Grammar

Its or It’s

Why so confusing? Using “its” when you really meant “it’s” is a very common punctuation error, and it is easy to understand why it happens. The two forms sound identical. Not to worry, it is easy to eliminate this error from your writing if you ask yourself one simple question: Do I mean it is or

Read on »

Can I use an indefinite article with a plural noun?

Rule: Don’t use indefinite articles with plural words.Incorrect: He has a muscular arms. Correct: He has muscular arms. Rule: Use a partitive structure with words that are never singular.Incorrect: She wore a blue jeans. (Other examples: shorts, pants, jeans, leggings) Correct: She wore a pair of blue jeans. Exception: Words like “series” and “species” look plural, but they are also singular and can be used with an article.Correct: I

Read on »

What is the difference between a simple sentence, a compound sentence, and a complex sentence?

Learn the difference between simple, compound and complex sentences with anticipations, interruptions, and afterthoughts. In just 17 minutes, you will know how to punctuate and structure every sentence you will ever want to write.  Error Correction Exercise: Learn how to correct comma errors Watch a video: Learn the difference between a simple sentence, a compound sentence, and

Read on »

Question Formation Errors

Question forms in English can be tricky.Most questions require the inversion of the subject and the auxiliary. There are a number of auxiliaries to choose from, and auxiliaries must agree with their subject. This handy guide will help you eliminate common errors and ask correctly formed questions.   The Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker can catch

Read on »

Had Better: Meaning, Form, and Common Errors

Use “Had better” for strong or urgent advice or for threats. Meaning We use “had better” for strong advice, urgent advice (for others and yourself), and threats.  You had better do the dishes before your mom comes home. [Strong advice]You had better run! Your train is coming. [Urgent advice]I‘d better put the turkey in the

Read on »

Word Choice Errors

Below is a list of word choice errors the Virtual Writing Tutor can detect and correct. The list is not exhaustive. Instead, it will give you a sense of the kinds of errors that I consider a word choice error and I have been working to correct. Transfer errors Word choice errors are often due

Read on »

Intransitive Verb Errors

Intransitive!  Not allowed.Source: Ville Miettinen from Helsinki, Finland INCORRECT:  Recent studies have risen a number of key questions regarding the impact of CCTV on crime. CORRECT:    Recent studies have raised a number of key questions regarding the impact of CCTV on crime. RULE:   The verb  have risen is intransitive, and therefore it cannot have an object like a number

Read on »

50 Common Errors

    Here are 50 common errors that my college ESL students commonly make in their writing and speaking. Errors are shown in context, with an incorrect sentence, its correct version, and a rule to explain what the problem is. In time, I will add links to online practice activities for each one. Until then,

Read on »

Unnecessary Words

Some words should be removed from sentences. They are either implied (and therefore redundant)  or express a meaning that can be said in fewer words.  Here are a few examples: I have had this problem since when I was young.I like to play ski.After leaving school, he joined a music band.He said the fact that

Read on »