While it’s the content of your writing that’s the most important, your grammar has the power to make or break your writing. Good grammar validates your credibility and makes your writing seem professional, while writing riddled with grammar mistakes gives off the impression that you’re careless and unserious about your writing. Unfortunately, it’s no secret that grammatical principles can be tricky. I’ve certainly read countless stories and essays weakened by poor grammar. Thankfully, many of the mistakes that people make are actually quite common and can be quickly corrected!
So what are some common grammatical errors that writers make? And how do we go about fixing them?
Mistake #1: Mixing Up Its and It’s
Its and it’s are two of the most commonly confused words. Although these two words sound similar, they are used in very different ways. It’s is a contraction of “it is”, while its is a possessive word that we use when describing an object that belongs to something.
Ex: It’s important that you brush your teeth every day.
In this example, we use it’s because we are saying that it is important to brush your teeth daily.
Ex: My dog wagged its tail.
In this example, we use its because we are stating that the word, “tail”, belongs to the dog.
When writing a sentence involving these words, ask yourself, “Could I replace this word with ‘it is’?” If yes, then use it’s. If not, use its!
Mistake #2: Mixing up Effect and Affect
Effect and affect is another pair of words that tends to give writers trouble. Although it might initially seem hard to figure out which one to use, it’s actually quite simple. Effect is a noun and is the result of a change, while affect is a verb that means to change.
Ex: The speech affected Nasir’s opinion on climate change.
In this example, we use affect because an action is occurring. The subject of the sentence, the speech, is in the action of changing Nasir’s opinion.
Ex. The effects of climate change include increased heat, drought, and insect outbreaks.
In this example, we use effect because this sentence is describing the results of climate change.
Mistake #3: Unnecessary Commas
Writers often add more commas than they actually need. There are several different instances in which people mistakenly add commas, but here are a few common mistakes.
Incorrect: Do you like dogs, or cats?
Correct: Do you like dogs or cats?
Incorrect: The tires, must be changed frequently, to ensure that the car is in good shape.
Correct: The tires must be changed frequently to ensure that the car is in good shape.
Incorrect: Young people, and old people are likely to be present at the party.
Correct: Young people and old people are likely to be present at the party.
With lots of writing practice, you’ll begin to get a better sense of whether or not you need to use a comma.
While grammar can be difficult, the more you write, the better you’ll get at it. It’s also important to remember that grammar is just one aspect of writing. While good grammar can massively improve your writing, don’t worry if you make a couple mistakes here and there — we all do!
About the Author
Neha is a high school student whose love for writing stemmed from her passion in reading. As a former private tutor, she acquired a love for teaching and gained experience working with children. Neha has continued teaching through participating in clubs like Women in Science, in which she teaches scientific concepts through group-based learning. Neha also enjoys writing creatively, and has had one of her short stories submitted to the Raleigh Fine Arts Contest win first place in her grade level. In her free time, Neha enjoys watching Survivor, reading fantasy novels, and journaling.