Common Grammar Mistakes and How to Avoid Them When Writing

Common grammar mistakes are easy to make when writing fiction novels. Most authors try to use a thesaurus to come up with complex words or use words they think they know the meaning of and go with them in their writing. This can seriously turn people off who are reading your stories.

Common Grammar Mistakes

There are many simple grammar errors that writers make when writing. Making any blatant mistake within your writing if you are attempting to get your story published by a traditional book publisher will kill your chances of publishing your book in a heart beat. Your story needs to be error free, especially where grammar is concerned, to have any chance at publishing success through a professional book publisher.

Self-publishing is even worse when it comes to making common grammar mistakes. I didn't think all that much about grammar until I started using an online grammar checker to self-edit my stories. I thought my writing was great until I submitted my work to the program and it came back with what seemed like hundreds of suggestions for my common grammar mistakes.

Wow, did I learn a lot that evening!

You see, when you submit your work to someone, the first thing they look at is how much work they will have to put into it before they can publish and start selling it. If it is going to take a long period of time to correct your work, it may not be worth it to them to take on the job since it may take up too much of their time and prevent them from taking on additional projects.

Learning and remembering the common grammar mistakes that most amateur writers make can help you when it comes to your writing or helping others with their writing. I have put together some common problem grammar areas to hopefully help you with your fiction writing in the future.

16 Common Grammar Mistakes Writers Make and Editors Catch

Here are some common grammar mistakes to help perfect your fiction writing. When you become familiar with all of these words, you'll be able to catch your errors before self-publishing or submitting to agents, editors, and publishers and they will see they don't have to work very hard at getting your work ready to publish.

I have compiled several common grammar mistakes that many writers, including myself, make while they are writing their fiction stories. I'm hoping this list will help you avoid some of the same errors that will certainly make your writing seem amateurish and sloppy.

1. Overuse of the Word "That".

This is still the most common grammar mistake I make, even though I constantly think about it while I write. Using the word "that" too much in your sentences and paragraphs throughout your story is a big no no. It's just like someone saying the same word over and over again, like "uh" when you are talking. When you overuse a word like "that", people will notice it and will get annoyed by it very easily. Another similar word that is overused is "then".

The simple cure for this easy-to-make mistake is to just leave the word "that" out of your sentence altogether. Just take it out! It probably doesn't need to be there anyway. Here's an example:

"You know that I love you!" Incorrect

"You know I love you!" Correct

"That" really doesn't need to be there. The context of the sentence is the same either way.

2. The Use of Neither and Nor, Either and Or.

Knowing this rule is either going to help or hurt you. Well, that was an example for you in the use of either and or together.

But what if you use "nor" instead of "or". Let's try it: "Knowing this rule is either going to help you nor hurt you." That doesn't even sound right, so that combination is obviously incorrect.

How about: "Knowing this rule is neither going to help you or hurt you." That one sounds better; however, instead of saying that knowing this rule will help you or hurt you, it is saying that my tips are not going to help you but will not hurt you.

Just because the two words sound correct together doesn't mean they are. Look closely whenever you use those pairs to make sure they are the right ones. One way to remember is with the "neither/nor" pair, there is generally a negative role in the sentence and they are always used together (if they have both parts that work together). Same with the "either/or" pair, though they are more positive.

3. The Use of Anxious.

Common grammar mistakes continue with the use of the word "anxious" in a sentence. Most writers use the word anxious to express someone looking forward to something such as, "The runner is anxious to get the race over with." This is incorrect context for the word anxious. Anxious should imply "looming in fear" when it is used properly in a sentence. The following is the correct context: "The runner is anxious to learn the outcome of the race."

4. Should You Use i.e. or e.g.?

Here's something that I have commonly messed up over the years simply because I never learned about it. Instead of spelling out "example" or "that is", writers commonly use abbreviations to express their thoughts.

If you know Latin, you would definitely understand why these two abbreviations are the way they are. The ones I'm talking about are i.e. and e.g.. Up until now, I've always used the abbreviation i.e. before an example I was giving for something. Well, I found out I was wrong for all of these years. The proper abbreviation is e.g. which I never used. Here's why:

The abbreviation "i.e." comes from the Latin phrase "id est" which means "that is".

The abbreviation "e.g." comes from the Latin phrase "exempli gratia" or "for the sake of an example" or simply "for example".

5. The Use and Misuse of Apostrophes.

A common problem with grammar in today's society is the use of apostrophes with your writing. Apostrophes are used with contractions, help show possession, help show plural possession, and are used with singular compound nouns.

Now, some words such as "your" and "you're", "its" and "it's", and "there", "their", and "they're" can cause problems for many writers because people can't hear or see the apostrophe when they are listening to the words being spoken. But when they are reading a story, people will pick these common grammar mistakes out right away. A good rule of thumb is to take out the apostrophe and say the entire word contraction:

You're means "you are".

It's means "it is".

They're means "they are".

If you are trying to say, "Go and catch your bus", and you used the wrong word like in "Go and catch you're bus", one way you can catch it is by spelling out the words "you are", then the sentence doesn't make sense.

Check out Thirteen English Grammar Tips for apostrophes to help you understand all of the rules and uses of apostrophes with writing.

6. The Use of Double Negatives.

Another one of the great common grammar mistakes is the use of the elusive double negative. Double negatives can ruin the point you are trying to get across to your readers, especially if they are grammar freaks. Here are some examples:

"My kids don't like no ice cream!" Incorrect

"My kids don't like ice cream!" Correct

"John doesn't know nothing." Incorrect

"John doesn't know anything." Correct

Most double negatives occur when people are talking because they don't think about what they are saying when they are saying it. This is a very simple mistake to catch while you are writing because you are thinking about what you are writing down. But, some people write exactly like they talk and this will mess them up.

