5 Common Grammar Mistakes College Students Make
Posted By Staff Writer on July 9, 2018
Do you cringe when you see a misspelled word or grammatical error? The common misuse of words like your and you’re can drive English enthusiasts (also known as grammar police) up the wall.
While no one is asking you to take grammar rules as seriously as you might take marriage vows, even a small slip-up on a writing assignment could potentially lower your grade.
Here are five common grammar mistakes that college students make, along with a few tricks you can use to avoid them.
1. Me, myself, and IWe all need to look out for number one, and that includes knowing how to refer to ourselves. In the case of me, myself, and I, the best tip is to remove all other people from the sentence to see whether it still makes sense. For example, “Jesse and myself are studying the periodic table” would not sound right if you removed Jesse from the sentence. Myself would need to be replaced with I. Or how about this trickier example: “Mr. White gave an assignment to Jesse and I.” Again, remove Jesse, and “Mr. White gave an assignment to I” does not work. Instead, change I to me. Me is the object of a sentence, as in “give me more knowledge,” or “Mr. White taught chemistry to Jesse and me.” Myself should only ever be used to describe yourself as the object of a sentence, as in “I read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass to myself this morning.”
2. You’re and your; they’re, there, and their; it’s and itsFor some people, the rules for these words are obvious. Other people struggle to remember which word should be used where, and that’s understandable. After all, they all sound alike! Your is the possessive form of you, as in “chemistry is your favorite subject,” while you’re is a contraction of “you are,” as in “you’re really good at mixing chemicals!” Similar to you’re, they’re is a contraction of “they are,” as in “they’re getting a Fleetwood Bounder RV.” There describes a place, as in “we should go over there.” And lastly, their is the possessive form of they, as in “their favorite color is blue.” It’s is a contraction of “it is,” as in “it’s a good day to work together.” Its, on the other hand, is the possessive form of it, which is confusing since possessives in English typically use an apostrophe. No wonder so many people get this one wrong! Example: “Its color was tan with yellow, orange, and red stripes down the side.”
3. Ending sentences with prepositionsAlthough this one’s not so much a rule as it is a suggestion, the general principle is still important for college students to be familiar with. It can make for choppy writing when prepositions are dangling at the end of sentences, the rule for which many people lack an understanding of. Did you notice that the previous two sentences ended in prepositions? Any words you could use to describe where a squirrel went—on, off, at, onto, over, and approximately 150 more words we call prepositions—should not be placed at the end of a sentence unless an alternative structure would sound equally as awkward. For example, “What did you step on?” sounds more natural than, “On what did you step?” But, “The general principle is still important for college students to be familiar with,” may be improved by saying, “It is still important for college students to familiarize themselves with this rule.”
4. Commas and semicolons
Some people play fast and loose with commas, inserting them anywhere their voice would naturally pause in a sentence. But that’s overkill, since we likely pause way more in speaking than we do in writing. Here are a few clear rules to keep in mind regarding commas:
Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by conjunctions, as in, “Mr. White likes chemistry, but many of his students find it boring.”
Use commas after introductory clauses, phrases, or words that come before a main clause, as in, “After learning about chemistry, I felt like I could conquer the world.”
Semicolons, on the other hand, are used to separate two clauses that relate to each other and could potentially be written as two separate sentences. Example: “I woke up early today to study chemicals; I’m really tired, but very intellectually fulfilled.”