Before I dive into a list of common English grammar mistakes to avoid at all costs, I’d actually like to start this post by saying that I’m actually not the biggest fan of the word “grammar.” Yes, you heard that correctly, and it’s true! However, before you start wondering how it came to be that a woman who teaches English and “English grammar” on a weekly basis came to dislike grammar, please allow me to explain myself.
You see, I think the word “grammar” is misunderstood and oftentimes misused. And while I can completely see the merits of grammar in a basic sense, what I have found that people usually mean when they say, “Please fix my student’s grammar” is actually, “Please fix my student’s writing.”
And I couldn’t agree more. If we only focus on fixing capitalization, punctuation, and parts of speech errors, a student’s writing can only develop so far before it becomes monotonous and limited. What we really need to focus on is what I will call “whole writing.” Sometimes, whole writing might mean being strictly academic and making no English grammar errors; however, sometimes it might mean being more casual and tossing English grammar to the wind!
Now that I’m done with that little monologue (My apologies!), let’s get to it!
COMMON ENGLISH GRAMMAR MISTAKES TO TRY TO AVOID
1. Forgetting Sentence Basics: This most commonly happens with beginning writers, but even the most seasoned writer can find him or herself (especially when rushing!) neglecting to follow the most basic rules of English sentence writing. Whole writers always check for the following things:
ü capital letters at the beginning of sentences
ü correct punctuation within sentences (Where should that comma go? Do I even need a comma?)
ü correct punctuation at the end of a sentence (Is your sentence a question? Then it should have a question mark, not a period.)
2. Not Writing in Complete Sentences: This happens across the board. While it is certainly alright to do in a creative writing setting (Guilty as charged in this very sentence!), or with a very advanced writer who has learned when it is ok to break the rules, most writers of school age should try at all times to be writing in complete sentences. Whole writers always check for the following:
ü never starting the answer to a “why” question with the word “because”
ü restating the question in the answer (Doing this will almost guarantee the sentence is complete.)
3. Not Answering the Question Asked: This is where whole writing begins to veer away from technical English grammar. Once again, the most grammatically correct answer in the world means nothing if it did not answer the question asked. Whole writers should check and make sure to do the following:
ü read the question carefully (Do this several times if you need to! Practice makes perfect.)
4. Poor Supporting Evidence: Supporting evidence can be a student writer’s best friend (Especially on standardized tests!), but if it is done incorrectly, it becomes worthless. Whole writers always check that…
ü support comes from the comprehension passage (if completing a reading comprehension exercise) or an accredited source (if completing an academic writing assignment)
ü support gives evidence for your stance (Giving a lot of support from a reading passage is useless if it does not support your stance on the question!)
ü direct quotes used as support are copied exactly and do not stand alone (Any time something is put into quotation marks, it needs to be exactly the same as it was stated elsewhere. Also, quotes should never stand alone as their own sentence – your own words should always be somewhere either before or after the quote.)
5.“Bare Bones” Writing: This is where my list gets a little more advanced. Maybe your student has mastered the basics, but he or she isn’t growing much more. Avoiding “bare bones” writing – meaning doing just the minimum to get by – can help restart the growth of a more advanced writer. Whole writers can do the following:
ü add a “because” when you think you have come to the end of a sentence (Many times, this will lead to further details and explanation, leading to a more complete answer.)
ü add adjectives (Descriptive words can go a long way in taking an answer from “good” to “great.”)
ü explain themselves (Adding your thoughts to writing can show a deeper understanding.)
This leads me to my sixth and final English “grammar” (writing) mistake to avoid at all costs. I have seen this very mistake strike nearly every student and writer I have ever come across! The good news is, though, that it can easily be avoided. The even better news? Once you successfully avoid this mistake, many of the previous mistakes will just naturally disappear! Talk about convenient! Ladies and gentlemen, drum roll, please…
6. Rushing: Maybe you saw this one coming, but rushing is truly at the root of many of these errors. Sure, English and English grammar are not the favorites of many students, and I get it: writing can be the tortuous to some, but rushing does not make it any easier. Taking a little more time in the beginning to master the basics can save time once writing skills begin to develop. Whole writers always do the following:
ü take their time understanding the questions
ü take their time writing the answers
ü check answers carefully
ü add details if there is time
There you have it: My six English grammar and writing mistakes to avoid at all costs. I hope you found them helpful, and I hope even more that they help to begin developing “whole writers” in your own homes. However, if you want even more help focusing on writing, check your local area for a learning center that might provide writing or English grammar lessons.
What are some of your English grammar and writing mistakes that you try to avoid? To comment, please click on the header of the post and a comment box will appear.
Author: Emily Karth, MathWizard, Inc.