Common Mistakes in English Writing

Here are some of the most common mistakes we see in English writing.

Wordiness: Using unnecessary words to express something that can be said more clearly with fewer words. Read this wonderful free Purdue University OWL article to reduce your wordiness.

General messiness and lack of structure: Many writers need to go back to basics. Try writing a basic 5 paragraph essay on  a simple subject.

Word Confusion. Do not tell the teacher you really enjoyed the little rape if you meant the little rap. Here is the irregular verb rap this client was referring to. 🙂 It will help you with remembering English tenses.

Tense confusion: If you do not understand tense rules and logic in English, get some lessons and find out! Spell check and grammar checker may not correct these.

Passive form: In most modern non-academic writing, the passive form is not preferred. In non academic writing,  choose the active form if it is appropriate.

Sentence length: Use short sentences when approriate. Not every sentence has to contain multiple clauses!

Sentence structure: Be sure you are using English sentence structure. Do not, for example, use Dutch sentence structure to write an English sentence.

Dashes and Hyphens: Keep these centered. Do not write. 12- 13. Write 12-13. And know the difference between an M and N dash, and know when to use them.

Too much punctuation: Do not over punctuate, especially in online docs and when you can use formatting to set things apart. Too much punctuation looks messy. Of course in academic writing, just follow the rules 🙂 of your style book.

Missing commas, comma splices and more: Know the comma rules and follow them. Read the Purdue Owl Quick Comma List.

And speaking of rules, what style are you following? At the very least, you must know if you are writing in British English (BE) or American English (AE) and stick to it! Your choice of BE or AE will dictate spelling, punctuation and even idiom.

Subject verb agreement: Always match the noun(s) with the verb: singular with singular, and plural with plural. . For example, “Paris and Amsterdam are among my favorite cities, but New York is number one.”

Sentence fragments: Remember that every sentence needs a noun and a verb (except for imperatives, where the noun is understood).

And finally, the Articles a and an: If you were taught that an is used when the word starts with a vowel and a is used when the word starts with a consonant, you do not have the whole story.  To be right all of the time, you have to say the article-proceeding word aloud (or in your head). Words that sound like they start with a vowel, such as hour and honorable, get an an. But words that sound like they start with a consonant, such as united and university, get an a.

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