Posted by: Jack Henry | August 19, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Common Mistakes

Good afternoon and happy Thursday, friends!

I had some free time the other afternoon, so I decided to get nerdy and read some grammar articles. I came across an article about common grammar mistakes. As an editor, I see my fair share. As a writer, I certainly make my fair share. But I was curious about what mistakes are most common. I won’t share them all, but I will share a few of the most common of the common mistakes so that we can try to avoid them.

  • Overuse of adverbs

Adverbs usually end in ly. In trying to be descriptive, people tend to overuse them. The following examples show that the adverb doesn’t make the sentence any stronger.

Mistake: I drove really quickly to get to my appointment on time.

Correction: I drove quickly to get to my appointment on time.

  • Misuse of lie/lay

Use the word lay if you are putting something down, but if you are going to make yourself horizontal, use the word lie.

Mistake: Lay your phone down and lay down on the couch with a good book.

Correction: Lay your phone down and lie down on the couch with a good book.

  • Ambiguous pronoun references

Pronouns stand in for nouns. When you use them, you need to make it clear exactly what noun the pronoun stands in for. In the first example below, it is unclear who will receive the bonus. The corrected sentence makes it clear.

Mistake: The managers told the employees that they would receive a bonus.

Correction: The managers told employees that all employees would be getting a bonus.

  • Comma splices/run-on sentences

When two independent sentences are joined with only a comma, we call that a comma splice. When there is no punctuation joining two independent sentences, we call that a run-on sentence. You can fix these mistakes by adding a period and creating two sentences or by adding a comma and a coordinating conjunction.

Mistake: I was very hungry, I ate almost the whole pizza. [comma splice]

Correction: I was very hungry. I ate almost the whole pizza. [period with two sentences}

Correction: I was very hungry, so I ate almost the whole pizza. [comma with coordinating conjunction]

  • Wordiness

Writers used to get paid by the word. These days, business and technical writers are expected to use as few words as possible while still getting the point across clearly. It takes practice and a good bit of revision to pare a sentence down to make it both clear and concise.

Mistake: It has come to our attention that your tax returns are overdue and we urge you to file them at your earliest convenience.

Correction: Your tax returns are overdue. Please file them now.

  • Would of/should of/could of

When we speak, we use a lot of contractions (for example, don’t, couldn’t, aren’t). The spoken contractions for would have (would’ve), should have (should’ve), and could have (could’ve) just happen to sound like would of, should of, and could of. But don’t be fooled: would of (and friends) are not grammatically correct options. If you write these phrases, use the full form, not the contraction: would have, should have, could have.

Mistake: I could of had a V8®!

Correction: I could have had a V8!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

Pronouns she/her/hers

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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