How to Catch and Avoid Common Mistakes in Writing
Strong writing skills are essential for effective communication, both professionally and personally. However, even seasoned writers may get ripped up by common writing mistakes—we’re all human, after all!
While not uncommon, these errors can hinder your message and leave a negative impression on your readers. So if you want to improve your writing skills and proofreading game, keep reading for our writing tips to help you become a more effective—and mistake-free—writer.
The 4 Most Common Mistakes Made in Writing
In order to write more impactfully, it's essential to understand four common categories of writing mistakes that can diminish the quality of your work: grammar, punctuation, style, and structure.
Here’s what you should be on the lookout for:
1. Grammar Mistakes
- Subject-verb agreement: Ensure that the subject and verb in a sentence agree in number. For example, "The dogs run" (plural) versus "The dog runs" (singular).
- Dangling modifiers: Place a modifier—a word or group of words that provides more information about another word in a sentence—close to the word it modifies to avoid confusion. For example, the modifier "named Rex" is misplaced in this sentence: "I bought a puppy for my brother named Rex." That implies the brother's name is Rex instead of the puppy's. Correctly, it should be: "I bought a puppy named Rex for my brother."
- Inconsistent verb tense: Maintain consistency in verb tense throughout your writing, and avoid switching between past, present, and future tenses. Look at the incorrect example: "Yesterday, Sarah walks to the store, and she will buy some groceries. Then, she ate dinner with her friends.” Correctly, it should be “Yesterday, Sarah walked to the store, and she bought some groceries. Then, she ate dinner with her friends."
2. Punctuation Errors
- Incorrect use of commas: Be mindful of comma placement and usage, especially in compound sentences, after introductory elements, or in a list of items.
- Misuse of apostrophes: Use apostrophes only to indicate possession or contraction.
- Improper hyphenation: Know when to use hyphens, which can join compound words or separate syllables in a word.
3. Stylistic Issues
- Run-on sentences and sentence fragments: Avoid excessively long sentences that lack punctuation, and ensure that each sentence contains a subject and a verb. Here’s an example of what we’d consider a run-on sentence: "I went to the store I bought some groceries I came home and cooked dinner."
- Vague pronoun reference: Clearly establish the antecedent (subject) of a pronoun to avoid confusion. For example, the sentence "John and Bill went out, but he forgot his wallet" should specify who the pronoun "he" refers to.
- Overuse of quotation marks: Only use quotation marks for direct quotes or titles, and avoid using them for emphasis or to indicate figurative language. In such cases, utilize italics or more descriptive vocabulary instead.
4. Structural Problems
- Disorganization: Arrange your thoughts and ideas logically and use paragraphs and headings to guide readers through the content. Tip: Read your writing aloud to ensure it makes sense to you!
- Lists lacking alignment: Maintain consistency in the formatting and structure of lists, using parallel structure in list items and appropriate indentation.
Training Yourself to Better Your Proofreading Skills
With a keen eye and strong understanding of grammatical rules and guidelines, you can produce polished, error-free writing. And in turn, you’ll establish your credibility and professionalism. (That’s what we like to call a win-win.)
So here are a few tips to help improve your editing and error-detecting skills:
- Develop a keen eye for common errors: Read widely and critically to expose yourself to various writing styles and learn from the successes and mistakes of others.
- Improve your proofreading skills: Effective self-editing requires a systematic approach, so try reading your work aloud to catch awkward phrasings or inconsistencies, and take breaks between writing and editing to approach your work with a more critical eye.
- Utilize helpful resources: There are numerous resources available to help you improve your writing, such as grammar and style guides, online tools, and apps. Our favorite? The award-winning Elevate brain training app.
- Practice regularly: Consistent practice is key to improving your writing skills and catching errors before they make it to your final draft. Over time, this will lead to significant improvements in your ability to write error-free.
Start Writing Error-Free and With Confidence Today
The key to improving your writing skills lies in continuous learning, practice, and embracing a growth mindset toward improving your writing.
And if you’re looking for a tool to further support your writing improvement journey, consider downloading the Elevate app, which has been downloaded more than 60 million times and won Apple's App of the Year. The brain training app offers award-winning writing games and exercises designed to help you tackle common writing mistakes and understand the fundamental components of writing, so you can put pen to paper with confidence.
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