How to Make Fewer Mistakes

Dear teacher, I make alot of mistakes when i write. Is always been like that. I don’t believe i can stop every mistakes even if i want, it would take too much time and i’m busy with my other course. Is too much effort.

Is it worth the effort?

No, not if we’re hoping to stop making all the mistakes all at once. That’s a recipe for frustration and giving up.

It’s important to be realistic about how fast we’ll improve. We can improve one mistake at a time instead of all mistakes at once. Is this slower approach worth the effort?

Consider this.

Rightly or wrongly, people do make opinions of us based on how well we write. And especially based on the types of mistakes that we make. Some mistakes are easier to catch than others.

Our boss or our staff can get the wrong idea (or the right one) if we make a lot of easy mistakes in our text messages to them. They might think we don’t respect them. Or they might think we’re not very smart. Do you really want that guy or girl you hope to date to think that way about you?

Making mistakes is part of learning, absolutely. Everyone knows that and should respect that.

But making simple mistakes because we just don’t feel like learning about them and taking a bit more time to reread ourselves… well, what does that say about us?

Are there any tricks to make it easier?

Human beings learn by watching how others do things.

If everything we read is only a sentence or two in a Twitter feed or Instagram post, we’re only learning how to write like that.

If we don’t read texts that use paragraphs, we have no examples to learn from.

Suggestion 1:

Start reading longer texts about what you like. Find sites with content that uses paragraphs and looks more professional. If you see spelling mistakes and random punctuation, move on to something more professional.

For example, if you’re into gaming, maybe try blogs like these:

Or, if you’re into sports, read about your favourite team in English:

Or, if you’re curious about internet lies, romance scams, and the state of the Earth, there’s this:

Research shows that people who read more write better.

Be curious when you’re reading. Not just about the ideas.

Notice the way the writer puts together their sentences and paragraphs. Especially the ones that you know you wouldn’t have written that way, but that sound good and look good.

When we slow down and notice, we begin to learn.

Suggestion 2:

Make a list of the mistakes you make the most. If you're learning English, some of these ones might be showing up. Then target one or two of them (especially if they’re simple ones), three at most.

First, make sure you understand the mistake. If you don’t understand it but your teacher gave it a name, Google that name.

For example, Googling “run-on sentence” gives this:

Googling “subject-verb agreement” gives this:

Then visit at least three different sites in the results. Why more than one? Because repetition of the idea and seeing it explained in different ways helps us understand it better and remember longer.

Which result should you click on first? Sites with “edu” at the end of the URL are from educational institutions. They’re the best place to start.

Try other sites after, as long as they look well done and aren’t full of clickbait. Explanations are sometimes clearer on these other sites.

Now add that mistake to a Target Errors List like this one:

Here’s a WORD template for you to start your Target Errors List.

Second, now that you understand the mistake, make a commitment to yourself. Say something like, “I’m going to try to get rid of this mistake for real.” And mean it. For real.

We can change what we do when we make a real commitment. It’s never easy. We have to keep reminding ourselves to put in the extra time and effort.

And it helps to be realistic. Habits don’t change after one week.

We create new habits when we’re committed and we believe the outcome is worth it, whether for us personally or for the people we interact with.

Third, every time you write in English, after you’re happy with the ideas, reread slowly without thinking about the ideas. Just check for that mistake only. Make it right each time you find it.

Depending on the type of mistake, an online grammar checker can also be helpful. Virtual Writing Tutor is great for finding simpler mistakes that we make often when learning English.

At first you’ll find your target mistake more often in your latest text.

As time passes, though, you’ll find it less and less because you’ll make it less often as you write your ideas.

Eventually it’ll be time to choose another mistake to get rid of. Update your list of errors to target and keep on improving.

Photo credit: "Define 'Improved'" by cogdogblog is licensed under CC0 1.0