Common Grammar Mistakes Continued

In the previous article, we looked at common grammar mistakes, including the misuse of certain words and commas. In this article, the focus will be on apostrophes.

Apostrophes are possibly the most commonly misused piece of punctuation. Often people put apostrophes in words when they are not needed, in the wrong place within a word, or forget to use them at all. The incorrect use of or lack of an apostrophe can completely change the meaning of a word, and could also make the word incomprehensible.

The first way in which apostrophes can be used is to replace a missing letter. This means that either two words or one long word can be shortened using an apostrophe. For example:

Do not = don’t
Will not = won’t
Cannot = Can’t
I have = I’ve
Would have = would’ve (people often confuse ‘would’ve’ for meaning ‘would of’, but in English grammar this is incorrect)
They have = they’ve
You have = you’ve
You are = you’re
It is = it’s (this can often be confusing and will be further explained, but as can be seen in this example, ‘it’s’ is a contraction and not possessive)

However, with respect to all of the above examples it is best not to use such contractions in academic writing, as it is less formal. ‘I cannot begin to understand the significance of apostrophes’ will be better received than ‘I can’t begin to understand the significance of apostrophes’ by the person reviewing your work. So when writing a formal piece of academic work it is best to write in the full form.

As mentioned above ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ go against the normal rules of grammar and apostrophe use, which can confuse even the most advanced of writers. ‘Its’ is often used as a possessive adjective and does not need an apostrophe in this case. For example:

The mouse scuttled into its hole

The second way in which apostrophes can be used is for possessive nouns. For example:

The cat’s bed
The school’s motto
Travis’s bookshop
The boy’s shoes
Alison’s car

However, when these are describing plurals, the apostrophe is placed at the end. For example:

The cats’ beds (beds belonging to two or more cats)
The schools’ mottos (the mottos of two or more schools)
Travises’ bookshops (two or more bookshops belonging to the Travis’)
The boys’ shoes (shoes belonging to two or more boys)
Alisons’ cars (cars belonging to two or more people named Alison)

It is important to remember that apostrophes must never be used to represent plurals (more than one of something). The following examples show an incorrect statement in red, and the correction in green:

TV’s for sale TVs for sale                                    TVs for sale
100’s of offers 100s of offers                            100s of offers
Apple’s grown here Apples grown here            Apples grown here
Discounted sofa’s Discounted sofas                Discounted sofas


Common Grammar Mistakes

As modern technology continues to evolve and become a greater part of our lives, improper use of grammar is becoming more and more common.

There is now no longer a need for people to focus on what they are typing into their devices as there is an assumption that ‘autocorrect’ will pick up and correct any errors. This reliance on technology and the increasing use of text speak is leading to a reduction in the quality of academic writing as many people forget the basics.

Some of the most common grammar mistakes include incorrect use of the words ‘they’re’, ‘their’ and ‘there’, as well as ‘your’ and ‘you’re’. Looking at these examples, once a person understands the definition of each term, it is much easier to use them correctly:

• ‘They’re’ – a contraction of ‘they are’, They’re going to the shops
• ‘Their’ – belonging to a person, They forgot their lunches
• ‘There’ – where something is, I found my glasses over there

• ‘Your’ – belonging to you, Is that your car?
• ‘You’re’ – a contraction of ‘you are’, You’re going to be late for school

As a whole, contractions tend to confuse a lot of people. To decide whether or not you are using a contraction correctly, first try using the whole term within the sentence. If ‘they are’ would still make sense in the same sentence, then the contraction ‘they’re’ can be used.

Recently, it has become prevalent on social media that more people have started to confuse the words ‘genuinely’ and ‘generally’. The two words have very different meanings, and using them incorrectly in an academic piece of writing would be seen as a big mistake:

• ‘Genuinely’ – authentic, real and true, I genuinely passed my exam
• ‘Generally’ – usually, as a whole, in general, I generally don’t enjoy jazz music

In addition to the incorrect use of words, grammar mistakes can come in the form of improper use of punctuation. The most commonly misused or forgotten includes colons, semi-colons, commas and apostrophes. In this article we will look at commas and their various uses.

Commas

Commas have many uses, but a lot of people either put them in the wrong place, or do not use them in a sentence where they could be beneficial to the writing. Commas can be used to separate articles in a list:

‘I went to town and bought a bag, a purse, three pairs of jeans, and a pair of boots’ (the last comma is optional, known as an ‘Oxford comma’)

Commas can also be used to separate independent clauses. An independent clause is something that can form a sentence on its own. If the second part of a sentence would make sense as a complete sentence, then add a comma in between. For example:

‘David and I went to the beach, and we spent the whole day arguing’

Finally, a comma may also be used following an introductory word or phrase:

‘However, we made up on the drive home’
‘In addition to this, we forgot to put our towels in the boot’

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How To Use The Colon?

The colon acts as a pause which introduces related information. It indicates that the reader should look forward to information that follows on from the earlier statement. Some of the main ways a colon can be used are shown below.

To introduce a list

The colon can be used to introduce the items in a list.

Topics discussed will include: the structure of viruses, virus families and current concerns in virology.

