Whether you’re drafting a professional email for work purposes or writing content to share online, proper grammar is important. Grammar mistakes get in the way of a reader’s ability to understand what you are trying to convey. It may seem technically annoying, but learning the structural rules that govern writing is very important. Improve your writing skills by avoiding the 10 most common grammar mistakes that most writers make.

1. Misuse of the Semicolon
The semicolon is a punctuation mark that is used to separate two complete sentences that relate to each other; two complete sentences connected with a transition; and it is used to prevent confusion with complicated lists. The common mistakes often made with the semicolon include linking dependent clauses with independent clauses and use after an introductory element.

2. Double Negatives
A double negative happens when you use two negatives in the same sentence when only one is necessary. When you use a double negative, it expresses a positive, which changes the meaning of the sentence.

For Example:

“I don’t want nothing,” is a double negative that translates into “I want something.”

“I don’t want anything”conveys the correct message.

3. “There,” “They’re” and “Their”

Although this rule is simple, it is a common mistake easily made when these words are used interchangeably. “They’re” is a contraction of “they” and “are;” the word “their” shows possession; and “there” is used to describe a place.

For Example:

There is only one pot of coffee left in the conference room — go quick before Tawny and Jackson get to it first.

They’re going to get to it first if you don’t hurry, they’re severely under caffeinated.

It’s theirs now, you did not move quick enough. Now you have to go to Starbucks. Pick me up a latte while you’re there.

(In this scenario, proper grammar can not only clarify meaning, but it can also save you money.)

4. Subject and Verb Agreement
When writing, the subject and verb must agree in numbers, at all times. They both must be either singular or plural. For example, “The student plays” is singular, which is seen by the subject “student” and the verb “plays” used to create the sentence. “The children play” is plural.” There are situations when the subject of a sentence is composed of two or more pronouns or nouns connected by “and.” When this happens, use a plural verb.

For Example:

Tim and his friends are at the mall.

5. Comma Splices
A comma splice happens when a comma appears between two independent clauses without a coordinating conjunction. Examples of coordinating conjunctions include: “or,” “and,” “for,” “but,” “yet,” and “so.” An independent clause forms a complete thought.

For Example:

Doug was running late to the meeting, he had to wait almost 20 minutes to be let in.

Adding the word “and” after the comma corrects the comma splice.

Doug was running late to the meeting, and he had to wait almost 20 minutes to be let in.

6. Sentence Fragments
A complete sentence has a subject, verb and it conveys a complete thought. If anyone of these elements are missing, you have a fragment. Correct sentence fragments by adding the missing components.

7. Its vs. It’s
Under typical circumstances, an apostrophe is used to show possession. However, apostrophes are also used to replace omitted letters. “It’s” is used to replace the words “it is.” You can use the word “it’s” when you’re about to describe something. Use “its “when you want to show ownership of something.

8. Misuse of the Apostrophe
Many writers mistakenly misuse apostrophes when forming possessives and plurals. The rule is simple, use an apostrophe to show possession and not a plural. It is also used to mark omitted letters in contractions.

9. Ending Sentences with Prepositions
There are more than 100 prepositions in English. They link nouns, phrases and pronouns to other words in a sentence. “At,” “of,” “to,” “by” and “for” are examples of prepositions. Do not end your sentences with prepositions.

10. Agreement Between the Pronoun and Antecedent
A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun, and an antecedent is a word for which a pronoun stands. The pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number. Sometimes problems occur with words like “each,” “one,” “neither” and “either,” which are singular and require singular pronouns.

An excellent writer never stops learning and practicing to hone this creative craft. Use this common grammar mistake tip sheet to make certain you have an understanding of the conventions of writing.