When it comes to writing the magic is in the details…. Often the focus of many students in an English school is fluency. Speaking is viewed as the most desired skill to have in English. Writing however can open many doors and choosing the right words and paying attention to detail can impact your writing tremendously.
In times of texting and autocorrect, many of us are getting way too accustomed to mistakes. True, in daily communication we’re not too concerned with spelling mistakes – to write i’ll instead of I’ll or confuse their, there and they’re. Also, unless you’re a teacher in an English school correcting a writing task, we are also quite tolerant of grammar mistakes – if someone has written in the bus instead of on the bus we assume it was a slip of the finger, the i being too close to the o. But not all communication is informal and depending on whom we’re writing to, mistakes can cause a really bad first impression. Imagine you’re applying for a job or writing an email to your boss or an important client. The people reading on the receiving end may well think it was just autocorrect…. or they may think you’re sloppy!
Below is a collection of mistakes people studying in our English school tend to make and we really want you to watch out for them!
- Fewer vs. Less
This one is tricky but easy to avoid. Use fewer when you can count the number of things being discussed. “I need Fewer chairs in the room.” Use less when describing intangible concepts, like time or uncountable nouns like sugar. “It took me less time to get here today.” “I like my coffee with a little less sugar”
- Which vs. That
Not an easy one, but there is a way to remember when to use one and when to use the other. It has to do with relative clauses, something you’ve probably heard in a grammar lesson at your English school. No? Ok, I’ll explain:
First, if you can remove the phrase and not change the meaning of the sentence, use which; if you can’t remove it without changing the meaning of the sentence, use that. “Her essay, which had many references, was well written.” Take out “which had many references” and the sentence still makes sense. But, in this second example: “Essays that have references are more well received. “Take out “that have references” and this sentence doesn’t make much sense.
Another simple way to look at this is if the phrase before which and that has commas. If it does it should be followed by which. If it doesn’t have commas, it can be that.
- Into vs. In to
If you think that into is just a combination of in and to, you are mistaken! Into always indicates movement. “I walked into the office twenty minutes late.” In and to, however, can be used in lots of different ways that have no relation to movement. “I was called in to go over the reports.”
- Like vs. Such as
In conversation, informal chats, we use like for just about everything. But technically, it’s not always correct. When you use like, you’re offering comparing two things, for example, My voice sounds just like my mum’s. But when you are giving examples, or listing them, you should use such as: “My mother has many good qualities, such as her caring nature and ability to deal with many problems at the same time”
- Me vs. I
Many people get confused about when to use me and I. Both are pronouns, but one is used when it’s the subject of a sentence — the one doing the action — and the other when it’s the object — the one being acted on.
]If you say, “I love cake” the word I is the subject, and cake is the object. You would NEVER say, “Me love cake.” If you say, “My dog loves me.” the word me is the object, the thing being loved.
- Advise vs. Advice
To advise someone is to give them advice. Advise, with an S, is the verb, while advice, with a C, is the noun. For example, ‘she always gives me good advice (noun), last week she advised me not to go to the party’ (verb).
Avoid these common mistakes, and make sure you’re spelling things correctly and always revise a piece of writing before sending/submitting it to someone!
Want to be a better writer or improve your English skills in general? Why not joining an English school? You can improve your general English skills, and by acquiring more vocabulary and improving your grammar, you will naturally become a better writer. In an English school you can also find specific writing courses where you can learn how to write in different genres.