6. Putting a comma after a subordinate or coordinate conjunction.
Sounds intimidating! But actually those conjunctions are words you use every day: and, but, if, when, because, although, and so on. Don’t put commas after them. Ever. (If you need a comma, put it in front.)
I walked around the whole perimeter of the store but, I didn’t see or hear anything. INCORRECT
I walked around the whole perimeter of the store, but I didn’t see or hear anything. CORRECT
I walked around the whole perimeter of the store but didn’t see or hear anything. CORRECT
Be especially careful with although. Anything that starts with although is an extra idea that has to be attached to a real sentence (and of course you’ll never put a comma after although!):
He insisted on driving his car home. Although, his friends tried to stop him. INCORRECT
He insisted on driving his car home although his friends tried to stop him. CORRECT
For more help with commas, go to Commas Made Simple.
7. Misspelling all right and a lot.
All right and a lot are always two words. Always. No exceptions. You can check the dictionary to verify this: It will tell you that the common one-word spellings are “substandard,” meaning that professionals (like you!) never use them.
Leon told me he was all right and didn’t need medical attention. CORRECT
Denise said she’d heard a lot of yelling coming from the Wrights’ apartment. CORRECT
8. Misusing quotation marks.
Use quotation marks only for a person’s exact words. If you change the words, omit the quotation marks.
When you use quotation marks, put commas and periods inside. Always. No exceptions.
Casey said, “I was afraid to spend the night with him in that condition, so I called my sister.” CORRECT
Casey said she was afraid to spend the night with him in that condition, so she called her sister. CORRECT
9. Using texting style.
Because texting is so popular, many people have become careless about abbreviations and capital letters. Beware! If you text often, ask a friend or family member to check formal writing tasks to make sure you made the switch to formal writing.
I will call u when i no the location for our september meeting. INCORRECT
I will call you when I know the location for our September meeting. CORRECT
10. Misusing “helping verbs” like is, are, was, were, has, have, and had.
Writing the way you speak can cause huge problems! Be especially careful with commonly misused verbs like seen, went, did, and done.
My partner and I seen her get into her car. INCORRECT
My partner and I saw her get into her car. CORRECT
Captain Bolen has seen many changes in law enforcement over the years. CORRECT
After I had went to the parking garage, Thompson changed his story. INCORRECT
After I had gone to the parking garage, Thompson changed his story. CORRECT
Wilkes said he done everything by four o’clock. INCORRECT
Wilkes said he did everything by four o’clock. CORRECT
Wilkes said he had done everything by four o’clock. CORRECT