5 Top Grammar Mistakes College Students Make

Do you know where the library is at?

They told me, the library, is on the West side of Campus.

I am going to the library now so I can check out some books on history and biology and medicine so I can keep studying for my tests this weekend. 

Can you quickly identify the grammatical errors above? They can be pretty glaring when laid out like that, but students make similar, less obvious mistakes in their writing all the time! Not only do they make your essays harder to read, but these errors can also actually bring down your grades. From improper use of commas to who vs whom, there are a lot of grammatical errors students can make, too. We’ll cover just 5 of the most common ones here!

5 Top Grammar Mistakes Even Top College Students Make

1. Commas

Many students (and even college graduates) misuse commas. They add too many, add not enough, use them in dangling modifiers, and more! They forget to add them at the end when they use the word “too,” too. 

Compound sentences are a common place to find misused commas. 

Incorrect: He likes dogs, and cats.
Correct: He likes dogs and cats.
Correct: He likes dogs, and he likes cats.

Compound sentences can also be missing a necessary comma.

Incorrect: I picked up my cat and my mother went into the other room.
Correct: I picked up my cat, and my mother went into the other room.

In the first sentence, a reader may mistakenly read that you picked up your cat and your mom!

Commas can certainly be confusing, however. If you want to read more about their proper use and other mistakes you could be making with them, we recommend you check out this helpful article from Grammarly

2. Unnecessary Capitalization

Among the top grammar mistakes, is unnecessary capitalization! This one can be an obvious error to spot, but people still make it! Proper nouns, such as the name of your school, are meant to be capitalized (SUNY New Paltz rather than Suny new paltz). However, you shouldn’t write it as, “My School is SUNY New Paltz.” “School” is not a proper noun and should not be capitalized. 

The only other instances words should be capitalized include:

  • Words in a title
  • The first words of sentences
  • Certain words for directions
  • Certain words for family relationships
  • Proper adjectives

3. Sentence Fragments

We met on campus. Where we studied.

“We met on campus” is a complete sentence, but “where we studied” – not so much. This example is a bit more obvious than it may be in your writing, but incomplete sentences, or sentence fragments, can make following a point extremely difficult.

And it’s absolutely okay to use sentences that start with but, and, or, and because! This is actually taught to elementary students to help them avoid sentence fragments.

4. Run-On Sentences

On the other side of the fence, run-on sentences are also an issue for college students. They may have several ideas that relate to one another and, instead of making separate sentences, string them all together in one. 

A good rule of thumb is to read over your work out loud. If your sentence is so long that you forget what the original point was, it’s hard to follow, or makes you out of breath, it’s extremely likely it’s a run-on sentence!

5. Its vs It’s

Just like their, there, and they’re, “its” and “it’s” can be confusing, and when you’re typing quickly, it’s very easy to mistype the wrong one. 

Although you might say something like, “The cat’s toy was full of catnip.” with an apostrophe to denote possession, it’s the opposite with “its” You would instead say “Its toy was full of catnip.”

That’s because “it’s” actually refers to a conjunction and is “it is.” 

If you’re ever trying to figure out which one is right (because you’re working late into the night), try reading the sentence out loud. Does “its” fit or “it is?” This will help you get to the right answer!

How Can You Avoid These Grammatical Errors and Others?

Thankfully, there are plenty of tools, resources, and tricks you can use to discover these grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and confusing sentences in your essay. 


Grammarly is an excellent extension for your browser. The free version helps you identify run-on sentences, improper comma use, spelling mistakes, and more. It will even explain why it’s wrong! And more features can be found in the pay-for option.

Google Docs and Other Documentation Tools

Even professional writers are not exempt from making grammatical errors. It’s not uncommon to see a mistake or two in a published book. The editor missed the mistake, too!

I’m actually writing this on Google Docs myself because it helps me identify errors I may have overlooked! Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and LibreOffice can all have settings that can be turned on to help you find those errors, too.


You should always, always, always read over your work to avoid these top grammar mistakes before you submit it to your professor. And we highly suggest reading it aloud, too. Taking this extra step will help you write for flow as well as assist you in catching grammar mistakes, spelling errors, and incomplete or run-on sentences. Used a word too often in quick succession? Reading out loud will help you catch that!

Everyone makes grammatical mistakes from time to time, and it’s absolutely okay to let them slip. However, you should always take steps to avoid them as much as possible as too many can absolutely have an impact on your grade. Too many and it could even reflect on your GPA. 

Another piece of writing you’ll have to proofread? Your scholarship essay! The competition is fierce for these awards, and every little bit of edge helps. To explore scholarships you qualify for, start with College Raptor’s Scholarship Search today!