Avoiding common English errors

There is a difference between ‘writing errors’ and ‘English errors’. A document that has English errors isn’t automatically a bad document by any means – a copy editor can usually fix those grammar and vocabulary errors with not too much trouble.


A document with writing errors, such as incomplete points or an overuse of vague jargon, might need more work and the input of a developmental editor. (To learn more about the different types of editing, take a look at this explanation of my editing services.)


However, with that said, I know many people are keen to reduce the number of English errors in their documents so they can feel more confident not using an editor for every time.


In this post, I highlight three of the most common English errors I see and how you can avoid them.



Learning how and when to use apostrophes can be hard, especially if your mother language doesn’t contain them. And many native English speakers make mistakes too, meaning you’ll see confusing examples in the documents you read.


Basically, apostrophes are used to:

·       Show a letter (or letters) is missing (e.g. you’ll [from ‘you will’])

·       Show possession (e.g. Mary’s book [the book that belongs to Mary])

Don’t use apostrophes for plurals (two apple’s), third person verbs (she walk’s) or with the pronoun its (the company lost it’s contract).


The grammar check in Word and Google Docs often finds and highlights apostrophe mistakes (look for the blue lines!). This check isn’t perfect though, so if you think a suggestion is incorrect, double check with a friend, colleague or editor.


E.g., etc. and i.e.

These Latin abbreviations are often used interchangeably and therefore, incorrectly. Each one has a precise meaning, so you need to pick the one that fits the needs of your sentence.


·       e.g. means ‘for example’. It is placed before your example.

·       etc. means ‘and other similar things’. It is placed after your shortened list of things.

·       i.e. means ‘that is’. It is placed before your defined thing. (Don’t use i.e. with examples, you’ll really confuse your reader!)


Don’t combine these abbreviations (There are many Uber alternatives, e.g. Grab, Bolt etc.).


Unclear plurals

If your mother language doesn’t change nouns to plural forms, it can be hard to remember to do this when you’re writing in English. But this grammar mistake can be confusing for your reader.


If you write “two report”, your reader doesn’t know if the ‘two’ is incorrect or the singular ‘report’ is incorrect. How many reports are there?!


The grammar check in Word and Google Docs often finds and highlights this kind of mistake. But remember the check is not perfect, ask a human if you’re not sure!


Learning through editing


Using an editor is a good way to learn more about correcting your own English errors. For example, if you let me know in advance you want to improve your English through editing, I add explanations to my grammar and vocabulary fixes so you can learn what to do next time. Get in touch on services@njball-services.com.