10 Common Writing Mistakes (Grammar – ESL/EFL)

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!

Common writing mistakes made by ESL students

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)

Other examples:

  • 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.

Another example:

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)

Another example:

  • 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:

– Matthew Barton / Creator of Englishcurrent.com (copyright)

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