Download Essay Lab Study Guide

Subscribe Now

How to Correct 9 Common Writing Mistakes

We have all been guilty of mangling the English language at one point or another. Sometimes a handy reminder is all that is needed to keep your writing error-free and your communication clear. Here is a list of 9 common writing mistakes and how to avoid them.  

1) Its versus It’s. The incorrect use of an apostrophe can cause confusion or make you appear to be a sloppy writer. Remember, in the case of “its” versus “it’s,” the apostrophe is a conjunction, the mark taking the place of the “i” in the word “is” or “ha” in the word “has.” The word “its” grants possessiveness. For example: “It had the bird in its teeth.”

If you are confused about whether the right word is “it’s” or “its,” simply replace the apostrophe with “is” or “has” and choose the one that makes sense.

2) Spell-Check: friend and foe.
Spell-check is a marvelous invention, but remember that a human eye is usually necessary to avoid unintended meanings. As humorist Dave Barry points out, spell-check would say “A-okay!” to the following: “Deer Mr. Stromple: It was a grate pleasure to meat you’re staff and the undersigned look foreword too sea you soon inn the near future.” Whoops!

3) Their, they’re, and there. An easily overlooked mistake is the misuse of the words “their,” “they’re,” and “there.” 

  • “Their” is a pronoun: “Their vacation home is in Jamaica."
  • “They’re” is a contraction of the words “they” and “are”: “They’re on their way home.”   
  • The trickiest word is “there” because it can be an adverb, pronoun, noun, or interjection. Examples: “She is from there originally” (pronoun); “You can take it from there, Watson!” (noun). “There! I am done with it!” (interjection).  

4) Dates and numerals. Be careful when spelling out dates and numerals. It is proper to write “November 11, 2007” or “42nd Street.” When writing dialogue, however, it is usually best to write the numeral out, as in, “Yesterday, I turned eighteen.”  

A very common error in punctuating dates is to grant possessiveness to a time period. For example, you should write, “Disco was the music of the 1970s,” not  “Disco was the music of the 1970’s.” In this case, you are expressing a plural idea, not a possessive one.  

5) Don’t add unnecessary words. Make your writing work, not your reader! Don’t use several words to do the job of a single one. For example, the phrase “at the present time” should be changed to “now.” The phrase “in the immediate future” should be shortened to “soon.” And “for the reason...

(The entire section is 652 words.)