While sentence checkers would indicate otherwise, most writers and authors would barely accept wrong use of the language. This morning I woke up in the middle of the night…dead! Seems like the kind of English I wrote back in high school. The following are a few errors grammar geeks cringe:
1. Comma Splice
The little pesky punctuation mark is probably the most mistaken by most writers and authors. It’s used in many different ways but the worst mistake comes when it is used to separate independent clauses that have both “a subject” and “a verb”. E.g.:
Joseph went down on his knees, he finally made the proposal. (X)
Joseph went down on his knees. He finally made the proposal. Or
Joseph went down on his knees, and he finally made the proposal.
The other commonly broken grammar rule by most writers and authors is the singular and plural alignment of subjects and their co-related verbs. While it’s easier to align a singular subject with its verb when they are close to each other, it’s difficult to get it right when the two are separated.
E.g.: Erin and Kelly, looking like the perfect pair of the couple, were the guests of honor.
3. Fewer/Less and Number/Amount
There is a lack of distinction between these words among most writers and authors. They often use “less” where “fewer” would be more accurate. And the same applies to “number/amount”. The difference is that “fewer” should be used with countable items while “less” should be used with those you cannot count. E.g.:
“He didn’t buy many things at the mall. I think they were like 15 items or less,” said Jane. (X)
“He didn’t buy many things at the mall. I think they were like 15 items or fewer,” she said.
“It’s” is a contraction that means “it is or it has”. “Its” on the other hand is a possessive pronoun. They are some of the most wrongly used words but often corrected with sentence checkers. E.g.:
“Its amazing to see you today,” she said. (X)
“It’s amazing to see you today,” she said.
This one is common with long sentences. At times the sentence checker just highlights the whole thing leaving you wondering what could be the problem. “That” is used with restrictive clauses, and so are “who” and “where”. “Which” on the other hand is used with nonrestrictive clauses. E.g.:
The houses that we lived in were swept away by floods. (Only the houses we lived in…).
The houses were swept ways by floods. (All the houses were swept away).
The houses, which we lived in, were swept away by floods (all the houses were swept away).
6. g. /I.e.
These two are also often wrongly used. Most writers and authors use one in place of the other. E.g. is derived from Latin words “exempli gratia”. It means “for example.” I.g. is on the other hand derived from the words “id est”, and used to mean “that is” or “in other words”. E.g.:
He bought several items at the supermarket, i.e.: electric jug, microwave, backpack, etc. (X)
He bought several items at the supermarket, e.g.: electric jug, microwave, backpack, etc.
For most writers and authors this one often comes as a typographical error. “To” should be used in the infinite form of a verb, and sometimes used to mean “towards”. “Too” is used to mean “as well or also”. “Two” on the other hand should be used only when referring to the number 2. E.g.:
The bowl was to hot. He threw it across the floor. (X)
The bowl was too hot. He threw it across the floor.
As is the case with less/fewer above, this mistake comes as a result of lack of emphasis on the particular meaning of the words. It’s become so common that some writers and authors have actually adopted it as a style of writing yet it should be avoided. While “invite” is a verb that means “to invite”, “invitation” is a noun. Unfortunately, not even sentence checkers highlight it. E.g.:
She sent me an invite yesterday. (X)
Yesterday, she sent me an invitation.
The other common error that makes grammar geeks cringe is the wrong use of the words “who” and “whom”. It should be understood that “who” refers to subject in a sentence whereas “whom” is the object. They are used the same way “he” and “him” are used. Avoid E.g.:
- Who beat the children?
- Whom is wrong doer? (X)
- Whom will I turn to?
NB: There are various rules and exemptions in grammar. You may not be able to master all at once. You need to be a good reader to speak and write well. It is also important to understand that sometimes sentence checkers may be wrong therefore you should not solely rely on them. Also, it helps to read aloud your work if you want to detect early some of the common mistakes.