You may study English grammar rules during your free time, but that doesn’t mean you can improve your communication skills.
Let’s start by learning one nuance of proper grammar, such as the difference between May and Can.
The usage of May implies permission. You are certainly allowed to study English grammar skills during your free time. You may.
But can you improve? The word Can is chosen to refer to the ability to do something. Hopefully, you can improve your grammar skills by studying.
Written and spoken language are the main way people communicate. Let’s get started with the 40 most common mistakes.
40 Most Common Grammar Mistakes You Should Avoid in Business
When you’re communicating with people away from work, a grammar mistake may slip under the radar with those readers.
Business associates aren’t as forgiving. In fact, here’s the first rule of business communication:
Always re-read what you’ve written before you send it to someone. If possible, have another pair of eyes check the communication too.
Here’s a second rule for the list:
Accept that you as an individual may be extremely talented in one field but have poor writing skills. Your poor writing skills don’t create a good impression. Always double-check your business communications.
Knowing how to write business English requires a solid grasp of grammar. And identifying common grammar mistakes is one way to learn. Here are the most common mistakes.
1. Comma Splices
If you throw in a comma where you really need a semi-colon or a conjunction, you’ve made the comma splice error. Commas are commonly overused in situations where they aren’t needed. Too many commas probably means you need to break clauses into sentences.
Use a semi-colon when you’re connecting two related sentences.
Incorrect Example: Don is a good team leader, workers trust his judgement.
Correct Example: Don is a good team leader; workers trust his judgement.
Correct Example: Don is a good team leader and workers trust his judgement.
If you’re struggling and not sure what type of punctuation to use, you can simply use short sentences.
Correct Example: Don is a good team leader. Workers trust his judgement.
2. Sentence Fragments
A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence. It doesn’t have the correct sentence structure, noun and verb. Clauses are not complete sentences. People use that form in speech, but shouldn’t in written communication.
It’s easy to fall into this habit because of how we text. We often text without proper capitalization, punctuation and sentence structure.
Incorrect Example: (Cover letter) I am interested in your office administrator position. Well qualified with two-year degree. Have worked in the the field.
Correct Example: I am interested in your office administrator position. I have a two-year degree in business administration from XYZ Community College, and have worked as an office manager for ABC Company for two years.
3. Not Using a Coordinating Conjunction
A coordinating conjunction is a word used to link two parts of a sentence. The two most common conjunctions are And and But. They are not interchangeable.
Incorrect Example: Don stayed late to complete the project but Stephanie joined him.
Correct Example: Don stayed late to complete the project and Stephanie joined him.
The incorrect use in the first sentence implies that although Don stayed late to complete the project, Stephanie hampered his effort. In the correct example, Stephanie joined forces with Don to complete the project.
4. Passive Voice
Using passive voice in sentences isn’t necessarily incorrect, but it can make a sentence lack energy.
Incorrect Example: The project was completed well by Don’s team.
Correct Example: Don’s team aced the project.
5. Squinting Modifiers
You’d squint at an object if you weren’t sure what you were seeing. That’s a good analogy to use to describe a squinting modifier.
A word is misplaced, and interferes with clearly grasping the meaning of the sentence.
Incorrect Example: Weight training quickly builds muscles.
(Are you supposed to do the weight training quickly? Or does the weight training quickly build muscles?)
Correct Example: Weight training builds muscles quickly.
6. Incorrect Use of Apostrophes
An apostrophe is most commonly misused when used for singular or plural possessives. An apostrophe can also be mistakenly omitted when a conjunction of two words is used.
An apostrophe may be the smallest form of punctuation, while being the biggest source of errors.
Incorrect Example: I cant make the meeting Tuesday morning. The companies board of directors is meeting then and I must attend.
Correct Example: I can’t make the meeting Tuesday morning. The company’s board of directors is meeting then and I must attend.
7. They’re, Their or There
They’re is the conjunction of They Are. Their is a possessive pronoun. There is the word for a place.
Incorrect Example: There placing they’re laptops over their on the conference table.
Correct Example: They’re placing their laptops over there on the conference table.
8. Using They for a Brand Entity
Even though a company or a brand involves a number of workers or locations, it is a singular entity. It is the pronoun to use. In writing the It pronoun must be paired with a singular verb.
Incorrect Example: Amazon is hiring. They are a good company.
Correct Example: Amazon is hiring. It is a good company.
9. To Vs. Too
Too means more. It is an adverb. To is a preposition with an object.
Incorrect Example: Are you going too be able to finish this project? Can you design the flyers to?
Correct Example: Are you going to be able to finish this project? Can you design the flyers too?
10. Dangling Modifiers
A dangling modifier occurs when a descriptive phrase isn’t properly connected to what it’s describing.
