Grammar Happy: 6 tricky grammatical errors that can ruin your writing

Content, Grammar Happy, Tips
March 11, 2019
by Laura McCormack

When you’re sending out a pitch, good content will only get you so far. A few simple grammatical missteps can ruin the credibility of a story and sometimes even prevent it from making the news.

Grammatical errors happen to all of us and aren’t the end of the world. If you want your writing to sound professional, here are six common grammatical errors to look out for.

1) Dangling modifiers

A modifier, as the name would suggest, it something that will change, alter, or shape another part of your sentence. While well-used modifiers can add colour and definition to your sentences, dangling modifiers will leave your readers confused. Phrases that act as modifiers can often get misplaced and, as a result, a sentence’s meaning may get lost in muddled language.

Example: Hoping to impress friends, the new jeans were happily worn.

Were the jeans trying to impress their friends? Were they happy? The modifier is unclear here as we don’t know who was hoping to impress their friends.

Correction: The boy happily wore his new jeans, he was hoping to impress his friends.

 2) Fragmented Sentences

Sentence fragmentation occurs when a full stop cuts a sentence in half. For a sentence to be functional, it must have at least one independent clause. An independent clause is a group of words that contain both a subject and a verb.

Example: They still wanted to dye their hair blonde. In spite of what everyone thought.

Correction: In spite of what everyone thought, they still wanted to dye their hair blonde.

3) Failure to use introductory commas

As a general rule, commas should be used after an introductory word, phrase or clause. Introductory commas should be used in sentences to indicate a natural pause after an introductory word, phrase or clause.

Example: Before going to the meeting I’d like to prepare my presentation. 

Correction: Before going to the meeting, I’d like to prepare my presentation.

4) Referring to a brand as ‘they’

A brand is not a person, it is a single entity. When referring to a brand you should, therefore, use it rather than they. Using it and they interchangeably when you’re talking about a brand will signal an unclear understanding of some basic grammar rules.

Example: Globex Corporation have changed their business model.

Correction: Globex Corporation has changed its business model.

5) I.e. vs e.g.

These are both very common abbreviations and they are often used interchangeably. I.e. stands for id est, which is Latin for that is. E.g., on the other hand, stands for exempli gratia, meaning for example. I.e. shouldn’t be used when referring to a specific example, and e.g. should only be used to refer to specific examples.

Example: Grammar mistakes are pretty common – i.e. basic grammar rules are often forgotten

Example: Grammar can be misused in a number of ways – e.g. sentences might be fragmented, modifiers might be misused, commas might be missed. 

6) Homophones and incorrect spellings

A homophone is a word that sounds the same as another word but with a different meaning and spelling. Here are some of the most common examples:

Your/You’re

You’re is short for you are while your is possessive.

Example: You’re looking well today, I like your scarf.

Its/It’s

This is one of the most common grammatical errors in the English language. It’s means it is, while its is possessive.

Example: This book is well read, its pages are yellow and its spine is broken. It’s one of my favourites. 

Their/There/They’re

They’re is a contraction for ‘They are’, ‘Their’ is possessive and ‘There’ refers should be used as a noun.

Example: I’m friends with both Gill and Bill, they’re both great! I am looking forward to having dinner at their house tonight. I will be there at seven o’clock.

To/Too

While to is a preposition with a number of different meanings, including until and toward, too is an adverb meaning excessively, also, or in addition.

I can’t wait to go to the beach, Gill is coming too

Compliment/Complement

A compliment is received flattery while complement indicates something that contributes to something else favourably.

I get a lot of compliments about my scarf, I’m told that it complements my complexion. 

Now that you’ve survived this grammar lesson, it’s time to get writing. If you’re writing a press release and would like to access Ireland’s largest online contacts database click here or call Gaye on (01) 254 1845.