We’ve compiled our own favorite strategies for common grammar and spelling mistakes. We’ve also included links to helpful videos, comics, and other pages. Check them all out, then choose the tips that you can remember easiest.


Apostrophes

Strategies:

If you tend to leave out apostrophes or use them incorrectly, add a note to your checklist to check every word that ends in “-s” or “-es” to see if it needs an apostrophe.

Links:

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Sentence Fragments, Run-ons, and Comma Splices

Strategies:

  • Make sure there is a subject and verb for each sentence.
  • Never begin a sentence with the word which. If you find that you want to add a thought to the previous sentence that begins with the word which, attach it with a comma.
  • There are a lot of marks of punctuation to express ideas that don’t fit into simple sentence structures. Experiment with using dashes and semi-colons for those extra thoughts you want to tack on at the end (parentheses are often effective too). Begin to notice how other writers use these punctuation marks.

Links:

  • Check out Grammar Girl’s podcast on run-ons and sentence fragments.
  • Grammar Bytes has lots of suggestions for fixing run-ons and comma splices.
  • This video is a small lesson in identifying run-on sentences (kind of boring but helpful).

Here are some very understandable videos on marks of punctuation that can save you from run-ons and fragments:

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Subject/Verb Agreement

Strategies:
One trick to remember subject/verb agreement in English is:
Only the subject or the verb should end in –s, never both of them.

For example,
“The apples are good.”
“The apple is good.”

Caution: There are exceptions! Some plurals don’t take an –s (for example, children).

Links:

  • This video is intended for SAT prep; it’s a very thorough and understandable explanation of subject/verb agreement.
  • Here’s Grammar Girl’s take on subject/verb agreement.

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Commonly Confused Words and Spellings

Following are easy ways to remember the differences between these commonly confused words spellings. We often list several different memory devices; read them all, and one or two will probably stick with you.

If you’re really visual, check out the memory aids in this Oatmeal comic for these words:

  • lose / loose
  • weird / wierd
  • there / they’re / their
  • you’re / your
  • its / it’s
  • definitely
  • effect / affect
  • weather / whether
  • a lot
  • then / than

Also, see Grammar Girl for a very extensive list of explanations for commonly confused, misspelled, and misused words (including lay / liefurther / farther, i.e / e.g, and many more). Keep in mind that this just links you to the first page of six. Dig through to find what you need.


ACCEPT / EXCEPT

Strategies:

  1. Think of the way the letters look in each word:
X Except has the X; it’s the one that wants to keep things or people out.
Hug Accept holds its arms out to you in a very accepting manner; look at the shape of your arms when you’re hugging someone—kind of like two C’s, right?
  • One student reports that she keeps the terms separate by remembering that credit card offers have exceptions and exclusions.

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AFFECT / EFFECT

Strategies:

  • A comes before E in the alphabet. Similarly, something must be affected first to produce the effect. The action leads to the result.
  • Or use the acronym RAVEN   
              R
    emember:
     &