ESL Business Writing: [12 Common Writing Errors]

Think about all the countless emails, client proposals, and management reports that businesses produce every day. Even if your job description doesn’t say it, writing these documents makes you a business writer. But how do you become a prolific business writer? For starters, you need to avoid common errors in business writing.

In this post, well share 12 common errors in business writing and why you should opt for ESL business writing exercises.

12 Common Errors in Business Writing

  1. Subject-Verb Agreement: Subject-verb agreement is a fundamental rule in English grammar that ensures that the subject and verb in a sentence match in terms of number and person. When the subject is singular, the verb should be in the singular form, and when the subject is plural, the verb should be in the plural form. For example, saying “The team was successful” is correct because “team” is a singular subject, while saying “The team were successful” is incorrect because the plural verb “were” does not agree with the singular subject “team.” It is crucial to pay attention to singular and plural subjects to maintain grammatical consistency and avoid confusion in your writing.
  2. Verb Tense Consistency: Maintaining consistent verb tenses is vital for ensuring clarity and coherence in your writing. When you switch between past, present, and future tenses within the same context, it can confuse readers and make your message less impactful. To avoid this, choose the appropriate tense based on the intended meaning and timeline of your message, and stick with it throughout your writing. Consistent verb tense usage helps readers follow the flow of your ideas more easily and enhances overall readability.
  3. Misusing Apostrophes: Apostrophes are often misused in business writing, particularly in relation to possessives and contractions. An apostrophe is used to indicate possession, such as “the company’s profits,” where the apostrophe signifies that the profits belong to the company. Apostrophes are also used in contractions, which combine two words into one by replacing missing letters, such as “it’s” for “it is.” However, they should not be used for plural forms. Using an apostrophe for plural forms, as in “employee’s” instead of “employees,” is incorrect and can lead to confusion. Being mindful of proper apostrophe usage helps maintain clarity and professionalism in your writing.
  4. Comma Splices: A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses (complete sentences) are mistakenly joined together with only a comma, without a coordinating conjunction like “and,” “but,” or “or.” For example, consider the sentence: “The presentation was informative, it captivated the audience.” Here, the comma splice incorrectly connects two independent clauses, “The presentation was informative” and “it captivated the audience.” To correct this error, you can either use a semicolon to separate the clauses, or you can create two separate sentences by placing a period between them: “The presentation was informative; it captivated the audience” or “The presentation was informative. It captivated the audience.”
  5. Run-On Sentences: Run-on sentences occur when two or more independent clauses are incorrectly fused together without appropriate punctuation or coordinating conjunctions. These sentences can be excessively long and confusing for readers. To avoid run-on sentences, it is important to ensure that each independent clause stands alone as a complete sentence or that they are connected using appropriate punctuation or coordinating conjunctions. If you have multiple ideas that are closely related, consider using commas, semicolons, or conjunctions like “and,” “but,” or “or” to clarify the relationships between the clauses.
  6. Incorrect Word Usage: Choosing the wrong word can significantly impact the meaning and clarity of your message. It is crucial to use words accurately and appropriately to convey your intended meaning. Common examples of incorrect word usage include confusing “affect” and “effect,” or “complement” and “compliment.” “Affect” is a verb that means to influence or produce a change, while “effect” is a noun that refers to the result or consequence of something. Similarly, “complement” means to complete or enhance, while “compliment” is used to express admiration or praise. When encountering unfamiliar words or when unsure about the correct usage, consulting a reliable dictionary or thesaurus can provide clarification and help you use words correctly in your business writing.
  7. Lack of Parallelism: Parallelism refers to maintaining consistent grammatical structure within a sentence or a series of sentences. It helps improve the flow and readability of your writing by creating a balanced and harmonious structure. Parallelism is especially important when using lists or presenting ideas in a series. For example, consider the sentence: “Our company aims to innovate, collaboration, and successful.” Here, the lack of parallelism creates inconsistency and disrupts the reader’s understanding. To ensure parallelism, the sentence should be revised to: “Our company aims to innovate, collaborate, and succeed.” Now, each item in the list follows the same structure, making the sentence more coherent and professional.
  8. Confusing Homophones: Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings and spellings. They can easily be confused, resulting in incorrect usage and confusion in your writing. Common examples include “their,” “there,” and “they’re.” “Their” indicates possession, “there” refers to a place or location, and “they’re” is a contraction of “they are.” To avoid confusion, carefully consider the meaning and context of each word before selecting the appropriate homophone. Proofreading and editing your writing can also help you catch any inadvertent errors related to homophone usage.
  9. Incomplete Comparisons: When making comparisons, it is important to ensure that both sides of the comparison are complete and parallel. An incomplete comparison can leave readers guessing what is being compared, leading to confusion. For example, consider the sentence: “Our company’s revenue increased more than last year.” Here, the comparison is incomplete because it does not specify what the revenue increased more than. To provide clarity, the sentence could be revised as: “Our company’s revenue increased more than last year’s figures.” Now, the comparison is complete and explicit, helping readers understand the intended meaning accurately.
  10. Lack of Punctuation: Proper punctuation is essential for guiding readers through your writing and clarifying the relationships between different parts of a sentence. Neglecting appropriate punctuation can result in confusion or misinterpretation of your message. Punctuation marks such as commas, periods, colons, semicolons, and quotation marks serve different purposes in organizing your ideas, indicating pauses, separating clauses, and emphasizing important information. Understanding and correctly using punctuation marks can significantly enhance the readability and professionalism of your business writing.
  11. Redundancy: Redundancy refers to the unnecessary repetition of words or information, which can make your writing verbose and less engaging. It is important to strive for conciseness and clarity in business writing. By eliminating redundant words or phrases, you can ensure that your message is concise, impactful, and effectively communicates your ideas. Proofreading and editing your work can help identify and eliminate instances of redundancy, allowing your writing to be more concise and focused.
  12. Lack of Proofreading: Proofreading is the final stage of the writing process and involves carefully reviewing and editing your work to identify and correct any errors or inconsistencies. Failing to proofread can result in overlooked mistakes, such as typos, missing words, or incorrect punctuation. These errors can undermine the professionalism and credibility of your business writing. To ensure the accuracy and quality of your writing, allocate sufficient time to proofread your work. Consider reading your writing aloud or seeking the assistance of a colleague or professional proofreader to catch any errors you may have missed. Effective proofreading is an essential practice for producing polished and error-free business writing.

