Obvious Grammatical Errors

Grammatically, writers tend to make their most obvious errors in the areas below.


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Subject/verb agreement

  • can usually be addressed by identifying each subject and verb in a sentence, ignoring the other words mentally, and making certain subjects/verbs match in number and sound
  • the word “and” linking two subjects makes them plural, as in, “Grammar and mechanics are related.”
  • when subjects are connected by “or” the subject closer to the verb determines the verb’s number, as in, “Either the punctuation marks or the usage is flawed.”

Verb tense

  • must be considered both for consistency and context
  • writers can switch verb tenses within a paragraph if context calls for it, but unnatural shifts in verb tense stand out loudly, as in, “The sample was heated and then cool before storage.”
  • generally the simplest verb tense should be chosen for the circumstances (avoid “has,” “have,” and “had” as helpers except when necessary)
  • the present tense brings the material “closer” to the reader, so use it whenever possible

Runs-ons and fragments

  • can be addressed by identifying subjects and verbs
  • sentence length can sometimes be a clue

Writers often also have trouble with some commonly confused terms.  The chart below briefly describes a few.

affect vs. effect “Affect” is usually a verb meaning “to influence,” while “effect” is usually a noun meaning “outcome” or “result.”
it’s vs. its “It’s” always means “it is,” while “its” always shows possession.
e.g. vs. i.e. The abbreviation “e.g.” is Latin for exempli gratia and means “for example,” while “i.e.” is Latin for id est and means “that is.”
imply vs. infer The word “imply” means “to suggest” or “to indicate,” while “infer” involves a person actively applying deduction.
that vs. which The word “that” is used to define and limit a noun’s meaning, while “which” is used to provide descriptive information not central to the noun’s definition.



Accessible Version:

This draft contains 5 grammatical errors. Identify each one in the text box and check your answers:

Sports reporters and the media in general treat professional female athletes unfairly, as can be seen in the recent controversy over Serena Williams’ catsuit. Returning to tennis soon after giving birth to her daughter, Serena was advised by her doctors to wear something that would effect the blood flow in her legs due to her history of blood clots. To go along with her doctors’ request, Serena wore a black Nike catsuit to the French Open (Friedman). This suit, that Serena Williams tried to wear for her health, caused so much commotion that new rules about dress for women at the French Open are set in place. Elle magazine reporter Megan Friedman explains, “The rules won’t be as strict as Wimbledon … but they will be asking designers to give them an advance look at designs for players and will impose certain limits.” The fact that Serena Williams, someone who has won four Olympic medals, cannot wear something needed for health reasons is ridiculous. Not only have sportswriters stated their views on this issue, but now the people running these events are making rules against what female athletes can wear while performing their sport, inferring that female sports are more about fashion than athletics. Whether it is for health reasons or not. Women should be able to wear whatever makes them feel comfortable while they perform the sport they are good at.


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