Editing Guide: How to Explain the Common Errors in English to a Language Learner

This editing guide aims at explaining the common errors in English grammar in a more specific way. At the moment, each part of speech written below has very few entries. Through time, while the writer continuously encounters more and more expressions, this will be a rich stock of editing guidelines.


If you think you can contribute to the entries below, please feel free to send in your comments. Let’s make this world a better place by contributing our knowledge and talent to help each other.






1. Use “a few” as an adjective to say that a noun is just a small number.

2. “Amount of” is generally used with uncountables. For uncountables, use “a great number of.”


1.  The adjective “attached” has the same meaning with “assigned” as in “I was attached to our branch office in the United States.


1. Use hyphens in between numbers and words if the adjective age appears before the noun. For example, I am a 34-year-old woman. If the ages comes after the verb, no need to put a hyphen. For example, I am 38 years old.


1. The word “every day” is two words if used as an adverb and one word if used as an adjective.

2. The idiom “every time” should be written always two separate words.

3. Put a comma after a sentence adverb such as “unfortunately.”



1. Use “a” before an adjective that starts with a consonant sound describing a non-specific countable noun (e.g., a global company).

2. Use “a” before a non-specific countable noun that you have not mentioned before in your previous sentences.

3. Use the article “a” before a non-specific noun that starts with a consonant sound and which you haven’t mentioned before in your previous statements so it is unknown to the person you are talking about (e.g., A girl wearing a white dress is staring at me.).



1. Use “the” to specifically talk about that thing in a specific context that you and the person you are talking to are talking about.

2. Use “the” if there is only one of that “thing” you are talking about in the world (e.g. the internet).



1. No need to capitalize the names of school subjects.

2. Job titles are not capitalized not unless they come before the name of the person to address the person.

3. Currency names are usually not capitalized.

4. Capitalize a nationality used as an adjective since it refers to a group of people with the same culture.




1. Avoid putting “but” at the beginning of the sentence. It is discouraged by many writers, especially in formal writing.


1. Make the noun plural if there is a cardinal number (e.g., two frogs). The cardinal number functions as the determiner of the noun.

2. Check-ups such as medical check-ups is written with a hyphen.





1. Housewife and southwestern are both one word.

2. The word “sales figures” is always plural since it refers to the “total amount of…”

3. “Supermarket” is just one word.

4. “Part-time is written with a hyphen.”

5.  Aircraft has no “s” inflection. Its plural is the same. It’s still aircraft.



1. Use the preposition “for” to express the duration, period, or length of time.

2. Use “at” to express a specific time (e.g., at 8 p.m.).

3. Use “to” to express which direction the subject is heading to or coming from.



1. Use “my” to show possession or that something belongs to you.

2. Use “this” only to refer to a specific thing which is close or nearby to the speaker. Sometimes it is confused with “it” by some learners.

3. Use “which” to refer to a thing that you have mentioned previously in your statement to give further information about that “thing.”



comma (,)

1. Put a comma before a parenthetical phrase (e.g., I hate meat, especially pork.).

2. Put a comma after an introductory adverb (e.g., Actually,).

3. Put a comma after interrupters such as “of course.”

4. Put the comma after “by the way” since it is a prepositional phrase especially if it appears at the beginning of the sentence.

5. Put a comma before “such as” if you are citing more than one example.


semicolon (;)

1. Use a semicolon if you have two independent clauses joined by a conjunctive adverb (e.g., however).

2. Put a semicolon between two independent clauses which have related meanings.


colon (:)

1. Use a colon to cite a list.



1. Spell out numbers below 10.



1. Use the infinitive “to + verb” after specific verbs of feeling or thinking (e.g., decide = I decided to go there). These two websites have very good examples:

British Council Infinitive

Kaplan International (How to use the Infinitive)

2. There are verbs which are followed by the “ing” noun such as “enjoy” “finish” and “start” (e.g. started selling, enjoyed driving or finished eating).

3. Use a linking verb to link the subject to its description.

4. The verb “need” is an action verb categorized as a mental verb.

5. A transitive verb needs a direct object right after it so there’s no need to insert a preposition in between. A common error is inserting the preposition “for” (e.g. requesting for a letter which should be corrected as requesting a letter).

6. The verb “go + another base form of the verb” is informal English. For example,  Let’s go get it. The more formal way is “Let’s go and get it.” You usually put “and” between the two verbs.

7. The verb “help” if followed by another verb does not need the infinitive form, but rather, the bare infinitive (e.g. help her practice and not help her to practice.).


Mood of the verb 

Subjunctive mood

1. Conditional type 1 – Use the simple future tense for the main clause and simple present tense for the “if clause” of a type 1 conditional sentence.



1. go for – This an idiom that means you like a certain thing if you like doing a certain thing. It has different ways of use based on the context.


tenses of the verb

1. present tense – used for regular or habitual actions (e.g., I deliver goods every day.).

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