20 Common Grammar Mistakes

Here are 20 common grammar mistakes made by people. These mistakes often concern minor confusions between similar words e.g. ‘if and ‘whether’, ‘since’ and ‘because’ often used interchangeably in speech and writing.

It may sound like an exercise of splitting hairs, but I think the differences are sufficiently meaningful for now until of course, the dictionary gets an update in future.


Language (better late than never)

You have been speaking (or at least trying to) speak English for the past 14-15 years of your life and your current level of language proficiency is an accumulative reflection of that. Truth is, two short and intense years in a Junior College will not magically improve your language. What you can do, however,  is to  1.) minimize your mistakes, 2.) ensure clear and accurate expression and 3.) build up your vocabulary (both academic and general). 

In a valiant (and hopefully not futile) effort to address (1), this page will contain a list of common mistakes that you seriously need to avoid (for both my sanity and yours). I will continue to update it so do check back often.

7 Deadly Sins of Student Writers

One simply cannot ignore the language component of GP; this dormant weakness will always rear its ugly head in one’s writing (especially under exam conditions). Making mistakes in writing is a perfectly normal act  (i.e. due to social-cultural background, carelessness or other influences) but what a good student, regardless of ability, should do is to recognize his or her mistakes and attempt to slowly rectify them through practice.

To help all of you to be a little more conscious of the biggest kinds of mistakes evidenced in your writing, I highly suggest you read this article and draft out some Chinese New Year resolutions on how to improve your writing. Here’s an excerpt of the most irritating mistake by far:

Gratuitous commas. Let me count the ways. Students seem to reach for a comma whenever they feel any anxiety about a sentence’s syntax, when they find themselves using an unfamiliar word, or when they take a breath: “Approximately, fifteen percent of the class are minority group members.” “Smith described the concert as, ‘a blast.’” “He shares a house with three, senior, pre-med students.” “Class president, Joe Rockwell, presented the award.” All the commas in those sentences need to go. A fairly new but very powerful trend is the insertion of a comma after “And,” “But,” or “Yet” when one of those is the first word in the sentence: “But, the president presented a different viewpoint.”

Fifteen years ago, at the start of my full-time teaching career, I was most struck by the error of the comma splice —that is, the linking of clauses with a comma instead of a period, semicolon, or conjunction. For example: “He was not always this extreme, in fact he started out as a moderate.” These are going stronger than ever; consistently, about a quarter of my students are habitual comma-splicers. Currently quite popular is the incorrect use of “however” as a conjunction roughly synonymous with “but”: “The majority of students go away on spring break, however some stay at home.”