Agreement errors Pronouns must agree with the word they refer to in person, number, and gender.
Incorrect: Everyone wanted to cash in their stock options.
Correct: Everyone wanted to cash in his or her stock options.
Singular subjects take singular verbs. Plural subjects take plural verbs. Each, everybody, everyone, anybody, somebody, someone, no one, either, and neither are singular words that are often mistakenly used with plural verbs. Group, staff, board, committee, and majority are also singular.
Incorrect: The staff are on vacation.
Correct: The staff is on vacation.
Comma splices Do not connect two individual sentences, each with its own subject and verb, by a comma.
Incorrect: Yesterday’s meeting was there, today’s meeting is here.
Correct: Yesterday’s meeting was there. Today’s meeting is here.
Dangling modifiers Modifiers are words or phrases that define or alter the meaning of something. Modifiers are dangling when they don’t modify the subject of the sentence.
Incorrect: Believing the product to be faulty, it was recalled. (Who believes the product to be faulty?)
Correct: Believing the product to be faulty, the company recalled it. (The company believes the product to be faulty.)
Extra apostrophes Do not use an apostrophe to form the plurals of numbers or decades: 1870s, 1990s; 20s, 30s, 40s. Use an apostrophe when numbers are missing, but make sure the apostrophe faces the right way: the ’70s.
Misplaced colons Do not place a colon between a verb and its objects or between a preposition and its objects.
Incorrect: Please address the letter to: the client, the CEO, and the lawyers. Correct: Please address the letter to the client, the CEO, and the lawyers.
Incorrect: Our strongest departments are: accounting, marketing, and human resources.
Correct: Our strongest departments are accounting, marketing, and human resources.
Incorrect punctuation with parentheses Put a period inside the closing parenthesis if the statement inside is a complete sentence. Otherwise, punctuate the sentence as if the parentheses do not exist.
Ice cream is my favorite dessert. (And chocolate is my favorite flavor.)
Ice cream is my favorite dessert (especially chocolate).
Misused pronouns A pronoun that follows a preposition is the object of that preposition and should therefore be in the objective case.
Correct: Let’s keep this between you and me.
Incorrect: Let’s keep this between you and I.
Incorrect punctuation with quotation marks Periods and commas go inside the final quotation mark. Semicolons and colons go outside the final quotation mark. Question marks and exclamation points go inside the final quotation mark when they are part of the quoted material and outside when they are not.
Incorrect: After the sales pitch he asked, “So how much will this really cost us”?
Correct: After the sales pitch he asked, “So how much will this really cost us?”
Run-on sentences A run-on sentence is two or more sentences without punctuation separating them.
Incorrect: The economy is good however the market for our product is poor.
Correct: The economy is good; however, the market for our product is poor.
Sentence fragments A sentence fragment is a group of words that do not form a complete thought.
Incorrect: The stenographer typed. As fast as he could. (As fast as he could is not a complete sentence.)
Correct: The stenographer typed as fast as he could.