Self-editing | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book

Checking out grammar mistakes is quite easy—but only when you are not editing and proofreading your work by yourself. Otherwise, it’s almost impossible to catch things that would jump out of the page right away, were they written by someone else.

Sadly enough, typos and little grammar mistakes have the power to destroy the readability of your work.

While it’s almost impossible to write a few thousand words that are totally free of grammar mistakes and spelling errors, here are some tips to save you if you decide to be your own editor.

What are the basic grammar mistakes in writing?

Some of the most common grammar mistakes include:

  • Comma Splice. When you use commas to join two independent clauses, you may end up with a comma splice. For example, “I went to the mall, the missus was there.” These two clauses should be two separate sentences. Indeed, this is one of two easy ways to correct the mistake:
    • You can separate the clauses into two separate sentences, or
    • you can replace the comma with a semicolon.
  • Pronoun Disagreement. These errors are pretty common but there’s still confusion over the use of singular they—one of my favorite tricks when I need to avoid the use of the “his/her” form (which I personally detest). However, if you say “people need to use his brain,” then you are committing a pronoun disagreement since the pronoun (“his”) must be plural if the noun (“people”) is plural.
  • Apostrophe errors. Apostrophes are always used for possession. However, they are also used for contractions, which is where people get… creative. As in, “A lot of great music was created in the 80’s.” No, the correct form is “80s.”

Use a dictionary

This is not so much a grammar mistake as much as a style issue. We all have our favorite ways of describing something and can easily become repetitive after a while. Indeed, that’s the very reason why I started the notes that became Emotional Beats—my inspiration for novel ways of saying something.

The best way to ensure variety in your writing is to read. The second best, to use one of several applications available online that can help you with synonyms. Some of these come with a thesaurus and an indication of how commonly a word is used. There are tons of online dictionaries that offer more than just a piece of information and most of them are free to use.

For example, you may use a sentence rewriter. This has the added advantage of fixing any typos and grammar mistakes thanks to the artificial intelligence in the tool. The software displays any errors and suggestions for fixing them when you click on “grammar checker.”

Use your eyes

Grammar mistakes make content really hard to read and drive readers away. If your writing is clear, then you can easily convey your message in a way that doesn’t leave them bored or frustrated.

If, however, you make a lot of grammar mistakes, you will irritate your readers. Even worse, you will indicate that you are not serious about your work.

Online grammar checkers like Grammarly are pretty good and getting better every day. While we all depend on AI and spellcheckers to do the work for us, however, it’s amazing how often they miss stuff. Use your eyes to check your spelling and read through your entire document at least three times before submitting to a client or uploading. It also helps if you read the text aloud, as this will help you catch more typos and mistakes.

More tips

Finally, here some extra tips to help you avoid grammar issues:

  • Proofread your bio and blurb. This is where most writers fail.
  • Mind your gerunds. Avoid using “-ing” forms in the wrong place.
  • Use commas correctly. Personally, I’m a big fan of the Oxford comma but I’m aware that many writers avoid it. Whatever you choose, be consistent.
  • The same goes with singular they. While I love it, many prefer to rewrite a sentence to avoid using it.
  • Beware your usage of “me” and “I.”
  • Use direct verbs and avoid lengthy text.

Happy writing!