19 Common Grammatical Errors to Avoid in Emails
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It’s a simple fact that English grammar can be tricky for some people. Even when you carefully check content you’ve written, it’s really easy to let small grammatical errors slip through.
We’re sure that everyone reading this is guilty of making silly mistakes at some point, so we’ve decided to make a list of some of the common grammatical errors. These should help you improve your writing when it comes to emails:
1. They’re, Their & There
This is the most common grammatical mistake you’ll come across. Lots of people don’t actually know how each one is used within English grammar:
There – refers to a place – “Let’s go over there.”
Their – something that is owned by a group – “Their football kits were brand new.”
They’re – contraction/abbreviation of ‘they are’ – “They’re going to the cinema.”
2. Your & You’re
The reason this is a grammatical error is simply to do with the difference between owning something and actually being something:
Your – possessive term – “Your T-shirt has arrived today.”
You’re – contraction/abbreviation of ‘You are’ – “You’re looking well.”
3. Its & It’s
This is an easy one to get wrong:
Its – possessive term – “The dog hurt its leg.”
It’s – contraction/abbreviation of ‘It is’ – “It’s going to rain.”
4. Possessive nouns
Most possessive nouns (person/place or thing) will have an apostrophe but people often get confused as to where the apostrophe should go:
If the noun is plural add the apostrophe after the s (hamsters’).
If the noun is singular and ends with an s, add an apostrophe after the s (dress’).
If the noun is singular and doesn’t end with an s, add the apostrophe before the s (captain’s).
5. Loose & Lose
This is a common grammatical mistake that really shouldn’t occur as much as it does.:
Lose – “It looks like the team are about to lose.”
Loose – “Her clothes were feeling loose on her.”
6. Then & Than
These both mean completely different things so it is important you understand the difference so you don't fall a foul of this common grammatical error:
Then – time related – “We look forward to meeting you then.”
Than – comparison related – “I would rather meet at your house than mine.”
7. i.e. & e.g.
These are words that are often used for the same reason. However, they actually mean two different things:
i.e. – “in other words” or “that is”
e.g. – “for example”
8. Alot, Allot & A lot
Alot isn’t actually a word. If you are trying to say that someone has a large number of things, you would say that they have a lot of things.
If you are saying you are going to set aside an amount of money, you would say that are going to allot that money.
Unfortunately, this word isn't actually a correct one to use and is simply a common grammatical error. This is because the ir- prefix usually functions to indicate negation. It actually means the same things as regardless.
So in a standard sentence structure, you need to use either regardless or irrespective.
10. Affect & Effect
These are often mixed up when people are talking about something changing into another thing:
Effect – the actual change (noun) – “That coffee had an effect on my sleep patterns.”
Affect – the act of changing (verb) – “That TV show affected me greatly.”
11. Complement & Compliment
Complement – something that adds to or supplements something else, or the act of doing so – “The gravy really complements the chicken.”
Compliment – something nice that someone says to you or you to say to someone else – “You look really nice today.”
12. Fewer & Less
If you count it, use fewer – “Jenny has completed fewer assignments than she did last term.”
If you can’t, use less – “Aaron has less incentive to do what I say.”
13. Historic & Historical
Historic – an important event – “The war memorial today will be historic.”
Historical – something that happened in the past – “The historical events of World War One are still being felt today.”
14. Principal & Principle
These are commonly confused words that sound the same but have two very different meanings:
Principal – noun – the highest in rank or the main participant. Also, it can be used as an adjective to mean the most important of a set.
Principle – noun – a fundamental truth, law or standard.
A word that is used too many times for the wrong reasons. This is to the point where it is as much a common grammatical error in speech as well as the written word.
Literally means exactly what you say is true, making it very figurative. It should not be used as a metaphor or an analogy.
An example would if you say, “I am literally dying of shame.” By saying this, you are telling people you are actually dying because of the feeling of shame. This is highly doubtful, which is why it is considered a grammatical error.
16. Lack of Subject/Verb Agreement
When you are speaking in the present tense, a sentence must have subjects and verbs that agree in number. If the subject is singular (about one thing), the verb must be singular. If the subject is plural (more than one thing), the verb must be plural.
As an example:
Incorrect – The books is good for learning a new language.
Correct – The books are good for learning a new language.
17. A & An
An must always appear before a vowel sound. If it does not start with a vowel sound, use a:
However, people often get confused with the letter h. For example:
The way to work out whether to use an or a is the sound. It is not a question of whether the words starts with a vowel, but if it starts with a vowel sound.
18. Already & All ready
Already – adverb that means prior to a specified or implied time or as early as now:
“The roses are already blooming this year.”
“It is already illegal to own a firearm in the United Kingdom.”
“When Harry arrived at the party, it was already over.”
All ready – means completely prepared. It is also slightly more emphatic that just prepared – “Brad is all ready to go.”
19. Who’s & Whose
Who’s – abbreviation of “who is” – “Who’s that attractive person over there?”
Whose – use this if you want to talk about who owns something – “Do you know whose football that is?
This list doesn’t include every single grammatical error or commonly confused word out there. It is understandably even more difficult for people to avoid these mistakes if they either struggle with grammar or English isn't their native language.
However, this list should give you a good place to start when it comes to writing corporate emails and avoid some of the most obvious grammatical errors.
If in doubt, ask someone else to check the email content you have created. A second pair of eyes can help you do a sense check, spot certain grammatical errors, and ensure you're using complete sentences.
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