Incorrect Example: Hoping to impress the client, the project scored points for Don.
Correct Example: The project scored points for Don, hoping to impress the client.
11. Incorrect Comma Usage
A comma can be used when it’s not needed or not used when it is needed.
Just ask Rachel Ray about her less-than-stellar magazine cover which used the words “finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog.”
The cover should have read “find inspiration in cooking, her family and her dog.”
Incorrect Example: Managers like workers who try hard are reliable and promote the company.
Correct Example: Managers like workers who try hard, are reliable and promote the company.
12. Overuse of Adverbs
An adverb adds description to a verb and often ends in “ly.” Adverbs can be overused in an attempt to add more emphasis.
Incorrect Example: Don honestly and sincerely thanked his team for their input.
Correct Example: Don sincerely thanked his team for their input.
13. Incorrect Title Capitalization
In a title, do not capitalize prepositions or conjunctions. A preposition or conjunction is only capitalized if it is the first word of a title.
Incorrect Example: The Word of The People.
Correct Example: The Word of the People.
14. Colon and Semicolon Use
A semicolon can be used to connect two related sentences. A colon can be used at the end of a sentence when a list follows.
Incorrect Example: Don is a good team leader, workers trust his judgement.
Correct Example: Don is a good team leader; workers trust his judgement.
Correct Example: Don has the qualities of a team leader: good judgement, stellar working ethic and high degree of enthusiasm.
15. Your vs. You’re
Your is possessive. You’re is a contraction of You are.
Incorrect Example: We appreciate you’re input on the project. Your our go-to person on the next one!
Correct Example: We appreciate your input on the project. You’re our go-to person on the next one!
16. Excess Adverbs
A verb is an action word. Adverbs modify verbs.
Incorrect: The workers quickly, efficiently and rapidly scooped the ice cream onto cones as the line of customers formed.
Correct: The workers efficiently scooped the treat onto cones as the line of customers formed.
17. Too Many Prepositional Phrases
This mistake with prepositions can often be prevented by shortening sentences. If you can’t read a sentence without pausing for breath, it is probably too long.
Incorrect: Don launches a project with careful employee selection, without using any favoritism, on a tight time schedule and with a strategic plan already in place.
Correct: Don launches a project with careful employee selection, showing no favoritism. He’ll have a strategic plan with a tight time schedule.
18. Pronoun Disagreement
Pronoun disagreement typically occurs between singular and plural use. Some pronouns are singular, such as he or she. Some are plural, such as they. The verbs that are used with such pronouns must also be singular or plural, to match.
Incorrect: He use the forklift on the Friday shift. They uses it on Saturday,
Correct: He uses the forklift on the Friday shift. They use it on Saturday.
19. Do diligence Vs. Due diligence
Remember it this way. If you’re making a purchase, you should do due diligence. Do is the action. Due is an adjective describing the type of diligence (that which is due).
Incorrect: When buying a business, do diligence on the business by obtaining financial records.
Correct: When buying a business, perform due diligence on the business by obtaining financial records.
20.Its and It’s
It’s is a contraction for It is. Its is possessive, a thing possesses something.
Incorrect: When its time for a person to pick up a pet from the Doggie Day Care, she is greeted by a dog wagging it’s tail.
Correct: When it’s time for a person to pick up a pet from the Doggie Day Care, she is greeted by a dog wagging its tail.
21.Then and Than
Then refers to time. Than is used when making a comparison.
Incorrect: Don is a better worker then Stephanie.
Correct: Don is a better worker than Stephanie.
Incorrect: Don than shifted gears and started a new project.
Correct: Don then shifted gears and started a new project.
22.Fewer and Less
Fewer is used when numbers are definite. It is used before plural nouns. Less is used when numbers are not exact.
Incorrect: Company workers missed fewer days last year. Less workers missed days last year.
Correct: Company workers missed less days last year. Fewer workers missed days last year.
23.Lie and Lay
Lie is used to describe a flat or stagnant position. Lay is the act of placing something in a position.
Incorrect: The valley lays between the two mountain chains. Don lied his briefcase down on a rock and enjoyed the view.
Correct: The valley lies between the two mountain chains. Don lay his briefcase down on a rock to enjoy the view.
24.Who and Whom
Who’s on first? That’s the correct usage.
Who is a person who is doing something to an object.. Whom is the object being acted upon.
Incorrect: Whom is doing what to who?
Correct: Who is doing what to whom?
25.Ending a Sentence with a Preposition
This is one of the most common grammar mistakes. It can be made more awkward by correction.
Incorrect: Stephanie is the woman I ride to work with.
Correct: Stephanie is the woman with whom I ride to work.