7. The Use of Then and Than.

This is a commonly made grammar mistake for a lot of writers. Most of the time, this mistake comes from the pronunciation of the word while speaking, and a lot of writers write the way they speak.

"Your office had more problems then we did." Incorrect

"Your office had more problems than we did." Correct

For the most part, when a sentence begins with an "if", you don't need to use a "then" in it.

8. The Use of "Who" and "Whom".

Using either "who" or "whom" in a sentence really depends on if you are referring to a subject or object of a sentence due to the definitions of each. "Who" is a subjective pronoun which acts as the subject of a sentence. "Whom" on the other hand is an objective pronoun which acts as an object of a sentence.

An easy way to avoid common grammar mistakes like these ones are to know how each one of them works together with similar pronouns. For example, "who" is the same kind of pronoun as "he", "she", "it", "we", and "they". "Whom" is the same kind of pronoun as "him", "her", "it", "us", and "them". When you use one in a sentence, simply substitute it with a similar pronoun:

"Who loves the movie?"

Substitute "who" with "he":

"He loves the movie." "Him loves the movie" just doesn't work.

"I visited the woman whom I met at school."

Substitute "whom" with "her":

"I visited her."

9. Use of "Which" and "That".

These are two very common words that are used in every day writing. They are also common grammar mistakes that many writers make with their writing. "That" is crucial to the noun to which it is referring because it is a restrictive pronoun. In other words, it restricts. "I don't trust things that aren't real."

"Which", on the other hand, is a word that introduces a relative clause and qualifies things that aren't essential. It is very flexible and can sometimes be difficult to tell which way is correct.

10. The Words "Lay" and "Lie".

Here's a great one that I get wrong all of the time. "Lay" is a transitive verb requiring a direct subject and one or more objects. "Lie", on the other hand, is an intransitive verb that needs no object.

"I lay the plate on the table."

"The plates lie between the fork and the spoon."

There are other times where most writers make common grammar mistakes using "laid" instead of "lay" when thinking of their past tense use.

"I laid on the sofa." Incorrect

"I lay on the sofa." Correct

11. The Words "Bring" and "Take".

There is a simple fix for this common misuse of words. If you are moving something toward a subject, then use the word "bring". If you are moving something away, use the word "take". It's as simple as that.

12. The Use of "Affect" and "Effect".

Here's one of the common grammar mistakes everyone makes while they are writing. "Affect" and "effect" are actually pretty easy to extinguish once you know the simple rule for them. "Affect" is generally a verb and "effect" is generally a noun. There are a few instances when this is not true, but not often.

"Affect" is to "influence" something. For example, "The wind affected Joy's hair" where as "affected" is a verb.

"Effect" is a "result". For example, "The wind had no effect on Joy's hair" whereas "effect" is a noun or a result of an action.

Now "affect" can be used as a noun, such as with psychology where it means the mood someone appears to have. And "effect" can be used as a verb, such as when it means to "bring about" or "to accomplish". But for the most part, the first rules apply.

13. The Words "May" and "Might".

Here's a couple good words that mess people up. "May" and "might" are modal verbs which are very tricky to work with in the English language. That's because these two words are dealing with the uncertain, not facts. With these two words, they can be interchangeable, but to make things easier, let's define the two words, shall we?

"May" means there is a good probability in something. Just like "may not" means there is "no" probability something will happen, or no permission.

"Might" means there is a weaker probability in something.

14. Use of the Words "Since" and "Because".

Understanding the use of "since" and "because" can be a little tricky. Since is a preposition indicating a beginning point of action. "Because", on the other hand, is meant to show cause or reason for a particular action.

"Joe gave me the ball since he could not hold on to it."

In the above sentence, "since" sounds right while you read it, but it is actually very wrong. The following sentence shows how the sentence should have been written:

"Joe gave me the ball because he could not hold on to it."

You can also write the sentence, "Since Joe could not hold on to the ball, he gave it to me."

15. The Phrase "Could Of" and "Could Have".

These common grammar mistakes happen all of the time with "could", "would", and "should", mainly because of how people say them. The way it should be is "would have", "could have", and "should have".

The reason it often gets messed up is because when it is written in a sentence, it is usually blended together as "would've", "could've" or "should've" and when spoken sounds like "would of", "could of" or "should of". Very simple mistake, but one people make more times than not. This also often happens with "must have".

16. The Use of "Good" and "Well".

These common grammar mistakes are all well and good, but still mistakes are sometimes made. So, do you say, "You look well today," or do you say, "you look good today?" They both sound okay, but one of them is not correct. Or is it?

Well, "Good" is an adjective that is used to qualify or describe a noun. And "well" is an adverb that is used to qualify or describe a verb or action. "Well" also tells to what extent an action is carried out or can also describe one's health.

So, which one is correct above? They are both correct. That is because the verb "look" is a linking verb and links "good" and "well" back to the subject "you". This, of course, is one of the exceptions.

There are many more common grammar mistakes than I can possibly list here. I'm just trying to get some of them out there to you to get you thinking about them a little more. Here are 20 common grammar mistakes that almost everyone gets wrong.

I would love to hear your input on the mistakes that you've made with grammar that you'd like to share. Please send me some of the common grammar mistakes that you've heard of or made in your writing career that could help my visitors avoid the same mistakes. Your suggestions will be added to this page to help others.

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