Writing is like trying to juggle flaming knives while riding a unicycle – it requires skill, precision, and a healthy dose of madness. But even the most seasoned writers can get a little lost in the word jungle, and typos and grammatical blunders can sneak up on them like ninjas in the night. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the top 10 most difficult-to-spot writing mistakes that even the sharpest writers sometimes struggle to catch!
- Misplaced modifiers: These are words or phrases placed too far away from the word they are supposed to modify, leading to confusion or ambiguity. For example,
“He served his guests the meat on silver platters that he inherited from his grandfather.”
Did he inherit the platters or the meat from his grandfather? We may never know, but we do know that it’s not a good idea to inherit meat – it tends to get a little ripe. To avoid confusion, we can correct the sentence by moving the modifier closer to the word it’s meant to describe:
“He served the meat on silver platters inherited from his grandfather to his guests.”
Ah, much better! Now we know that it was the silver platters that were inherited, not the meat. Misplaced modifiers, you may have infiltrated our sentences, but with a little bit of editing, we can show you who’s boss!
- Wordiness: Wordiness is like a party guest who just won’t stop talking – they drone on and on, taking up space and making you wish you could escape. Writers who are afflicted by wordiness use too many words to express a simple idea, turning a straightforward message into a labyrinthine maze. For example, take this sentence:
“In spite of the fact that he was feeling under the weather, he still managed to make it to the meeting.”
Geez, that’s like wrapping a present in a hundred layers of duct tape! To cut to the chase, you could simply say,
“Although he was sick, he still attended the meeting.”
See? Short, sweet, and to the point – just like we like it. For more examples, check out our comprehensive 330 examples of wordiness.
- Redundancy: Redundancy is like saying the same joke twice – it might get a chuckle the first time, but by the second, you’re just beating a dead horse. Writers who are guilty of redundancy repeat themselves unnecessarily, turning an already clear message into a broken record. For example, take this sentence:
“The car collided with the truck, and the collision was quite loud.”
Well, no duh, Sherlock! Instead, you could say,
“The car collided with the truck, and the impact was quite loud.”
Boom! No need to repeat yourself – we heard you the first time. So let’s ditch the redundancy and make room for some fresh material!
- Inconsistent tense: Inconsistent tense is like a high-speed car chase, only instead of thrilling action, it just leaves readers feeling dizzy and disoriented. Writers who switch between past, present, and future tense without a clear reason are like erratic drivers on the road of language, causing confusion and chaos for their passengers. For instance, take this sentence:
“Yesterday, I walk to the store and I see my friend. She tells me she is going to the party tonight, so I decide to go too.”
Whoa, slow down there, Speed Racer! We’re swerving from past to present to past again like a drunken butterfly. Let’s pump the brakes and get back in control:
“Yesterday, I walked to the store and saw my friend. She told me she was going to the party tonight, so I decided to go too.”
Ah, that’s more like it! With consistent tense, we can avoid the linguistic traffic accidents and arrive at our destination with clarity and coherence. So let’s put on our seatbelts and stick to one tense, shall we?
- Incorrect capitalization: Capitalization errors can make writing look unprofessional and distract readers from the message. For example,
“the President of the united states”
“the President of the United States.”
You can play around with the capitalization feature on wordcounter.net.
- Confusing prepositions: Prepositions can be tricky to use correctly, especially for non-native speakers. For example,
“I’m looking forward to see you”
“I’m looking forward to seeing you.”
Why? In the first, incorrect sentence, the preposition “to” is followed by the base form of the verb “see,” which is not correct. When the preposition “to” is followed by a verb, the verb should be in its gerund form, which is the “-ing” form.
Therefore, “seeing” is the correct form of the verb to use after the preposition “to” in this sentence, making it “I’m looking forward to seeing you.”
- Passive voice Passive voice can be a stumbling block in writing, as it can make sentences longer and harder to understand. For example,
“The cake was eaten by John”
is in passive voice and makes it unclear who actually ate the cake. To make it clearer and more direct, use active voice:
“John ate the cake”
This version clearly states who did the action and is more concise and understandable. Using active voice can make your writing more engaging and effective.
- Incorrectly spelled homophones: Mixing up homophones can leave your writing in shambles, like a house of cards collapsing in the wind. Don’t let your words blow away your message! For example, if you’re writing an email to your boss, you don’t want to say
“I’m to tired to come in today.”
That’s just asking for trouble. You meant to say
“I’m too tired to come in today.”
See the difference? One little letter can make all the difference between being a professional and being a goofball.
Other commonly confused homophones include “there/their/they’re,” “here/hear,” and “its/it’s.” But don’t fret – use our spell-check feature.
- Incorrectly used words: Some words have similar meanings but are not interchangeable. For instance, “imply” and “infer” are two words that are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. The speaker implies something to the listener, while the listener infers something from what the speaker said.
Similarly, “compliment” and “complement” are two words that sound alike but have different meanings. If someone tells you that your outfit looks nice, they are giving you a compliment. If they tell you that your shoes complement your outfit, they are saying that your shoes go well with your outfit.
Using the wrong word can create confusion or change the meaning of a sentence entirely, so it’s important to use the correct word in the right context. Don’t worry, though, even the best writers make mistakes sometimes. Just make sure to double-check your work.
- Misuse of commas: Commas can be tricky, like trying to juggle water balloons without getting wet. One little misstep and you’re in for a soggy surprise. For example,
“Let’s eat Grandma!”
is a far cry from
“Let’s eat, Grandma!”
– the former being a proposition that would make Hannibal Lecter blush. To avoid turning your writing into a horror show, make sure to use commas to separate items in a list, clauses in a sentence, and introductory or parenthetical phrases.
While mistakes in writing are as common as a Kardashian on Instagram, that doesn’t mean you can’t avoid them like a paparazzi. Proper grammar and punctuation can help you steer clear of confusion and awkwardness in your writing. So, before you hit that send button, make sure to proofread and review your work. Because let’s face it, even the queen Beyoncé needs a backup dancer to make sure she’s on point.