It’s hard to believe, but one of the simplest things that writers tend to forget is grammar and punctuation. While style rules are important to follow and a necessity, grammar and sentence structure are needed before you can even worry about all that. Now luckily most writers do know how to write, but there are common errors that even the best of them can slip up on.
The most simple one to start with is punctuation. While it is obvious most of the time that commas help combine sentences and periods finish one there are more rules to follow. Let’s start with the comma combining sentences. If the second segment does not have a verb or noun then it isn’t a complete sentence so no comma needed. While it may look like you do you don’t.
Another fact that many writers won’t like about commas is that the oxford comma is not used in most magazine and news writing anymore. And if you don’t know what the oxford comma is it’s the unnecessary comma you put in front of the conjunction in a series. So ex: I like peaches, pears, and apples. Should be written as: I like peaches, pears and apples. True it is such a small change and more of a style rule, but it does save characters if you take it out.
Almost any sentence you ever end will have just a period to finish it. In magazine and news writing exclamation points and question marks are not used very often if at all in a story. Only in certain cases would you use these. You definitely would not use these marks when it comes to writing quotes. The reason behind that is it can give certain tones to the speaking that the speaker may not have intended and can look pretty bad on the writer.
Also while I’m on quotes. Always, always, always put the period inside the quotation marks. I’m not kidding. There are people who do put them outside. My OCD goes nuts every time I see one. Just put the period inside the quote marks and there will be no trouble.
This is yet another common error if you can believe it, but it is usually not when people write one sentence by itself but when they combine them. The problem with fragments also ties into the commas from earlier. When you separate two sentences with a semicolon or a conjunction and a comma you are saying they are both independent clauses and can stand on their own. A very simple solution to fix this problem is to put a period down and see if the two sentences could stand on their own. If not then take out the semicolon or conjunction and comma pairing.
It does suck to talk about grade school mistakes that we hear all the time, but they are common mistakes that everyone makes. The key is to try and read over your work and remember what you are writing. In the end just remembering simple grammar and sentence structure can be a big help.