Hi SEers! Denise here to talk about common grammar errors in writing.
Back in the day, run-on sentences used to be a big problem. My teachers would constantly remind me of this issue. My only excuse was I had so many ideas I could barely contain them.
Let’s look at some common issues for writers. This is not a complete list, but a good place to start. Since I already talked about comma rules, I won’t include them.
- Run-on sentences. There are three different types. A polysyndeton is when two full sentences are put together without correct punctuation. Then there is a fused sentence when two independent clauses are joined without that needed punctuation. The final one is a comma splice or when a comma is thrown in without a coordinating conjunction. Example for a polysyndeton: My grandkids swam in the public pool a duck landed in the water next to them. Fixed: My grandkids swam in the public pool. A duck landed in the water next to them.
- Passive writing. When the subject of the sentence is acted upon or receives the action of the verb. Passive will usually include the verb to be or the phrase by the. To fix that, you want an active voice or when the subject does the action of the verb. Passive example: Tree Fairies is being read by my granddaughter’s class. Fixed or active: My granddaughter’s class is reading Tree Fairies.
- Misuse of words such as lie/lay, your/you’re, there/their/they’re, affect/effect, its/it’s, accept/except, insure/ensure, who’s/whose and too/to/two. The problem is most grammar programs don’t always catch these mistakes. It’s best to double check if you are using the correct word. Example: Their almost here. Fixed: They’re almost here.
- Using too many adverbs. An adverb is used to change a verb, adjective, or perhaps an adverb. You need some of them, but too many make it hard to read. Here are some common ones to look for: very, usually, actually, perfectly, strictly, luckily, totally, really, suddenly, probably, quietly, and quickly. Example: The cat ran quickly to greet his owner. Fixed: The cat raced to greet his owner.
- Wordy sentences. Get rid of excess or unnecessary details and cut out filler words. Here are a few words to watch for: specific, particular, really, right, just, very, sort of, kind of, basically, actually, definitely, and generally. Also watch for repeat words that mean the same such as past history, end result, large in size, and blue in color. Example: Patsy’s past history generally shows her love of a blue in color car that is large in size. Fixed: Patsy’s history shows her love of large, blue cars.
- Knowing when to use ellipses and em dashes. I admit I love to use ellipses, especially in text or emails. Ellipses are best used for a pause in conversation or missing information. The em dash is an interruption in conversation or to add emphasis. They are fun punctuations, but when writing a story, I limit my use of them. Example: I fell asleep within five minutes… Fixed: I fell asleep within five minutes. The example hints there was a problem. If so, just state it.
- Missing word. This one is easy to do. Our minds put the missing word in there when we are reading. I find having it read back to me helps catch that. Example: San Jose Sharks fans jumped their feet when the winning goal was scored. Fixed: San Jose Sharks fans jumped to their feet when the winning goal was scored.
How about you? What are your common mistakes?