Writing Tips – Part Two: Common Grammar Mistakes

Writing Tips – Part Two: Common Grammar Mistakes

Even the smallest writing mistakes can have a large impact on how a potential or current employer views you. Many recruiters receive so many resumes that they simply toss out the ones with spelling and grammatical errors. On the other hand, a cover letter that is well written will help you stand out from the crowd.

Last week we shared with you some of the most commonly misspelled words, as well as tips to help you remember their correct spellings. In the second part of our Writing Tips blog series, we’re going to go over common grammar mistakes. Mastering these grammar rules will help you become a better communicatorin business and in life.

Common Grammar Mistakes

Your vs. You’re
There’s a simple way to remember the correct usage of your/you’re: Read the sentence in your head. If you can replace the word with you are and the sentence still makes sense, use you’re. If not, use your. You’re is a contraction, while your is possessive.

  • Incorrect: I know what your thinking.
  • Correct: I know what you’re thinking.
  • Incorrect: Take a look outside you’re window.
  • Correct: Take a look outside your window.

Its vs. It’s
The same rule above can be applied to its/it’s. The word it’s always stands for it is. The word its is possessive, referring to ownership.

  • Incorrect: Its time to go.
  • Correct: It’s time to go.
  • Incorrect: The dog ate from it’s bowl.
  • Correct: The dog ate from its bowl.

They’re vs. There vs. Their
These three words are very often misused, but once you remember what each one means you’ll be able to use them correctly.

They’re is a contraction, just like it’s and you’re, which means it always stands for they are. To determine if you should use they’re, try substituting they are in its place.

  • Incorrect: Their running late.
  • Correct: They’re running late.

There usually refers to a place. To help you keep it straight, remember here and there are spelled with the same last three letters. It can also be used to show something exists, such as there is, there are, there was.

  • Incorrect: The waiting room is over their.
  • Correct: The waiting room is over there.

Their is always possessive: their house, their dog, their company.

  • Incorrect: The couple loved they’re new apartment.
  • Correct: The couple loved their new apartment.

Than vs. Then
If you’re making a comparison, than is the word you want to use. If you’re talking about things happening in a particular order, use then. You’ll often see it in if…then pairings such as the one below.

  • Incorrect: My cat is cuter then yours.
  • Correct: My cat is cuter than yours.
  • Incorrect: I’ll get dressed, and than I’ll go to the store.
  • Correct: I’ll get dressed, and then I’ll go to the store.

Less vs. Fewer
If you’re writing about something you can count, the word you’re looking for is fewer. Less, on the other hand, refers to something that is abstract, something that can’t be counted. For example, you can say “I got 8 hours of sleep,” but it doesn’t make sense to say “I got 8 sleep.” You can count hours, but you can’t count sleep. Because of this, you would use fewer with hours and less with sleep. There are a few exceptions to this rule, which you can read about here.

  • Incorrect: We got less water bottles than we needed.
  • Correct: We got fewer water bottles than we needed.
  • Incorrect: A pond has fewer water than an ocean.
  • Correct: A pond has less water than an ocean.
*Note that in this example, water bottles are things you can count, while water is not.

Even if these grammar rules make sense to you in theory, it’s important to always double-check your writing to ensure you’re using them correctly. Read through your writing more than once, and get a friend or coworker to read it over when possible. With enough practice, these rules will come as naturally to you as breathing.

Do you know of any other tricky words? Share them in the comments below!

For more tips on writing, job hunting, and studying, check out the posts below.

LA ORT is a group of nonprofit junior colleges in Los Angeles and Van Nuys provide career training in short term courses.