “effect” as a verb (“a strategy to effect a settlement”), they are usually lawyers, and you should therefore ignore them if you want to write like a human.

5. The Dangling Participle

The dangling participle may be the most egregious of the most common writing mistakes. Not only will this error damage the flow of your writing, but it can also make it impossible for someone to understand what you’re trying to say.

Check out these two examples from Tom Sant’s book Persuasive Business Proposals:

  • After rotting in the cellar for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.

  • Uhh… keep your decomposing brother away from me!

Now check out these two:

  • Featuring plug-in circuit boards, we can strongly endorse this server’s flexibility and growth potential.

  • Hmmm… robotic copy written by people embedded with circuit boards. Makes sense.

The problem with both of the above sentences is that the participial phrase that begins the sentence is not intended to modify what follows next in the sentence. However, readers mentally expect it to work that way, so your opening phrase should always modify what immediately follows. If it doesn’t, you’ve left the participle dangling, as well as your readers.

This guide was compiled using information from the article "5 grammar mistakes that make you look dumb" http://www.copyblogger.com/5-common-mistakes-that-make-you-look-dumb/


Want to test out your knowledge of how to use some common words that sound similar?
Try our "Sound-Alike Words" quiz!

Also, check out these comics from Oatmeal about the top 10 misspelled words!

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