Grammar School 101: Four Mistakes Not to Make

Grammar School 101: Four Mistakes Not to Make

We all know how important it is to use proper English online. Well-written copy is key to having a site that looks professional and attracts customers, whether you’re a sales company or an alcohol treatment facility.

By the same token, simple errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling can look careless and make viewers think you didn’t put enough thought into your website. Despite your intentions, chances are you haven’t had a refreshing course in English grammar recently.

Here are four common mistakes we all make at some point no matter how much attention we put into our writing.


Hyphens are one of the most underused types of punctuation. Many people aren’t sure when to include them, which is understandable. After all, hyphens have more uses than most types of punctuation (commas excluded).

You use hyphens to 1) connect compound words, 2) link parts of a phrase, or 3) indicate a split in a word between lines of print. Most people understand the third use easily enough, but forget to use hyphens in compound words and phrases.

They forget the hyphen in things like “three-bed hotel suite” or “state-of-the-art product.” A good rule of thumb is to always use hyphens in words and phrases that wouldn’t make sense if you removed one of the words. For example, “three hotel room” or “state the art product” just wouldn’t sound right.


Most people either tend to leave apostrophes out altogether or go crazy overusing them. In reality, apostrophes have two relatively straightforward uses: 1) to indicate possession, or 2) to show omission.

For example, you’d use an apostrophe to show that “Richard’s cars” belong to Richard, or the “ladybug’s wings” belong to the ladybug. You wouldn’t say “Richard’s car’s” unless the car itself owns something.

The exception to this rule are words like “its,” because “it’s” is a contraction for it is. Also, use the apostrophe in contractions like “don’t” and abbreviations like “gov’t” (for government).


Many users mix up commas and semi-colons, which kind of makes sense, since a comma looks like a part of a semi-colon. The most common mistake people make with semi-colons is to put a comma where there should be a semi-colon, or vice versa.

Semi-colons are used to indicate major divisions in sentences and to separate two compound clauses of a sentence where no conjunction is used.

For example, a semi-colon is used in the middle of the sentence “They went to the store; they bought milk.” You could similarly say “They went to the store, and they bought milk,” but you cannot use only the comma in this sentence without the conjunction “and.”

Subject/object agreement

This is a really easy mistake to make because few people consistently use correct subject/object agreement. To use correct subject/object agreement, you need to make sure the subject and predicate of the sentence agree in number.

For example, you would say “The boys drove their car,” instead of “The boys drove its car.” The common mistakes people make with subject/object agreement are with words like “everyone” and “everything.” These words are technically singular, but most of us have gotten into the habit of making them plural in the predicate.

We often say “Everyone has their preference,” but this isn’t technically correct. The proper subject/object use for this sentence would actually be “Everyone has his or her preference.”

Guest Author Byline:  Now that you’ve learned about some common grammar mistakes, double-check your website! This post is brought to you by guest blogger CJ, who is knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects including grammar, marketing and even alcohol treatment facilities.