Exploring the Benefits of ESL Business Writing Exercises

ESL business writing exercises offer a valuable opportunity for business professionals to enhance their communication skills and excel in the realm of written correspondence. With the ability to seamlessly transfer their linguistic aptitude and proficiencies, ESL writers can readily adapt their skills to the demands of business writing. Engaging in these exercises not only fosters proficiency in both spoken and written communication but also cultivates a deep understanding of various writing styles and the psychology behind effective reading.

Outlined below are the primary advantages of engaging in ESL business writing exercises:

Business Writing Common Mistakes
  1. Developing an Audience-Focused Approach

An integral aspect of successful business writing lies in its audience-focused nature. By consciously considering the needs of your readers, you can tailor your writing to best serve their interests. Take, for instance, the following sentence:

“Brian, I want to go to the training session so I can improve my presentation skills.”

To create a more audience-focused version, consider the following revision:

“Brian, I believe that enhancing my presentation skills through this training session will enable us to attract a greater customer base. Therefore, attending this session is of utmost importance.”

By keeping your audience at the forefront of your mind, you can determine what content to include, effectively structure your ideas, and provide compelling support for your arguments.

  1. Leveraging Active and Passive Voice Appropriately

Engaging in ESL business writing exercises helps you discern when to utilize the active or passive voice, depending on the message you wish to convey. If you aim to highlight the doer of an action, employing the passive voice is suitable. Conversely, if you intend to emphasize the action itself, employing the active voice is preferable.

  1. Enhancing Thought Clarification

Lastly, ESL business writing exercises allow for the clarification of thoughts and emotions. For instance, when describing the process of resolving a platform bug, rather than delving into intricate technicalities, you could construct a scenario where a user encounters a problem while utilizing the platform. This approach enables you to empathize with your readers and write in a manner that caters to their interests and needs.


In conclusion, while possessing exceptional oratory, salesmanship, or presentation skills is undoubtedly advantageous, one’s proficiency in writing holds equal importance. Writing serves as an indispensable mode of communication in the workplace, necessitating the avoidance of common errors in business writing. Engaging in ESL business writing exercises empowers professionals to craft compelling web copies, emails, contracts, proposals, and more, ultimately elevating their written communication prowess to new heights.