Does the correct version sound a bit stuffy to you? Change the sentence. Stephanie and I ride together to work.
26.Nor and Or
Nor goes with neither. Or is used as a bridge between a comparison. Remember the Post Office motto: Neither rain, nor snow………
Incorrect: Neither rain, or snow……..
Correct: The workers will deliver the mail if it is raining or snowing.
27.Seen and Subject/Agreement of Verbs
This is another of the common grammar mistakes. It’s I saw, you saw, she/he saw. Seen is not a stand-alone verb.
Incorrect: He seen it happening, but could do nothing to prevent it.
Correct: He saw it happening, but could do nothing to prevent it.
28.Farther and Further
Farther is used to describe a distance that can be defined or measured. Further means “in addition” as in furthermore.
Incorrect: Don can jump further than Stephanie.
Correct: Don can jump farther than Stephanie.
29.Effect vs. Affect
Something effects something if it causes a result. The affect is the result.
Incorrect: The lack of toner affected the copy machine. The print quality was effected.
Correct: The lack of toner effected the copy machine. The print quality was affected.
30.Which, Who or That
Which is used for things or ideas. That can also be used for things or ideas. Who is the choice for describing a person.
Incorrect: The chair who has a broken leg is a safety hazard for people.
Correct: The chairperson who has a broken leg can’t return to work yet. The chair which has a broken leg should be replaced with a new one.
31.Past or Passed
Past refers to events that previously happened. Passed means overtook.
Incorrect: The bonus won’t be given to passed employees. New employees past the entrance exam.
Correct: The bonus won’t be given to past employees. New employees passed the entrance exam.
32.Accept or Except
If you accept something, you take or receive it. Except means that something is excluded.
Incorrect: Stephanie took everything accept the stapler when she was fired. She excepted her last paycheck.
Correct: Stephanie took everything except the stapler when she was fired. She accepted her last paycheck.
33.Good or Well
How do you feel? Good? Wrong. You feel well. Good is used as an adjective before a noun. Well is an adverb that typically goes after a verb.
Incorrect: Stephanie didn’t feel good, and didn’t work good.
Correct: Stephanie didn’t feel well, and didn’t do a good job.
34.Whose and Who’s
When pronounced, they sound the same. That may be one of the reasons these words are often misused in sentences.
Incorrect: Who’s jacket was left in the closet? Whose going to claim it?
Correct: Whose jacket was left in the closet? Who’s going to claim it?
35.Gone and Went
Went is the past tense of go. It can stand alone. Gone can’t stand alone.
Incorrect: I went to the meeting. I should have went home.
Correct: I should have gone home.
36.Me or I?
Me and I are often part of a phrase. Which to use? When in doubt, try it out alone and see if it fits.
Incorrect: Stephanie and me went to the concert. (Me went to the concert.)
Correct: Stephanie and I went to the concert. (I went to the concert.)
37.Between or Among
If you’re comparing two things, it’s Between. If you’re comparing more than one thing, it’s Among.
Incorrect: The manager couldn’t choose between Don, Stephanie and Frank.
Correct: The manager couldn’t choose between Don and Stephanie. The manager couldn’t make a choice among Don, Stephanie and Frank.
38.Could you care less?
Incorrect: I could care less who gets promoted. (This means you COULD care less than you do now.)
Correct: I couldn’t care less who gets promoted. (This means you care a certain amount, the least amount you could care.)
39.Could of, Could Have?
People get this one wrong all the time. It’s a common misuse of words.
And the misuse of words in a similar phrase is also common as Would Of and Should Of.
Incorrect: I should of gone to the bank. I could of. It would of saved me time later.
Correct: I should have gone to the bank. I could have. It would have saved me time later.
40.May and Can
We round up our study of words back at the beginning.
Correct: I may have learned something while reading this article. I can now someone who will be more skillful in writing.
How can we avoid common grammar mistakes?
Even though you’re the author, always reread what you’ve written.
If you can, have other writers/readers take a look.
Use the internet to check yourself. Use searches such as “when to use Who and Whom” to ensure you’re choosing the correct word.
Many writers take the time to read their writing out loud, to themselves or to someone else. If the sentences are too awkward to read, shorten them.
How can I check grammar mistakes?
There are some great software programs that someone can use to check for grammatical errors. Here’s a list:
How can I improve my language skills in business and set an example?
Set an example where your words can be viewed by public access, such as company email, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Company email, Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook are not places where you want to air examples of poor writing.
Before relying on software, write it. Use the software corrections to teach yourself how to become a better business writer and choose the correct word or phrase.
Be a reader. Look at articles successful people have written and study the way they use the written word. Similarly, take a look at a business writing tips book or two, they are a great resource for addressing a specific audience.