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How to Write Good: Overcoming five common mistakes

Updated on March 5, 2016

Writing is hard. I would know; I spent four and a half years learning how to write well. As I got better at writing, I started noticing the number of people who have no idea what proper grammar is. (The papers I’ve covered in red pen marks- the horror! The Horror!) Honestly, if I have to explain what a comma splice is one more time I am going to lose my mind, which is why I’m writing this article about what a comma splice is and other grammatical things most people just do not get.

1) Comma splice

This is probably the laziest mistake ever. A comma splice is two independent clauses linked together by a comma. Like so:

Meghan wrote this during her lunch break, she hopes it turns out well.

No. Those are two complete ideas. Either make it two separate sentences, or put a dot above the comma. Congratulations! Your comma is now a semi colon. Your sentence is now correct. I am now happy.

2) To vs. Too

If it’s a verb, it’s to. If it’s an adjective, it’s too. It’s not that hard people! If you still have trouble remembering, recall the words of Hamlet; to be or not to be.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

The ball was to blue.

“To blue or not to blue?”

That makes absolutely no sense. Stick another "o" on there and be on your way.

You can also use “too” in place of the word “also.” But only at the end of the sentence. You wouldn't say: "you can too use the word 'too' in place of the word 'also'." Well. I guess you could, but you'd sound stupid.

3) Who vs. Whom

Probably the most famous of difficult to understand grammatical things. I can not tell you the number of times people have asked me: “oh you’re degree is in writing? So you know the difference between who and whom right?” I love how that’s what people are impressed by. Well, I’m coming down from the pedestal you put me on to tell you:

He, she, they = who

Him, her, them = whom

Ta da!

4) Oxford Comma

Okay, what is people’s deal about the Oxford Comma? I thought people’s fear of using semi colons was strange, but this is downright ridiculous. So many people refuse to use it and actually take pride in that fact. They claim it “isn’t needed.” Yes it is. Here’s why:

Bill, Joe and Dan will receive $50,000.

Bill, Joe, and Dan will received $50,000.

In the first sentence, Joe and Dan are regarded as one party, so they will have to split the money between them. In the second example, Joe and Dan are treated as separate individuals and will each receive the full $50,000. Joe and Dan are sad in the first example and happy in the second. Don’t make Joe and Dan sad. Use the Oxford comma. Honestly, it will only take an extra millisecond of your life; get over yourself.

5) Proper MLA Formatting

Hahaha. Ha ha ha ha ha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! Screw that, use APA; it’s so much better.

If you have to use it, then either buy a style guide, or go on Purdue OWL.

Okay fine. Here’s an example.

Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher,
(indent) Year of Publication. Medium of Publication.

So let’s say you had to write a paper on dystopian literature. You might (and by that I mean you will) include,

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart,
(indent) 1985. Print.

Well there you go! 5 Quick tips on how to come off like you know what you’re doing. Follow these tips and you will impress no one, but you will get annoyed everytime you spot one of these errors in whatever book you are reading. Don’t follow these tips, and you will enrage writers everywhere. Not that you’d care.

The English language is filled with some very silly rules. Let me know in the comments if there are any grammar or spelling rules you just don't get. I'll gladly explain it for you.

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    • mattdigiulio profile image

      mattdigiulio 2 years ago

      Great hub. I needed help with the Oxford comma situation. And who vs. whom. Thanks! Voting up

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks for these reminders. I come from newspapers so the Oxford common trips me up when I fall back into old AP Stylebook habits. Sharing

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