10 Grammar Errors that Even the Best Writers Commit

The success of any written material not only relies on great content and interesting plots. There are many contributing factors and grammar is one of those. If George R.R. Martin or J.R.R. Tolkien had written A Song of Fire and The Lord of the Rings with so many grammatical errors, would they have been as successful as they are now? Imagine their books having so many grammar mistakes, would you have still read and understood the story? Probably not. Grammar plays a large and important role in writing and even after years of education or being a native speaker, there are some people who are still guilty of messing up when it comes to grammar.

While there are copy editors who can dot the i's and cross the t's, it's still best to have in-depth knowledge of correct grammar usage.

1. There vs Their vs They're
"They're" is a contraction of the words "they" and "are" while "their" refers to a possession of a group and "there" refers to a place. This is really simple and most people know the meanings of all three words but it can be confusing when you're writing a paragraph simply because all three sound the same.

Example: They're going to stay with their grandparents for their summer vacation. The kids love the beach there.

2. You're vs Your
"You're" is a contraction of the words "you" and "are" while "your" is a possessive pronoun that refers to ownership. Again, these two words sound the same so confusing the two words is not rare.

Example: You're a candidate for Employee of the Year award. Your application for the candidacy was submitted by our department.

3. It's vs Its
"It's" is a contraction of the words "it" and "is" while "its" is possessive.

Example: It's a sunny day which is perfect for playing at the dog park. The dog carried its ball excitedly in its mouth, ready for a day of fetch.

Tip: These contractions are very tricky and confusing and most writing software doesn't list down the usage of these words as errors as long as you've spelled it correctly. Do a ctrl + f to carefully check each sentence and paragraph for it. It's a simple mistake but it's also something that a lot of writers make.

4. Then vs Than
Consider this sentence: "She was better in tennis then him." See the mistake? It sounds the same so it's easy to miss. "Than" is a conjunction used to make comparisons between two objects and "then" is an adverb used to situate actions in time.

Example: If I had a choice, then I would rather eat home cooked meals than order fast food.

5. Effect vs Affect
These two words have completely different meanings even though it sounds and looks almost the same with just one difference which is the first letter. "Effect" is a noun but can also be used as a verb. As a noun, it means the result of a cause and as a verb, it means to cause something to happen. On the other hand, "affect" is a verb which means the impact on something.

Example: The toxic effects of drugs began to affect her thinking.

The new supervisor affected a change in the finance department's organization which in turn, has greatly affected a large number of the accountant.

6. To vs Too
At one point in time, all writers have been guilty of leaving or adding an extra "o" in the words "to" and "too." This is more of a typo error that usually happens when in a hurry. It's a two and three letter word so it's easy to ignore the mistake. "To" is a preposition which can have several meanings like "towards" or "until." "Too" is an adverb which could mean "also" or describes something done in excess.

Example: I plan to travel to Europe during Thanksgiving and I figured I could use some company. I asked Eddie to tag along and he agreed. Would you like to come with us too?

7. Compliment/Complement
A "compliment" is a nice comment someone says about you or something nice you say to others. "Complement" refers to something that accompanies, enhances, completes or improves another thing.

Example: Anna looked so stunning that I could not stop myself from giving her compliments. Her stylish blazer complemented her casual dress.

8. Apostrophes
When and where to use apostrophes can really be tricky. When to use apostrophes:

8.1 When you are using possessive nouns:

- For plural nouns which end in s, add the apostrophe after the s. Example: All the dress' colors in the store were either midnight blue or emerald green.

- For singular nouns, just add apostrophe + s. Example: Her dog's paw was hurt.

- Exceptions: singular names ending in s, such as Alexis or Charles, are made possessive just like singular common nouns so it will be Alexis's and Charles's with the exception of greater names like Jesus', Socrates' and Moses'. Last names ending in s also use apostrophes differently. If you're talking about one person like a certain Mr. Adams, then the same rule for singular nouns applies and the same goes for a plural noun. Example: Mr. Adams's class today was interesting.

The Adams' family was very warm and hospitable.

8.2 Contractions like can + not (can't), do + not (don't)

9. Who vs That
These two words are often confused when describing something. When you're describing an object, use "that" and when you're describing a person, "who" is more appropriate.

Example: Laura is an exemplary employee who not only does a job well done but also shares her ideas with her teammates. Her work ethics are something that should be valued and admired.

10. Title Capitalization
While this one can be tricky because there are different rules for capitalizing titles, it's best to follow the most standard rule

10.1 Capitalize the first and the last word.

10.2 Capitalize nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions.

10.3 Lowercase:

- Articles: a, an, and the

- Coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so

- Prepositions: aboard, behind, under, with, etc.

Speaking the English language is one thing, putting it on paper is different. Even the best native English speakers who speak eloquently with a wide knowledge of vocabulary can make these mistakes. After all, according to some studies, speaking and writing come from different parts of the brain. Reading the content several times and meticulously looking for mistakes should do the trick. While there is no guarantee of a perfectly written piece, it always helps to invite and encourage more readers to browse your work if it's easy to read and understand, free from grammar errors.

- Lane, Janet, and Ellen Lange. "Writing clearly: An editing guide." (1999).

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Last review and update: August 30, 2021
About the Editor
Ben Benjabutr is the editor of BookWorm4Life. He holds a Master's Degree in business with 10+ years of work experience and 8+ years of experience in blogging and online content production. He enjoys reading books about business, lifestyle and literature and he loves to share what he learns from books. You can drop him a line via e-mail.