eContent Pro provides professional English Language Copyediting & Proofreading services for thousands of customers around the world. Our copy editors and proofreaders are often witness to a number of common writing errors that appear across all forms of documents.
Below, we have identified for you the top 13 writing mistakes and tips on how to avoid making these mistakes in your own writing.
Avoid Incorrect Subject/Verb Agreement – Make Sure Your Subjects and Verbs Match!
You don’t want to use a plural pronoun with a singular subject, and vice versa. The best way to ensure that your subjects and verbs are in agreement is to look at them outside of the sentence and make sure that your writing is consistent and doesn’t flip-flop throughout your document.
Avoid Long/Confusing Run-On Sentences OR Sentence Fragments
Too many “never-ending,” run-on sentences can get confusing in your document. If you feel like you have been writing the same sentence for a while, it is best to split it up and break it into smaller, more manageable thoughts. You will need to be careful while doing this and make sure that each of your sentences are a complete sentence so you aren’t breaking your thoughts into too many pieces and causing sentence fragments.
Avoid Incorrect Use of Commas
Commas are a useful tool that can be used to help guide your readers. When commas are used incorrectly, either too many or too few, it can lead to confusion and a misunderstanding of your content. Read your document over and pause every time you have written a comma. If you are pausing too often or not enough, you will need to look at your commas again.
Avoid the Overuse of Pronouns OR Incorrect Pronouns
Overusing pronouns can cause confusion, as your reader may lose track of whom you are referring to. Additionally, you will want to be sure that your pronoun matches the word it is replacing. Re-read your sentences to ensure that you can directly identify the person a pronoun is referring to.
Avoid Splitting Infinitives
A split infinitive is a phrase consisting of an infinitive with another word, such as an adverb, inserted between to and a verb, such as “She seems to really like it.” In most cases, the adverb or other word splitting the infinitive is not necessary and just adds an additional word to the sentence. When you find yourself with a split infinitive, review your sentence to see if the splitting word helps improve the sentence, or if you can go without it or move it either before or after the infinitive. If you can go without it or move it, do so.
Avoid Adding Two Spaces Between the Period Ending a Sentence and the Beginning of the Next Sentence
This error is a holdout from the days of typewriters. When writing on a typewriter, the author needed to insert two spaces between a period and the beginning of the next sentence to enhance the readability of the document. Once the computer became the main tool used for writing, it brought with it a variety of fonts, many of which allow the author to enhance the readability of the document by simply changing the font, thus eliminating the need for the extra space.
When you are writing your document, you should always be sure to include organizational tools such as headings, subheadings, bullet points, numbering, and other formatting tools to help guide your reader through your outline and the organization of your document.
Avoid the Overuse of Quotation Marks to Emphasize Words
Using quotation marks to make your point or convey your intended meaning will only clutter your sentence and lead to confusion. There are various other tools that you can use in your text to emphasize a section of it. Alternatively, you can strive to use words that accurately convey your meaning and show emphasis on their own.
Avoid Improper Hyphenation
You will want to be sure that you are using hyphens correctly. Hyphens should be used to create a compound adjective, when showing a period of time, when spelling out compound numbers from 21-99, and when using prefixes with proper nouns, or to avoid confusion with a different word. Do not put spaces before or after the hyphen in your sentence. If you are unsure of yourself when using a hyphen, you can review our hyphen post for a detailed explanation of correct hyphen usage.
Avoid Dangling Modifiers
You will want to be sure that when you are including modifiers in your sentences it is clear which word or phrase they are describing. If you review your sentence and are unsure of the subject of the modifier, you should see if you can rework the sentence to make your meaning clear.
Avoid Improper Use of Apostrophes
You will want to be sure that you are using this punctuation mark correctly. Apostrophes are used to show possession and to show that a word is a contraction. Generally, apostrophes are not used to make a word plural. Learn more about correct apostrophe usage.
Avoid Inconsistent Verb Tense
You will want to be sure that you stay consistent with the tenses of your verbs throughout your writing. You can determine whether you should write in past or present tense, but you will need to be sure that it is consistent throughout your document.
Avoid Lists That Lack Cohesion and Alignment
It is important to make sure that any time you include a list in your writing, you are aligning the items with each other so that it is cohesive. You can ensure this alignment by starting each sentence with the same part of speech and staying consistent with your list items being complete sentences or fragments. If you use even one complete sentence in your list, you will need to use a period at the end of each item.
Hopefully these tips are helpful in your writing. eContent Pro offers additional writing and grammar tips on our blog. Need professional English Language Copyediting & Proofreading services? Our editorial team is here to help! With more than 70 years of combined experience, they can provide complete and comprehensive care for your document by resolving all issues with spelling, punctuation, grammar, terminology, jargon, semantics, syntax, consistency, flow, and more.
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