Ten Common Grammatical Errors

Sharpen your postings and overall writing by avoiding these blunders

Thanks to the Internet, and social media especially, we are all writing more than ever. We are continually dashing off emails, pecking out texts, and posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. However, given the often informal nature of these writings, grammar rules often got overlooked. Writing that looks fine at first glance on screen can often be riddled with violations that even seasoned writers commit occasionally

While we could probably cite dozens of frequently seen grammar no-no’s, we’re highlighting a small selection that unfortunately seem to be spreading. Help do your part in eradicating—or at least reducing—grammar bugaboos by committing the following to memory and putting your best foot forward with your followers and customers.

  1. Your vs. you’re
    Often, “your” is used in place of “you’re,” as in “Your welcome.” However, “your” is a possessive, indicates ownership, while “you’re” is a contraction of “you are.”
    I like your approach to putting this proposal together.
    I like the way you’re putting this proposal together.
  2. Effect vs. Affect
    While both of these pertain to change or impact, one is about receiving the change while the other is about creating the change.
    Her story had a significant effect on generations of artists.
    Her story will affect generations of artists significantly.
  3. Than vs. Then
    “Than” is a conjunction used to highlight a comparison between things. “Then” is an adverb that places actions in time.
    My brother is a better singer than I am.
    My brother sang his song, then I sang mine.
  4. Using “they” for a company or organization
    This could be the most common mistake people make nowadays—using “they” to represent a non-plural entity. While a company or organization is usually comprised of many people, its name or brand is singular and should be treated as such in text.
    Under Armour is my favorite athletic brand.
    Under Armour stores are in many shopping malls.
  5. i.e. vs. e.g.
    Correct usage of one or the other is pretty tricky because the letters actually represent latin words that are hard to remember. Even if you can remember them, they aren’t very helpful in providing guidance. In any case, “i.e.” means “that is” or “in other words,” and is used when you want to clarify something. “E.g.” means “for example,” and is used when you follow up with a specific example.
    The city was amazing; i.e., it had interesting places everywhere.
    The city was amazing; e.g., restaurants, art galleries, boutique shops, and pubs were everywhere.
  6. Oxford comma
    When presenting a list of three or more things, there is a tendency to forego the comma between the second and third item:
    I packed my lunch, a book and my phone.
    With the Oxford comma:
    I packed my lunch, a book, and my phone.
    While leaving off the last comma is not incorrect—AP Style doesn’t require it—doing so can often lead to unintentionally hilarious sentences.
    I owe my success to my parents, Mahatma Gandhi and Steve Jobs.
    You can avoid any confusion by using the Oxford comma:
    I owe my success to my parents, Mahatma Gandhi, and Steve Jobs.
  7. Compliment vs. Complement
    While the difference beween these is only one letter, the meanings are very different. A “compliment” conveys praise or admiration, but a “complement” refers to something that enhances or completes something else.
    I appreciated her compliment.
    She complimented me on my work.The wine was the perfect complement to the steak.
    This scarf will complement that blouse.
  8. Who vs. That
    When attributing a certain characteristic or action to a person or thing, people often forget that the correct reference should be used. “Who” is used when describing a person; “that” is used for everything else.
    My mother is someone who likes to travel frequently.
    My lawn is something that needs constant maintenance.
  9. Unfinished Comparison
    If you’re going to claim that something is bigger, faster, or more beautiful than something else, don’t forget to identify both parts of the comparison. While that sounds blindingly obvious, often you’ll see incomplete comparisons like the following:
    Our boss is smarter and more qualified.
    This phone’s speaker is a lot louder.
    Smarter and more qualified than…who? A lot louder than…what? When making comparisons, you need both entities in order for them to make sense to readers.
    Our boss is smarter and more qualified than your boss.
    This phone’s speaker is a lot louder than his voice.
  10. Misplaced/Dangling Modifier
    This mistake is seen when a descriptive phrase immediately follows a noun that it really doesn’t describe.
    Delirious from hunger and thirst, the desert surrounded the explorers.
    When written this way, the sentence seems to imply that the desert was delirious from hunger and thirst. Always follow up a descriptive phrase with the thing that you are trying to describe.
    Delirious from hunger and thirst, the explorers were surrounded by the desert.

Show off your best side
English grammar can be bewildering at times. So, when in doubt, Google your grammar question or consult guides like this one. Regardless of the channel you’re using to interact with customers and prospects, polished grammar demonstrates professionalism and attention to detail—qualities that inspire confidence and loyalty in your brand.