Students joining the department undertake to: attend all lectures and tutorials, meet deadlines for written work and
contribute to tutorials and seminars.

To introduce an explanation, conclusion or amplification

The colon can also be used to introduce an explanation, conclusion or amplification of an earlier statement. The use of the colon separates and highlights the second statement, showing that it follows on from the first.

Tai chi is more than a form of physical exercise: it is meditation in movement.

After extensive research, the committee came to its conclusion: development could not take place without further funding.


Semi-Colons: How To Use Them?

Semi-Colons: How To Use Them?

Using semi-colons

The semi-colon represents a break within a sentence that is stronger than a comma, but less final than a full stop. It enables the writer to avoid over use of the comma and preserves the finality of the full stop. Semi-colons are used to separate items in a list and to link closely related sentences.

To separate items in a list

Use the semi-colon to separate items in a list when one or more items contain a comma.

The speakers were: Dr Sally Meadows, Biology; Dr Fred Eliot, Animal Welfare; Ms Gerri Taylor, Sociology; and Prof. Julie Briggs, Chemistry.

The four venues will be: Middleton Hall, Manchester; Highton House, Liverpool; Marsden Hall, Leeds; and the Ashton Centre, Sheffield.

The main points in favour of the system were that it would save time for buying, accounts and on-site staff; it would be welcomed by the reception staff; it would use fewer resources; and it would be compatible with earlier systems.

To link sentences which are closely related

Closely related sentences are often linked to emphasise their relationship and to vary the pace of the writing. For example:

I read the book in one evening. It was not very helpful.

One way to link these sentences is with a comma and a word such as and, or, but, nor, for, so, yet (called co-ordinating conjunctions).

I read the book in one evening, but it was not very helpful.

For variety in sentence structure, the semi-colon can be used to link closely related sentences instead of a co-ordinating conjunction and comma.

I read the book in one evening; it was not very helpful.

The semi-colon tells the reader that the second clause is closely linked to the first clause. Note how sentences joined in this way are similar in either theme or grammatical structure as shown in the example below.

Personal writing utilises the first person form; impersonal writing utilises the third person form.
He was nervous about giving the speech; he asked for water several times.
The deadline has come forward a week; everyone’s help will be needed.

For use with otherwise, however, therefore…

The semi-colon can be used to link sentences which also use words such as otherwise, however, therefore, as connectors. These connectors (known as conjunctive adverbs) also include: moreover, nevertheless, thus, besides, accordingly, consequently, instead, hence.

I did not finish reading the text; instead, I watched the news.

(Notice that the connecting word instead is followed by a comma.)

The research is far from conclusive; nevertheless, it has some value in this case.
Dr Suptri argues that the research shows an increase in such occurrences; however, many experts would dispute this.


How To Write An Essay

How To Write An Essay?

The Art of Essay Writing: How to Write an Essay

When writing an essay, the planning stage is just as important as the writing itself. Deciding what information you would like to go into the essay. As well as how to structure this information to be most readable is extremely important when writing an essay, as it enables you to set out your arguments in a clear and logical manner. In most English speaking countries around the world the use of essays is essential in assessing competence and learning development. The most common form of essays used to this aim are discursive essays, such essays may typically vary in word count from 1,000 to 5,000 words, above which would be approaching the realm of a dissertation. However, when approaching such essays there are certain steps and practices that you can take into account to help you along the way.

The first step is to read the question! This may seem obvious, but often people can misinterpret questions and not fully understand what they are asking. A good starting point is to write out the essay title, then highlight the most important parts of it. For example:

‘People who go to private schools are more likely to get into University’. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

In the above example, the most important parts of the essay title are highlighted. Looking at these, it can be seen that the focus of the essay title is whether or not the writer agrees that attending a private school increases the likelihood of a person being accepted into University. Throughout the essay, the writer must ensure this topic is the focus of the discussion, and that the question of how much they agree with the statement is answered.

Understanding the Concepts

The second step when thinking about how to write an essay is to determine whether or not there are any words or concepts in the title that you do not fully understand. In the above example, there aren’t any complicated concepts, however some writers may not know much about private education or the University application and acceptance process, so may want to research these.

Write Down your Initial Thoughts

The third step when considering how to write an essay is to write down the initial thoughts that come into your mind when reading the question. This could be done in a spider diagram or just as a bullet point list. For example:

  • I don’t agree that having a private education increases a person’s likelihood of being accepted into University as everyone should have a fair chance regardless of their background
  • Universities are meant to look at academic achievements, personal statements, and in some cases interview outcomes to decide whether to offer an individual a place
  • However, it is possible that some Universities may be more concerned with financial situations than with academics
  • Some Universities may allow their decision to be influenced by factors other than academics, regardless of whether this is fair

Due to the essay title asking the question ‘To what extent do you agree with this statement?’, the writer must recognise that they are expected to consider both sides of the argument. This means that, regardless of personal opinion, the essay must be written without bias and with consideration for all possibilities, before finally coming to a conclusion weighing up all of the key points. Following this, directed research can be done to find the right resources to support your arguments. Often with academic assignments, whomever you are writing the piece of work for (school, University, etc.) will have composed a reading list to guide your research in the right direction. It is advisable to use these recommended sources if available. A combination of online resources and books, journals or articles will help to form a well-rounded knowledge basis, as well as ensuring that you have a variety of references.

