Grammar is...

  1. Important for learning to write well.
  2. Acquired in the first six years or so of life for native speakers of a language.
  3. The first thing readers may notice; it is important to how your writing is perceived by others.

Perfect grammar is not...

  1. The sole characteristic of good writing.
  2. Black and white: people perceive the seriousness of grammar errors differently.
  3. Easy to grasp; it takes practice to achieve good grammar.

Which common errors do readers find most troublesome?

Research shows that readers tend to be bothered most by the following errors:

  • Non-standard verb forms (When we was. . .)
  • Double negatives (There has never been no one. . .)
  • Objective pronouns at the beginning of a sentence (Me and him drove).

On the other hand, readers tend to be less bothered by the following types of errors:

While these are common errors, the list goes on and on. It is important to identify grammatical errors in your writing that stand out the most to readers. One way to do this—and learn how to fix them, too—is to visit the Writing Center, where a tutor will read through the paper with you and help you to spot and correct errors.

A Writer's Reference bookcover

Suggestions for Fixing Grammatical Errors:

  1. Own and use an up-to-date writer's reference book, especially when revising or editing.
  2. Proofread! Read your paper out loud to help you spot grammatical errors that make a sentence jumbled or choppy.
  3. Use spell check on Microsoft Word: this can help with some spelling and grammatical errors, but it is important to double check since grammar- and spell-check are never reliable. What the computer says is correct may still be jumbled and confusing.
  4. If you are a non-native speaker, we have a lot of online resources to help you produce better grammar.
  5. Visit the Writing Center to work collaboratively with a tutor on grammar. The tutor can help you identify and correct errors.

More Writing Help

The Kathleen Jones White Writing Center provides tutoring services, workshops, and writing resources.