Common mistakes to avoid in your writing

When it comes to writing the magic is in the detail…. In this Academic Blog, our Director of Studies Marianne talks about how choosing the right words and paying attention to detail can impact your writing tremendously. And 6 very common mistakes to avoid when writing.


In times of texting and autocorrect, many of us are getting way too accustomed to mistakes. True, in daily communication we’re not too concerned with spelling mistakes –  writing i’ll instead of I’ll or confusing their, there and they’re. We are also quite tolerant of grammar mistakes – if someone has written in the bus instead of on the bus we assume it was a slip of the finger, the i being too close to the o. But not all communication is informal and depending on whom we’re writing to, mistakes can cause a really bad first impression. Imagine you’re applying for a job or writing an email to your boss or to an important client. The people reading on the receiving end may well think it was just autocorrect…. or they may think you’re sloppy.

Below is a collection of 6 mistakes that a lot of people tend to make. We really want you to watch out for them!

laptop writing

1 – Fewer vs. Less

This one is tricky but easy to avoid. Use fewer when you can count the number of things being discussed. “I need fewer chairs in the room.” Use less when describing intangible concepts like time or uncountable nouns like sugar. “It took me less time to get here today.” “I like my coffee with a little less sugar” 

2 – Which vs. That

Not an easy one, but there is a way to remember when to use one and when to use the other. It has to do with grammar and relative clauses. I’ll explain:

First, if you can remove the phrase and not change the meaning of the sentence, use which; if you can’t remove it without changing the meaning of the sentence, use that. “Her essay, which had many references, was well written.” Take out “which had many references” and the sentence still makes sense. But, in this second example: “Essays that have references are more well received”. Take out “that have references” and this sentence doesn’t make much sense.

Another simple way to look at this is if the phrase before which and that has commas. If it does it should be followed by which. If it doesn’t have commas, it can be that.

3 – Into vs. In to

If you think that into is just a combination of in and to, you are mistaken! Into always indicates movement. “I walked into the office twenty minutes late.” In and to, however, can be used in lots of different ways that have no relation to movement. “I was called in to go over the reports.”

4 – Like vs. Such as

In conversation, informal chats, we use like for just about everything. But technically, it’s not always correct. When you use like, you’re comparing two things, for example, My voice sounds just like my mother’s.  But when you are giving examples, or listing them, you should use such as: “My mother has many good qualities, such as her caring nature and ability to deal with many problems at the same time”

5 – Me vs. I

Many people get confused about when to use me and I. Both are pronouns, but one is used when it’s the subject of a sentence — the one doing the action — and the other when it’s the object — the one being acted on.

If you say, I love cake” the word I is the subject, and cake is the object. You would NEVER say, “Me love cake.” If you say, “My dog loves me.” the word me is the object, the thing being loved.

6 – Advise vs. Advice

To advise someone is to give them advice. Advise, with an S, is the verb, while advice, with a C, is the noun. For example, “She always gives me good advice (noun), last week she advised me not to go to that boring party (verb)”.

Avoid these common mistakes, make sure you’re spelling things correctly and always revise a piece of writing before sending/submitting it to someone!

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