Although we may feel like we are kings and queens of the “small stuff,” also known as punctuation and grammar, these types of errors are the most common we make. At the writing center I have worked at for the past year, we developed a guide to help writers try to realize these mistakes. Here are the most common errors we see in writing (not necessarily in order):

1. Comma in a Compound Sentence

  • John planned on writing a book and he started journaling yesterday.
  • Fix It!—John planned on writing a book, and he started journaling yesterday.

2. Sentence Fragment

  • Sent the book to an editor.
  • Fix It!—I sent the book to an editor.

3. Comma after Introductory Part of Sentence

  • After lunch I got started on my writing.
  • Fix It!—After lunch, I got started on my writing.

4. Run-on Sentence

  • I finished writing for the day I plan to start again in the morning.
  • Fix It!—I finished writing for the day, and I plan to start again in the morning.

5. Comma Splice

  • My favorite book is The Great Gatsby, I’ve read it over 15 times.
  • Fix It!—My favorite book is The Great Gatsby. I’ve read it over 15 times.

6. Missing Comma in a Series

  • When I write, I need music, a snack and my computer.
  • Fix It!—When I write, I need music, a snack, and my computer.

7. Missing Comma with an Unnecessary Clause/Unnecessary Comma with a Necessary Clause

  • I started a book club which was scheduled for Friday.
  • Fix It!—I started a book club, which was scheduled for Friday.

8. Misused Apostrophe

  • I like to get my familys opinion on my first draft of writing.
  • Fix It!—I like to get my family’s opinion on my first draft of writing.

9. Wrong Word Choice

  • My friends say there favorite author is Suzanne Collins.
  • Fix It!—My friends say their favorite author is Suzanne Collins.

10. Lack of Agreement with Pronoun and Antecedent

  • Every student had to decide on his favorite book.
  • Fix It!—Every student had to decide on his or her favorite book.

11. Unclear Pronoun Reference

  • Before John and Mark read the book, his favorite was 1984.
  • Fix It!—Before John and Mark read the book, John’s favorite was 1984.

12. Change in Pronoun Agreement

  • When one writes, you hope to feel inspired.
  • Fix It!—When you write, you hope to feel inspired.

13. Wrong or Missing Preposition

  • He compared his writing with Stephen King.
  • Fix It!—He compared his writing to Stephen King.

14. Misplaced or Unclear Modifier

  • She decided she wanted to be a writer when she was six years old.
  • Fix It!—When she was six years old, she decided she wanted to be a writer.

15. Incorrect Verb Endings

  • Last week, I reached page 100 when I writed.
  • Fix It!—Last week, I reached page 100 when I wrote.

16. Subject-Verb Agreement

  • I like the way my friend write dialogue.
  • Fix It!—I like the way my friend writes dialogue.

17. Incorrect Shift in Tense

  • Tomorrow I plan on start the editing process.
  • Fix It!—Tomorrow I plan on starting the editing process.

18. Correct Tense or Verb Form

  • By the time my friends got there, I finished writing.
  • Fix It!—By the time my friends got there, I had finished writing.