Common grammar mistakes:
Faulty Parallel Construction
A failure to create grammatically parallel structures when they are appropriate is referred to as faulty parallelism.
If you want your readers to roll smoothly along from one idea of yours to the next, use parallel structure.
Both of the following sentences essentially say the same thing. Which is easier to read?
- He described skiing in the Alps, swimming in the Adriatic, and the drive across the Sahara Desert. (faulty parallelism)
- He described skiing in the Alps, swimming in the Adriatic, and driving across the Sahara Desert. (parallel)
- Formerly, science was taught by the textbook method, while now the laboratory method is employed. (faulty parallelism)
- Formerly, science was taught by the textbook method; now it is taught by the laboratory method
Nouns should be parallel with nouns, participles with participles, gerunds with gerunds, infinitives with infinitives, clauses with clauses, and so on.
According to the grammar rule—every sentence should be complete. Meaning, it should have a subject (the main actor/actors), verb (the main action) and, if applicable, an object (what the action happens to). Anything less is called a sentence fragment. With one caveat. Your meaning must be clear.
When a group of words is missing important information, it’s no longer expressing a complete thought. Following are some of the missing words: missing verb, missing subject, missing subject+verb, missing main clause.
Here you will find more than one complete thought, each of which deserves its own sentence. This happens when the person gets excited about the subject matter and goes on at length without adding a period for quite a long time, and the sentence ends up sounding quite flustered and out of breath.
You must look for ways to break the run-on sentence into more than one. It’s all about keeping things clear and simple for your readers.
A dangling modifier has nothing to modify. It’s an error caused by failing to use the word that the modifier is meant to be describing.
INCORRECT: The experiment was a failure, not having studied the lab manual carefully.
REVISED: They failed the experiment, not having studied the lab manual carefully.
INCORRECT: Meticulous and punctual, David’s work ethic is admirable
CORRECT: Meticulous and punctual, David has an admirable work ethic.
Fixing a dangling modifier requires more than rearranging the words in the sentence. You will often need to add something new so that the modifier finally has a target word to describe.
A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that does not clearly relate to what it is intended to modify. In other words, a misplaced modifier makes the meaning of a sentence ambiguous or wrong.
INCORRECT: Andrew told us after the holiday that he intends to stop drinking.
In this example, it is not clear whether Andrew made this statement after the holiday or whether he intends to stop drinking after the holiday.
An infinitive is the form of any verb which starts with the word “to”—to go, to dance, to have written, etc.
Ideally, you are not supposed to split an infinitive by sticking extra words between the “to” and the rest of the verb. Contrary to what some grammarians say, there is no rule against using split infinitives in English. One might use them with care, but splitting an infinitive is sometimes the best way to clearly express a thought.
Infinitives should be split when the adverb either needs emphasis or wouldn’t work anywhere else in the sentence—for example:
They’re expected to gradually come down in price to about $50 to $75 each.
Placing gradually anywhere else in this sentence would create awkwardness and confusion.