Common Writing Mistakes
The most common writing mistakes in English can
be split into three categories:
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- Register (the level and style of writing, i.e.
formal, informal, or neutral)
These can all be minimized with a simple checklist and a bit of care
Of course some students make grammar mistakes because they don't know
every grammar rule and its exceptions.
But more students make grammar
with things they do know. So here is a simple
checklist of things to do when you are writing
If you aren't sure if your grammar is correct, try to find another way
to write something.
English has a lot of tenses. Are you using the most suitable one?
the word order.
any verb agreements.
For example: "he has" not "he have."
This is a basic, but common mistake even for high level students.
Think about these while you are writing, and when you have finished, go
back and reread your work, checking all of these items.
ALWAYS check your work after you finish writing, and if you are taking
an exam, make sure you leave enough time to do this at the end.
This is harder to check, as it is common to misuse words, especially if
you don't have a very wide vocabulary.
If you find spelling
difficult, develop some strategies to help you. Check the words you
often get wrong. (For more details read How
to Improve Your Spelling – a Guide for Students
It is a good idea to find lists of easily confused words and review
For example, many students confuse "affect" and "effect," but there are
many other pairs of words it would be useful to learn.
Ask yourself if you have used the best word for what you want to say,
or is another one more suitable?
For example, do you want to say "He came in quietly" or "He came in
is a combination of words that is used together frequently. It's
actually a common phrase.
"Commit a crime" is a typical combination of words in English. You
could say "make a crime," and it wouldn't be incorrect, but many people
tend to use these words together. So "commit a crime" is a collocation
is another example: we say "heavy traffic" not "strong traffic," and so
So do the words you have used go together?
Have you used the correct prepositions
This is another common mistake, and if you are writing quickly then it
is easy to make mistakes here.
Register means the level and style of writing, i.e. formal, informal,
Some kinds of writing are always written in formal English. These can
include (but are not limited to):
- Business letters
- Letters of complaint
- Some letters of enquiry
- Some kinds of essay
Some writing is usually informal. This can include:
- Personal e-mails
- Letters to friends and family
Kinds of writing usually written in a neutral register include:
- Some essays
- Some letters
The register of the piece you are writing will determine your
vocabulary, the structure, and some grammar.
For example formal writing often doesn't use contractions (don't,
doesn't, hasn't, weren't, etc.), and uses the passive voice much more
than informal writing.
This is quite a difficult aspect of writing to get right, but there are
many books available, as well as online guides which can help you.
Check, and then check again
The most important thing to do when you are writing is to check your
Most common writing mistakes in English are simple mistakes that you
can find and correct with little attention.
Common writing mistakes – a neat tip
Many of you may know that Microsoft Word can check your spelling, and
even grammar. But did you know it can also check your style
can check and offer correction for style errors such as:
- Words or phrases identified as clichés in the
- Sentences that contain colloquial words and
phrases, including "real," "awfully," and "plenty" used as adverbs
- Use of contractions (for example, "We won't
leave 'til tomorrow" instead of "We will not leave until tomorrow.")
- Misused words
- Unclear phrasing
- And much more!
You can read all about how to use it here:
Select grammar and writing style options