You might not give it much importance, but communicating through writing is still an essential skill in today’s fast-paced world. Even with large technological advances, people still need to be mindful of how they communicate with others through their writing.
In fact, it’s because of our very interconnected lives through the Internet that we’re writing to each other more than ever. Despite fast ways of messaging our friends and work colleagues, taking the time to meticulously proofread every sentence is an important task.
And don’t leave it up to autocorrect to do the job. More often than not, even smart tech can lead to disastrous mistakes. If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.
Here are 6 common writing mistakes that are easiest to spot – and how you can fix them:
Some spelling errors can easily go by unnoticed. Just because you feel like a word you’ve written looks right, doesn’t mean it’s actually right.
There are a number of ways to go about and find and correct these errors. Some people employ the use of autocorrect – but as we’ve already established, even that can result in unwanted and awkward mistakes. Other grammar-checking apps like Grammarly might be more accurate.
But in terms of manually spotting and correcting awkward mistakes, there’s no other way but to train your brain. Check out common English spelling mistakes and see if you find any familiar errors you’ve made in the past.
You can even make it fun and make use of memory tricks to help it stick to you. Otherwise, here’s a quick list of often misspelled words, and their correct counterparts:
1) Tomorrow – often misspelled as tommorrow, tomorow, or tommorrow
2) Receive – often misspelled as recieve
3) Commission – often misspelled as comision, comission, or commision
Commas vs. Periods
Punctuation plays a vital role in how our sentences are read. Imagine reading a sentence with no stops! That’s why proper punctuation is important in sentence construction.
Unfortunately, the most common punctuations are also those most often misused. For this example, we identify the comma as too often used as a replacement for the period.
Note the difference – a comma is for a short breath, while a period is for a longer pause to separate two independent clauses. Still not sure how to go about it?
Consider these samples to see the difference between comma and period use:
Comma: The nineteenth century, which has seen quite a handful of geniuses in its time, was a colorful era.
Period: The nineteenth century was a colorful era. It has seen quite a handful of geniuses in its time.
In the comma’s example, the clause following the subject (“which has seen quite a handful of geniuses in its time”) is a dependent clause. If you wrote it as a separate sentence, it would not make sense.
However, re-written as an independent clause, it can be separated from the rest of the sentence, as we see in the example for the period use.
Another commonly misused punctuation mark is the apostrophe. An apostrophe has one main function: to contract words. Oftentimes, this function of the apostrophe is mixed up with the possessive pronoun.
For instance, it’s is written instead of its. In this example, the former is actually a contraction of two words – it and is. On the other hand, the latter is a possessive pronoun meaning the thing belonging to it.
The best way to correct this mistake is to catch yourself whenever you are about to type this tricky word. Consider what your intention is – is it to contract two separate words? If so, go on. Or is it to indicate a possessive pronoun? Then don’t do it.
Sometimes apostrophes are also used as possessives, but often for proper and common nouns, rather than pronouns. As an example, “Hannah’s” uses an apostrophe, but is not a contraction of “Hannah” and another word. Instead, it is also a possessive. But in this case, “Hannah” is a proper noun, and not a pronoun like “it” in the previous example.
This next point is actually a usually overlooked writing mistake that it’s become common to the point of normality. Unclear comparisons end in hanging sentences. They introduce a thought but leave it hanging mid-sentence.
For example: “I like tea better.”
It sounds like a complete thought, but the statement above is actually uncertain. The author clearly intended to compare tea to something, but did not specify what that something was.
When faced with this dilemma, always ask yourself: what am I comparing my subject to? This could give you a better perspective on what you’re trying to say.
As an improvement on our example, a better sentence would be: “I like tea better than coffee.”
Now we know what the writer is comparing the subject “tea” to.
Passive voice is rarely used in sentences outside formal composition. If you want to give your reader a sense of action and movement, don’t use this at all costs.
But what’s the difference between a passive and active voice, and what effect will it really have on people?
Consider the following sentences and see for yourself:
Passive voice: “A pen was placed on the table.”
Active voice: “Denver placed a pen on the table.”
A clear sense of action by an actor is made in a sentence with an active voice. This is often preferable over a bland and overly formal tone of a passive voice.
Awkward Word Choice
Awkward word choices can be difficult to detect as well simply because we have varying definitions of awkwardness for different people across different cultures. But if you already know who you’re writing for, refining your choice of words can greatly help in delivering the point home and clarifying your intentions.
Note the difference in the two sentences:
1) Kill the water to save energy.
2) Turn off the water to save energy.
In hindsight it seems that both sentences have the same meaning, but we know that the second sentence is the more widely accepted term.
It may be difficult to get past this at first, since it will require a lot of feeling around context on your part, but with plenty of practice and time, you’ll be able to master the art of elegant composition as well!