How to Structure your Essay?

The fourth step when thinking about how to write an essay is to determine how best to structure your essay. Here is an example of a plan for the previous essay title:

  1. Introduction – this is where you should address how you are going to tackle the question, highlighting what the essay will aim to look at and how you plan to answer it. For the example question, the writer would aim to discuss the controversies surrounding private schools and University applications, as well as to discuss how the essay will be set out and what arguments will be looked at.
  2. Main body paragraphs – depending on your word count, the main body can be covered across many different paragraphs. Each paragraph should have a focus, and look to cover one side of the argument. It is necessary for all arguments to be supported by evidence. For the example question, the first two paragraphs would look at evidence to disagree with the statement, followed by a couple of paragraphs showing evidence that would support agreeing with the statement.
  3. Conclusion – this is where the key points discussed throughout the essay are summarised, with the final closing statement showing what side of the argument you believe to have been best supported by the evidence reviewed. A sentence can also be included on personal opinion of the topic if relevant. For the example question, the writer would establish what the key points were to influence whether or not they agreed with the statement, followed by the final decision as to what extent they agree with the statement having reviewed the evidence.For more information about how to write a conclusion see our conclusion writing guide.

Understanding the Criteria

The final step when considering how to write an essay is to look at the word count for this essay and what criteria is to be met to ensure all necessary information is included to achieve the outcomes. In addition to this, the writer must establish what style of referencing is expected and how many references they should include. To do this, look at the guidelines for your own piece of work. For more information on how to reference in Harvard style, look at our referencing guide in the resources section. A good piece of advice is to reference as you go, as people often struggle at the end of their work trying to remember where they got their information.

Use of Sources and Referencing

There are three main types of sourcing that are commonly used these include citations, footnotes and endnotes. Citations are in-text references, whilst footnotes and endnotes are references given at the end of a page or piece of work, using a numbering system with footnote or endnote markers. For more information about how to use sources see our sources guide.

Determining which type of method you use will be determined by the referencing system that you adopt. As each referencing system will have its own rules about how to cite information. Referencing is a system used in the academic community to highlight where certain ideas and information, theories, quotes, and any other evidence and information used to undertake the assignment has come from and can be found. See our referencing guide for further information. You may also want to consider using the Cite this for me tool if you are struggling with your referencing.

Finally, Proofread your Essay

Once you have written your essay, the final and often one of the most overlooked steps is to proofread your essay and ensure that you have not made any errors. At Express Proofreading we offer a professional academic proofreading service. We are able to ensure that your work is not only free from spelling mistakes and grammatical errors but we will also check syntax, sentence structure and are able to recommend improvements and suggestions that may be relevant to your work. We will also check that your tables and footnotes are accurate and consistent with your bibliography.


How To Proofread

How To Proofread

How to proofread? Is a question that is often asked by students and writers. Often this stage of the writing process is neglected. However, it is as important as the writing itself. Following some simple steps will ensure that your work is error free. When proofreading your own work it is essential that you break down the process of proofreading into the before and after, to ensure that your proofreading session is most effective.

Before you begin to proofread:

• You should ensure that you have completed and revised all the larger elements of your text. Ensure that the content, sections, paragraphs and organisation of your work are complete.

• Take a break and do something else between the process of writing and proofreading. This time away will help you see mistakes more clearly, constantly looking at the text will only make you accustomed to seeing the text as it is, making you less able to pick up on errors.

• Attempt to eliminate unnecessary words prior to proofreading. Work on making your work clear and concise by using fewer words to make your points. This is the best way of ensuring that your work has clarity.

• Prepare a list of common mistakes that you should look for, this could be common mistakes that you are aware you make or that others make preparing similar works, knowing this will help you identify mistakes.

When you begin proofreading:

• First, print out your work, looking at a computer screen will strain your eyes and will only reduce your concentration faster.

• Read out loud, this is particularly helpful for spotting run-on sentences, you will also hear other issues that you may not see when reading silently.

• Use a blank sheet of paper to cover up the lines below the lines you are reading. This technique will keep you from skipping ahead of possible mistakes.

• Use the search function of your computer to find mistakes you are likely to make. Search for “it,” for instance, if you confuse “its” and “it’s;” for opening parentheses or quote marks if you tend to leave out the closing ones.

• If you tend to make many mistakes, check separately for each kind of error, moving from the most to the least important, and following whatever technique works best for you to identify that kind of mistake. For instance, read through once (backwards, sentence by sentence) to check for fragments; read through again (forward) to be sure subjects and verbs agree, and again (using a computer search for “this,” “it,” and “they”) to trace pronouns to antecedents.

• End with a spelling check, using a computer spelling checker or reading backwards word by word. But remember that a spelling checker won’t catch mistakes with homonyms (e.g., “they’re,” “their,” “there”) or certain typos (like “he” for “the”).

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