The English language can be very tricky. A word, phrase, or sentence correct in spoken English may not necessarily be suitable for written English. So do not be surprised that after all your years as a writer, there are things you still screw up in your writing.
Nonetheless, how do you guide against those grammatical errors you may not even be aware you’ve been making? Well, you should start by reading this article and identify the grammatical mistake that resonates with you most. Ensure you take note of the ones you are guilty of, or, better still, bookmark this page to serve as a reminder.
Their vs There
People often misplace these words. ‘their’ refers to a thing owned by a group of people, while ‘there’ refers to a place. So ensure you check that you are using the right ones in the right places and at appropriate times.
I heard their managing director is around
They’re going there in the morning
Your vs You’re
The contradiction between these is that the former emphasises ownership while the latter emphasises being something. ‘Your’ is in a possessive form while you’re is a contraction of ‘you are’.
How is your project going? Are you wrapping up?
You gave Folakemi your balance – you’re generous
Its vs it’s
A lot of writers are dribbled by these two. ‘Its’ is possessive while ‘it’s’ is a contraction of ‘it is’. This can be particularly confusing because ‘it’s’ has an apostrophe, which often means something is possessive. But in this instance, it is a diminution or contraction.
A dog can be very protective of its puppies
It’s almost time for the meeting
This one can make your writing look quite ridiculous. When you are making comparisons between things, it is important to state what you are actually comparing it with, not just stating the qualities that make it better than the other.
My car is better, faster, and stronger.
Instead, My car is better, faster, and stronger than Olumide’s car.
Whenever you make a comparison between two things or more, ensure you always clarify what you are comparing it with, else, it becomes difficult for your readers to decode what the comparison represents.
This occurs when a descriptive phrase doesn’t apply to the noun immediately following it.
After diminishing for weeks, Uduak tried a new method to soar the company’s sales.
In the above sentence, it is difficult to ascertain what is actually diminishing. Is it Uduak? But in reality, the sentence said that the company’s sales were diminishing – not Uduak. So to address this issue, reset the sentence structure:
Uduak tried a new method to increase the company’s sales after it had been diminishing for weeks.
Referring to a Brand or an Entity As ‘They’
It is imperative to note that a business is not plural; therefore, it should not be qualified with ‘they’. Use the word ‘it’ instead.
To keep up with their new management agenda, Sabi Writers rebranded in 2015. – wrong.
This can be a bit confusing because, in English, brands and entities are not identified as ‘he’ or ‘she’, so ‘they’ seems to make more sense. So to put it right, the sentence will be:
To keep up with its new management agenda, Sabi Writers rebranded in 2014. – correct.
Oftentimes, possessive nouns carry an apostrophe, but where you place the apostrophe can be quite confusing.
All of the dog’s hair grew back.
In the above sentence, ‘all’ implies there is more than a single dog, but the location of the apostrophe informs us there is just one dog. However, you can apply the general tips below to address this pitfall.
You can add the apostrophe after the ‘s’ if the noun is plural.
For example, the dogs’ bones were all crushed.
Affect vs Effect
Most writers confuse these when they are implying that something is changing another thing. For example:
That book effected me profusely- wrong
‘Effect’ with ‘e’ is not used as a verb. Therefore, whenever you are talking about the change in itself, the noun to use is ‘effect’.
That book had a profound effect on me.
But when you are writing about the act of changing, the verb to use is ‘affect’.
The book affected me profusely.
Me vs I
Most English users understand the disparity between these two but default when using it in a sentence.
When you finish the book, send it to Chidimma and I.
Sadly, the sentence above is wrong, despite how appropriate it sounds.
How about you take Chidimma out of the sentence – It sounds absurd, doesn’t it? You will not ask someone to send something to ‘I’ when the person is done. It sounds absurd because ‘I’ is the sentence’s subject, and ‘I’ should not be used as the object. So in that situation, you should use ‘me’. For example:
When you finish the book, send it to Chidimma and me.
Like in every other language, English has its intricacies and tricks; while mastery is a work in progress, you can always get better than you were yesterday by reading articles like this and many others on sabiwriters.com/blog. You can also ease your stress by sending your manuscript to our professional editors to take care of it.