Avoid common writing mistakes
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A good piece of writing is a powerful tool for polishing your resume, composing a business article, or writing an essay for a final.
Be on guard against the most common mistakes to ensure your chances of getting the job, growing the business, or passing the test.
Basic English grammar is complex, but get the basics right and youll avoid irritating the reader. You can be the one who stands out as an accomplished pro.
Spell-check programs are a double-edged sword.
Use one to catch obvious errors, but dont rely on it entirely because (a) it may substitute an incorrect word, and (b) it can introduce additional mistakes.
Run your spell-checker first, then reread every line to make sure it has not introduced or overlooked errors. It is most likely to miss incorrect spellings of proper nouns, such as names (Ronald Regan vs. Ronald Reagan) or words with sound-alike cousins such as carries and caries (the latter being dental cavities).
A common mistake is omitting or choosing the wrong punctuation when combining two independent clauses into one compound sentence.
An independent clause contains a subject and a verb, and can stand alone as a sentence. Combining two closely related clauses may better convey the idea when they are joined with punctuation in one of three ways. Use:
A comma when theres a coordinating conjunction (and, or, so, but, for, nor, yet).
A semicolon if there is no coordinating conjunction.
A semicolon with a conjunctive adverb (finally, however, consequently, nevertheless, therefore).
Use an apostrophe to show possession, indicating an object belongs to the subject, as in: Jillians bike.
Some instances allow an exception to the rule of placing the apostrophe before the s. When a persons name or the plural subject ends in s, the apostrophe goes after, as in: Silas (or Silass) house, or the doctors staff room.
Plural words are shown as: childrens or womens.
Its easy to confuse one word with another, similar-sounding word. Be certain you have the correct word for the intended meaning.
If youre unsure, memorize a table of problem words. Here are common examples to put on your list:
Its vs. Its: Its is a contraction of it is. Its is the possessive, similar to his, hers, and whose.
There vs. Their vs. Theyre: There refers to a location, as in: Put the book there. Their is possessive, as in: Their lawn is green. Theyre is a contraction of they are, as in: Theyre going to be late.
Sentence fragments sneak into your writing as an afterthought, added to further explain the original idea.
Most fragments can be connected to the previous sentence with appropriate punctuation. Take this example: We returned to the scene of the crime. Where evidence was scattered in plain sight. Instead, write: We returned to the scene of the crime, where evidence was scattered in plain sight.
Alternatively, fill in missing components to make a complete sentence, as in: We returned to the scene of the crime. The evidence was scattered in plain sight.
Its too easy to use the wrong word from this trio, but learn their different meanings and youll be less likely to overlook the wrong choice in your writing.
To can be used in two cases, as: a preposition before a noun, I am going to bed, or an infinitive before a verb, He wants to have dinner out.
Too is a synonym for also, as in: Id like a hamburger, too. It is also used with an adjective or adverb to mean excessively, as in: I am too tired.
Two is the number two (2).
Every writer requires a good editor, another pair of eyes to make the writing clear and stylistically excellent.
Phyllis Wooten is the Sentence Doctor, dedicated to perfecting your writing at reasonable cost.
Contact her for help with composing a resume, writing an award-winning e-book, and more at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit online at sentencedoctor.com for more information.
Now that you know the most common writing errors to avoid, use these clear, easy steps to polish your writing and stand out from the crowd.