Friday, February 17, 2023

Avoid These Three Common Errors to Make Your Writing Sing

by Crystal Bowman

As professional writers, it’s important to pay attention to those easy-to-make mistakes and learn how to get them right. Is it important in light of eternity? Of course not! But if we want to do our best at what God has called us to do, then let’s keep learning and striving for excellence.

Here are three common mistakes that can make editors (and readers) cringe:

1. Using I when it should be me. 

This could quite possibly be the most common grammatical error on the planet! The confusion starts in elementary school when Billy says to his teacher, “Can Jimmy and me sit together?” The teacher corrects Billy and says, “Jimmy and I.” From then on, Billy is sure that using I rather than me is always correct. But it’s not. When Billy and Jimmy become the object rather than the subject, it changes from “Jimmy and I” to “Jimmy and me.” For example: Please pass the ball to Jimmy and me.

The compound object is what makes it confusing. So here’s a simple trick—drop the compound object and make it singular. You wouldn’t say: Please pass the ball to I, you’d obviously say: Please pass the ball to me. When the object is compound, the pronoun still needs to be me.

This mistake is made by many writers and speakers as well. Teachers, pastors, lawyers, actors, politicians, friends, neighbors, and even lyricists often get it wrong. A contemporary Christian song has a line, That’s His promise for you and I. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the praise song, but between you and me (yes, me is correct), I must confess it bothers me just a little. 

2. When to capitalize nouns used as names. 

Another common mistake is capitalizing words like Mom, Dad, Grandma, etc. When the noun is used instead of a name, it is capitalized, otherwise it’s not. For example: Call Mom and ask her to pick us up. Since Mom is used as a proper noun, it needs to be capitalized. However, if you were to say: I’ll ask my mom to pick us up, then “mom” is a generic noun and needs to be lower case—with no disrespect to Mom. 

The same is true for Dad, Grandma, Grandpa Joe, and Aunt Millie. For example: My dad took my grandma and me to the mall. We saw Aunt Millie and Grandpa Joe, while we were there. 

3. Punctuation and quotation marks. 

You have seen it this way: “Let’s go to the museum today”. Another no-no! The sentence should be written: “Let’s go to the museum today.” Even if only the last word of a sentence is in quotation marks, the period still goes inside. Please don’t leave that tiny period stranded all by itself like this: The program was a little “weird”. Since only the word “weird” is in quotation marks, it makes sense to put the period last, but that’s not the rule (and I’m not the one who makes them). The correct way to write it is: The program was a little “weird.”

Here's a tricker matter: If the sentence is a question with an indirect quote that’s a statement, then the question mark comes after the quotation mark. For example: Did Sarah say, “I am leaving now”? But if the question belongs to the quote, then the question mark goes inside the quotation mark. Sarah said, “Is it okay if I leave now?”

Writers’ Resources

I know I will never learn all there is to know about writing, grammar, and punctuation. I am still learning and thankful for resources like The Chicago Manual of Style and The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style. Even a quick google search can help me sort out the dos and don’ts and refresh my memory when I am unsure—and I’m pretty sure this article isn’t perfect either! But as writers, we strive for excellent rather than perfection since only God can achieve perfection. 

Here's to learning and growing as writers and paying attending to pronouns, punctuation, and Mom. 


Crystal Bowman is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than 100 books for children and four nonfiction books for women. She also writes lyrics for children’s piano music and is a monthly contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine. She loves going to schools to teach kids about poetry. She also speaks at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups and teaches workshops at writers’ conferences. When she is not writing or speaking, she enjoys going for walks, working out at the gym, and eating ice cream. She and her husband live in Michigan and have seven huggable grandkids. 


  1. Thanks for this lesson I need quite often!

  2. Great reminders and explanations! Thank you!

  3. For the I and me issue, if the writer will say the sentence without the other person, the sound will tell them. "Hand the ball to I" doesn't sound right. Thanks for clearing up the question mark outside the quote if it's a direct quote. That's a tricky one. Thank you for bringing these to the forefront.

    1. These are tricky for many writers. Writing is always a learning process!

  4. Thank you for pointing out things that drive editors bonkers. :)

    1. You are welcome. Besides writing books, I also do a fair amount of editing, and these are common mistakes worth addressing.