Common Grammar Mistakes In Writing Essays With Examples

17 Jul 2023

how to avoid common grammar mistakes

If you’re a student, essay writing is probably the main challenge of your academic life. Not only finding compelling ideas for your essays can be difficult, but you also have to follow strict grammatical rules or your ideas may be entirely rejected. Learning about common grammar mistakes is the first step to avoid grammatical traps.

You’ve probably noticed there are grammatical rules that can easily become confusing in certain contexts. While studying grammar may seem tedious, making a grammar mistake can undermine all your efforts in writing a good essay.

List Of The Most Common Grammar Mistakes

Most common writing mistakes can easily be avoided if you pay attention to each sentence and keep in mind some rules that can avoid confusing situation. The grammar mistakes examples below should help you take your writing to the next level.

Subject-Verb Agreement

The subject of a sentence must always be in agreement with the verb. They are both either singular or plural.

The best band at the concert was on the main stage.

The best bands at the concert were on the main stage.

Who vs. That

Formally, when writing about a person or a named animal, you must use “who”. The word “that” must be used only to refer to objects or animals without a name.

The girl who spoke is my sister.

The dog that runs was not mine.

There vs. Their vs. They’re

This is certainly one of the most common grammar mistakes in English that even many native speakers struggle with. To understand the differences between these similar words, it is important to remember that “there” expresses a location, “their” is a possessive pronoun, and “they’re” is a contraction of “they are”.

Their house is there.

They’re in their house.

Your vs. You’re

To avoid this common grammatical error, it is enough to remember that “your” refers to owning something, while “you’re” refers to being something.

Your bag is on the table.

You’re great!

You’re at home, and your sister is at school.

Its vs. It’s

The simplest way to avoid this confusion is to check what exactly you want to express because while “its” is a possessive term, “it’s” is a contraction of “it is”.

It’s great to be here.

My phone is great, but its screen is cracked.

Dangling Modifiers

One of the most common grammar mistakes, a dangling modifier occurs when a word or phrase is improperly separated from the words it describes or modifies. Writing thus gets confusing and awkward.

Incorrect: After getting dirty, Paul washed the car.

Correct: After getting dirty, the car needed a wash.

Me vs. I

Many people confuse the two in writing, especially since they are both personal pronouns. To distinguish them, remember that “I” is always the subject of the sentence while “me” is the object.

Send the work to me.

He and I work in the same office.

Who vs. Whom

This is one of the most common grammatical errors among native speakers as well. While “who” always refers to the subject of a sentence, “whom” refers to the object of a verb or preposition.

To whom did you send the letter?

Who is he?

Whose vs Who’s

“Who’s” is the contraction of “who is” while “whose” expresses ownership.

Whose jacket is this?

Who’s in the house?

Less vs. Fewer

This is a common confusion that can easily be explained. You can only use “fewer” for quantifiable things and “less” for things that aren’t quantifiable.

I took fewer trips than usual.

I did less work than usual.

Comma Splice

To separate two independent clauses, many believe that using a comma is enough. A comma, however, cannot connect two independent clauses unless you also use a coordinating conjunction such as and, nor, but, or, yet, for, so. To avoid a comma splice, you can use a semicolon instead of a comma.

Incorrect: Maria left the park, she went to the cinema.

Correct: Maria left the park, and she went to the cinema.

Was Vs. Were With The Subjunctive

The subjunctive is used to express hypothetical situations or hopes. While it is not difficult to use, there is a rule that people often forget: when the subject is oneself or a singular object, you should use “were” instead of “was”.

Incorrect: If I was rich, I would buy a mansion.

Correct: If I were rich, I would buy a mansion.

Faulty parallelism

This grammatical mistake refers to having paired constructions or items in a series which are not grammatically similar in form.

Incorrect: He loved music, food, and plays football.

Correct: He loved music, food, and playing football.

