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Grammar Mistakes in Your Book Can Turn Off Your Readers

by Zoe Wynns/

Whether you’re a novelist, a blogger, a copywriter, a secretary, or just a human going about their life, everyone uses grammar every day. Not only is using proper grammar critical if you have a job that requires a lot of writing, but the effects can sneak up on you in other ways, too. For example, if you run a website, it’s worth knowing that eighty-five percent of visitors won’t even make it past the home page if they notice a grammar error. In addition, ninety-seven percent of people say grammar mistakes influence their perceptions of companies and individuals.

Grammar mistakes happen—we’re all human, after all. But it’s important to make sure you know about them to prevent them from happening in the future. Let’s walk through ten common grammatical mistakes and check ourselves to make sure we aren’t making any errors regularly!

Top Ten Grammar Mistakes to Avoid

1. Your vs. You’re

A classic. Let’s use these two in a sentence to see the correct usage.

Your ball is rolling into the street!

You’re wearing that green shirt I got for you.

The difference is that “your” is possessive and “you’re” is a contraction of “you are.” The apostrophe gives it away!

2. Using they for singular entities.

This one can get confusing, especially when you’re talking about a brand or company. Here’s an incorrect example:

If you’ve seen Instagram in the news, you’ll notice they have a lot of changes coming.

How about the right version?

If you’ve seen Instagram in the news, you’ll notice it has a lot of changes coming.

It’s a weird one! Practice it on your own time to nail the usage.

3. Affect vs. Effect

This is a tricky one too! Sometimes I just take a guess and let my word processing software tell me if I’m right or not. But if you want to actually know the rules, here it is. Effect is a noun, meaning the product of whatever has occurred. Affect is a verb, and it is talking about the current act of “affecting” or changing. Here’s an example!

I don’t really think it affected me.

I don’t really think it had an effect on me.

4. Apostrophes

People often think that any plural word needs an apostrophe to make it proper. However, an apostrophe makes a word possessive, not plural! Here’s an incorrect usage:

They had lots of deal’s at the store today!

How about the right usage of the ‘s?

Don’t forget your baby’s jacket.

5. Everyday vs. Every day.

This one might seem like it’s not a big deal, and there’s no real difference. But there’s actually a right time to use “everyday” vs. “every day.” “Every day” talks about something occurring each day. “Everyday,” on the other hand, talks about something that is a common practice or occurrence. Let’s see an incorrect example:

You used to come to my house everyday last year.

Instead, it should be:

You used to come to my house every day last year.

To use the one-word version correctly, try it like this:

People don’t realize how many everyday household items are toxic if ingested.

6. Less vs. Fewer

Another sneaky one! What if I told you there were rules for when you used each one of these?

fewer is used when you have things that are numbered/countable

less is used for things that can’t be counted or aren’t quantifiable. The exception is that less is used with numbers when they measure distance, amount, or time.

Here’s less used in the wrong way:

Less than 100 books were left when we arrived.

Instead, it’s:

Fewer than 100 books were left when we arrived.

7. i.e. vs. e.g.

Many people think these terms are interchangeable, but they actually have different correct usages! i.e. is used when clarifying a point or summarizing, while e.g. is used before giving examples.

An incorrect use of i.e. is here:

Many soda brands, i.e., Coke, Dr. Pepper, and Pepsi, have a diet counterpart.


Many soda brands, e.g., Coke, Dr. Pepper, and Pepsi, have a diet counterpart.

8. Who vs. That

Sometimes your brain just decides that a grammar mistake “sounds right,” and that’s why it gets overlooked. That’s certainly been the case for me for the who vs. that grammar mistake. I’ve seen a sentence like:

She’s that girl that brought me the cookie last week.

... and seen nothing wrong with it! However, make sure you’re using who when you’re speaking about a person, and that about an object. So, the correct version would be:

She’s that girl who brought me the cookie last week.

9. Then vs. Than

If you spend any time on social media, you’ve probably seen your fair share of posts with this mistake. It seems so hard to remember even for people in writing-heavy professions! Make sure to follow the rule of using then when you’re talking about a time, and than when you’re making a comparison.

An incorrect sentence would be:

She looks different then the other day.

The right version:

She looks different than the other day.

10. Semicolon usage

Nobody really likes ‘em, but sometimes you need to throw in a semicolon in your writing. To use them correctly, there’s a quick and easy way of figuring it out! Take a look at this sentence:

I wasn’t there last night; I was at my apartment.

If you removed the semicolon and put a period instead, the two halves of the phrase would still make sense standing alone. That’s how you know you’ve used your semicolon correctly. On the other hand, check this out:

I went to the bar first; then went home.

If you put a period in place of the semicolon, the second half wouldn’t make any sense as a stand-alone sentence—so it’s an incorrect usage.

Hopefully you’ve learned something from this list, and maybe even realized you’ve been making one of these mistakes for a long time! Never fear—now that you know some of the most common grammatical errors, you’ll conquer essays, blog posts, and even plain old emails like never before.

If you don’t correct your grammar mistake expect to hear from you readers.

Every book should be professionally edited. At a minimum, an author should pay to have a mechanical edit by a professional editor. A mechanical edit includes grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, abbreviations, and other style rules.

SelfPublishingUS offers mechanical editing services for our authors.

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