Common Mistakes One Makes While Writing in English and Ways to Avoid Them

One of the things that is often observed when someone writes in English is the mistakes, be it grammatical errors, or not knowing in what context things need to be written. At first glance, it may look good that whatever has been written, but when they are checked by professionals eventually plenty of errors come out.

As a result, one often ends up re-writing their article. This article by Ms. Sonu Goel, Founder and Director of Café Converse a leading Delhi based English Learning Institute shares common mistakes one makes while writing in English and also shares ways to avoid them.

Switching Tenses Unwarrantedly

One of the most common problems seen in English writing is unwarranted switching between past, present, and future tenses. Switching between verb tenses within a sentence can make it harder for the reader to follow a piece of writing and must be avoided. An exception to this is when a time change needs to be shown.

To make sure that you avoid this issue, keep the following things in mind:

  • Usually, one must establish a primary tense and stay consistent with it at the sentence, paragraph and overall work level.
  • Only change tenses when it is proper, for instance when there is a time shift that should be shown
  • Reread your writing and think what the overall timeframe it is in, past, present or future.
  • Pay close attention to the verbs and notice the tense they are in.

Tip: Review English verb tenses to improve your knowledge.

Excessive Long Paragraphs

Though there is no thumb rule for the number of sentences a paragraph must contain, it is possible to have paragraphs that are quite long. Excessively long paragraphs are one of the most common problems seen in English writing. The problem can simply be avoided if you adopt a conscious attitude towards it.

Tip: As a rule, two to five paragraphs per A4 page will do well (assuming single line spacing). Also, try to keep every paragraph to a single main idea or topic.

First-Person Writing in Academic Contexts

Academic writing in the first person can make a piece of writing read as informal, subjective besides being biased; it is a strict no, in the context of academic writing. It is an established convention that academic writing needs to be done in the third-person, and breaking this rule will dearly cost you precious marks.

First-person (the wrong way):

I would argue that Tim’s (2001) study was biased as he personally was invested in the good outcome of the results.

Third-person (the right way):

It can be argued that Tim’s (2001), study was biased he personally was invested in the good outcome of the results.

Tip: To make sure that you are writing in the third person, avoid using personal statements and personal pronouns like “I/me/my”.

Inconsistency in Spelling Types (US/UK)

The minor spelling differences between British English and American English spelling can be difficult for English writers to spot. It is essential, however, that you write in the proper spelling style for your readers and that you stay consistent.

A common issue found in English writing is for the author to switch between the UK and US English spelling, i.e. they write some words in the British form and others in the American. The most frequent examples are:

Our-colour(British), or-color (US), ise-montise (British), or ize-monetize (America).

Tip: This problem can easily be solved by making sure that you have MS Word’s spellcheck on the proper spelling setting.

Improper Capitalization

The rules of capitalization in English may seem confusing, especially to non-native speakers. Issues with incorrect or missing capitals in ESL writing are regularly seen. Stick to these basic rules:

  • Always capitalize “I”
  • Capitalize proper nouns, which include names of persons, places, and organizations.
  • Never capitalize common nouns (for example car, pen, school).
  • Always capitalize the initial letter of a new sentence.
  • Capitalize days, holidays, and months of the year.

Tip: Be certain of the differences between proper nouns and common nouns as these represent the most common capitalization problems amongst English writers. For instance, “car/bus/lorry/van” are common nouns, while “Audi/Mercedes/BMS/Toyota” are proper nouns.

English teacher coach Sonu Goel

Ms Sonu Goel is a professionally acclaimed certified ESL trainer from British Council having 15 years of strong background for teaching English language in both online and physical classes. She is dedicated to the teaching of English in an interactive and practical way, whereby learners feel enriched with knowledge and experience the language hands-on. She uses creative ideas and aids to let the learning happen as organically and efficiently as possible. Ms Goel has travelled various European countries and experienced an array of cultures and linguistic skills for the English language.

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