Imprecise Use of Pronouns

Pronouns are meant to replace nouns to make writing flow better, but when a person or thing a pronoun refers is unclear, this can leave the reader confused.

Incorrect: When Ana found her sister, she was happy.

Correct: Ana was happy when she found her sister.

Colon Mistakes

The colon is useful when you want to introduce a word, phrase, list, or quotation after a complete sentence. The role of the colon is to suggest that what follows is an explanation of a complete sentence.

Incorrect: I love: music, food, and sports.

Correct: I love three things: music, food, and sports.

Then vs. Than

These two words are often confused in writing, although they serve different grammatical functions. While “than” is a conjunction most commonly used in comparisons, “then” is an adverb that situates actions in time.

Correct: My house is bigger than yours.

First I saw you, then I saw him.

Of vs. Have

Due to speech contractions, grammatical mistakes such as writing “should of” instead of “should have” are prevalent even among English native speakers. For many, “should of” sounds like a shortened version of “should have”. The actual shortened version, however, is “should’ve”.

Incorrect: I should of done my homework.

Correct: I should’ve done my homework.


The role of semicolons is to connect two independent clauses that are closely related, so it makes sense to join them. The semicolon is also useful when looking to separate items in a list when those items contain commas.

Send me the text; I’ll provide some feedback.

You have two options: go to Paris, where you will spend a lot of money; or go to Avignon, where it is cheaper.

Between vs. Among

The word “between” is used usually to refer to two things that are clearly distinct from each other. The word “among” is used to refer to things that are part of a group or mass of objects, so they are clearly separated.

I walk among my friends.

I chose between pizza or a hamburger.

Missing the Comma after an Introductory Phrase

While some overuse commas, others forget to add them. Without all the proper commas in place, your writing loses its natural flow. Adding a comma after the introductory phrase is essential to maintain a rhythm.

Incorrect: After I went home I had to do some work.
Correct: After I went home, I had to do some work.

Like many other languages, English is a complex system with some tricky rules which cannot be logically inferred. Developing writing skills, however, is impossible without a good grasp of all the grammatical intricacies.

Tools That Help Minimize Common Grammatical Errors In Your Essay

If you’re still not confident in your grammar skills and would like some help, there are several professional tools that allow you to keep your writing in check and quickly identify most prevalent grammatical errors in your essay.


A powerful writing assistant based on artificial intelligence, Grammarly is one of the most powerful grammar tools on the web. It can quickly scan your text and identify all common grammar mistakes in writing.

Ginger Grammar Checker

Using innovative technology, Ginger Grammar Checker can quickly correct grammar and spelling mistakes, without disregarding the context of each sentence.

Virtual Writing Tutor

Virtual Writing Tutor is a grammar check and proofreading website. The software provides accurate and comprehensive suggestions that can help you correct your grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Using these tools does not prevent you from all possible mistakes, including those mentioned in the previous paragraphs, but this will definitely provide you with that double-check option to ensure that everything you wrote sounds the way you wanted.

How To Become A Better Writer?

Writing a good essay is a challenge, but there are several steps to writing an essay which can make the task easier if you take some aspects into consideration.

Edit Thoroughly

Editing is not a task for a couple of minutes after spending hours or days working on an essay. Good writers suggest you should spend at least two hours editing for every hour you spend writing. When writing, you focus on the content, and during editing you focus on form, correcting grammar mistakes and bringing your essay to a concise and powerful shape.

Know the Rules

Grammar is tedious, but it is more tedious to doubt every sentence because you are uncertain whether you are using the correct structure and whether your punctuation makes sense. Learning grammar rules gives you a certain ease in writing and allows you to write clear sentences fast.

When writing, most of us focus on our ideas, but the truth is, presenting those ideas is equally important. Grammar problems indicate a lack of professionalism and can easily invalidate your great ideas. Learning the essentials of grammar is a long-term investment that will help you carve perfect essays effortlessly.

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