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 it 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.
How can you improve your English? The best way is to practice speaking and writing with a teacher who can give you feedback on your mistakes. If you don't have a teacher, there is also free software such as Grammarly that can give you grammar feedback while you type.
If you'd like to try some more common mistakes, you can visit these related pages:
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