Common English Writing Errors Made by ESL/EFL Students[ Teachers: Download the worksheet with explanations here: common-writing-mistakes-esl.docx ]
Here is a list of common writing mistakes intermediate, upper-intermediate, and advanced ESL students make. As a teacher, I have mainly taught Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, Colombian, and Czech students. These are some of their common errors.
- Students, take a look at the sentences (each has a common writing mistake) and try to correct the errors.
- Teachers, download the common English mistakes worksheet above to use in class.
I have added explanations for the writing mistakes. If you have any questions, leave a comment below. Good luck!
1. I enjoy my job, I like the people I work with.
I enjoy my job. I like the people I work with. (two sentences)
I enjoy my job, and I like the people I work with. (combined with a conjunction)
This is a run-on sentence. Both of the clauses “I enjoy my job” and “I like the people I work with” are independent clauses (IC) because they are complete thoughts. You cannot combine two independent clauses (IC + IC) with only a comma. Instead, you should put a period between them or use a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS – for, and, nor, buy, or, yet, so). See our lesson here this punctuation problem.
2. This is a popular city. Because it has work opportunities.
The second clause is a fragment. “Because it has work opportunities” is not a complete idea (it’s not an independent sentence). The word because is a subordinating conjunction. This means it begins a dependent (subordinate) clause that needs to connect with a main (independent) clause.
When the dependent clause is at the end of the sentence, you don’t need a comma before it starts.
This is a popular city because it has work opportunities. (no comma)[ main clause ] [ dependent clause ]
When the dependent clause is at the beginning of the sentence, you need a comma at its end.
Because it has work opportunities, this is a popular city. (comma used)[dependent clause] [main clause ]
3. Everyone have problems sometimes.
This is a Subject-Verb-Agreement (SVA) error. The subject Everyone doesn’t agree (match) the verb. Everyone is a singular subject (like he/she/it), so it agrees with the verb has. (Hint: Every is always followed by a singular noun; everyone means every one person in a group.)
Everyone has problems sometimes.
Here are some other SVA errors:
- People lives live longer nowadays.
- No one know knows the answer.
- Italy have has delicious food.
See our lesson on subject-verb-agreement here
4. In Brazil has beautiful beaches.
This is a sentence without a subject. When you begin a sentence with a preposition (In/At/From etc), you are creating a prepositional phrase that is not the subject of the sentence. After a preposition phrase that begins a sentence, you should add a comma, and then a subject.
In Brazil, beaches are beautiful. (new subject)
- At the end of the day, we went home.
- From the first time I met her, I knew I liked her.
The above sentence can be easily corrected by removing the preposition.
Brazil has beautiful beaches. (No preposition)
5a. I am motivated, hard worker, and professional.
This sentence is not parallel. You have “I am + adjective, noun, adjective.” This is not good balance. Instead, use adjective + adjective + adjective
I am motivated, hard-working, and professional.
5b. My city has many restaurants, festivals, and you can enjoy the beaches.
Again, this is not parallel. It is not a mistake, but it is bad writing style. The sentence has My city has + noun, noun, a full clause. Instead, try to stay balanced. Use noun + noun + noun:
My city has many restaurants, festivals, and beaches to enjoy.
I was responsible for assisting customers, management managing staff, and hiring new workers. (verb + verb + verb all in same form)
6. The happiness is important in the life.
Happiness and life are abstract nouns. Abstract nouns are not countable. They are often ideas. Examples: freedom, love, honesty, peace, surprise, disgust, wealth, poverty, truth
The definite article the is not used with abstract nouns when writing generally.
- The happiness is important in the life. (general)
- My father taught me the meaning of the love. (general)
- It felt like the magic. (general)
We can use the definite article ‘the’ before abstract nouns if they are used to describe something specific.
- The peace between North and South Korea is at risk.
- The love between a parent and his child is a beautiful thing.
- He felt like the magic you feel when you fall in love.
For more help with articles (a/an/the), see our detailed explanation.
7. That organization should change it’s name.
it’s = it is (a contraction). Here, you need a possessive adjective, so you should use its.
That organization should change its name. (possessive)
- It’s good that the company changed the design of its website. (subject + verb, possessive adjective)
8. i think that’s wrong cuz it doesn’t make sense.
This is texting, not writing. When we write, we always capitalize “I” and write words in their full form.
I think that’s wrong because doesn’t make sense.
9. I look forward to hear back from you.
If a preposition (to/of/in/at/by) is followed by a verb, then the verb should be in ~ing form.
- I look forward to hearing back from you.
- I’m afraid of speaking in front of my father.
- We are interested in going there.
10. According to me, the movie was good.
The phrase according to should be used with a third party (e.g. a magazine, book, website, or person other than yourself). We don’t use ‘According to me’. Instead, use In my opinion or a similar phrase. See our lesson here.
In my opinion, the movie was good.
If you’d like to try some more common mistakes, you can visit these related pages:
- 34 Common English Mistakes (Version 1)
- Find the Common English Mistakes (Version 2)
- 23 Common English Mistakes (Version 3)
- 20 Common Mistakes made by Czechs
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