Grammar And Punctuation For College: Tips And Tricks

Male student in a brown sweater sitting at a brown desk typing with both hands on a laptop. He will learn how to write with proper grammar

Grammar in college is very important, it is the time to learn and use good grammar. Poor grammar makes you look uneducated and lazy, like you didn’t care enough to proofread and edit your mistakes. You don’t want a school admission officer, professor, boss, or anyone else to question your intelligence. Grammar can be what separates a good paper from an excellent paper. Grammar is often a reason why a resume is overlooked. You don’t want to kill your credibility and professionalism because of a simple grammar mistake.

Grammar is hard and it can be hard to learn. Everyone has been stopped by the “grammar police” at some point and time, whether it be in a letter, email, text, or school paper. It happens to all of us and while no one is perfect, fixing a few incorrect spellings can go a long way.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist William Raspberry once said, “Good English, well spoken and well written, will open more doors for you than a college degree…Bad English, poorly spoken and poorly written, will slam doors that you don’t even know exist.” The goal is to open as many doors as possible and create opportunities.

Avoid The Grammar Police By Having Good Grammar In College

Content is key; however, some grammar mistakes stick out like a sore thumb. They are so noticeable it pulls the reader from what they are reading and ultimately weakens the content. Your college professor will scrutinize your essay carefully, you should as well. Once you feel your paper is complete, go back and proofread, proofread, proofread. One small grammatical error can be forgiven. But, three or four look sloppy and incompetent.

The most common grammatical errors writers make, which are pet peeves of college professors, college admission officers, recruiters, as well as managers like me who read through a myriad of resumes are homophones and colloquialisms. No, I did not just make those words up. They are indeed real, and you use them and misuse them every single day.


Simply put, homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings. We use homophones in our daily conversations and see them in print all the time. However, we often confuse one homophone with another, resulting in spelling errors. Sometimes all it takes to avoid errors is to take a moment and think about what you’re trying to say.

Here are some of the most common incorrectly used homophones:

there/their/they’re           your/you’re

to/two/too                       break/brake

buy/by                             decent/descent/dissent

hear/here                         compliment/complement

heard/herd                       hole/whole

succeed/secede                defuse/diffuse

whose/who’s                   lose/loose

tail/tale                             weather/whether

right/write                        steal/steel

poor/pour                        heal/heel


A colloquialism is an informal expression we use in everyday speech and writing. Often used in relaxed conversation. Colloquialisms are frequently used when texting.

At the college level, a student should NOT be writing in a casual spoken language style. You are composing an academic paper, you want to show that you can analyze information, have specific knowledge on the topic, and meet certain requirements of the assignment. Therefore, your writing should be formal. Unless otherwise stated by your professor, you should write all college essays in a formal style.

Formal writing shows a strong vocabulary where the rules of grammar and punctuation are followed. While grammar errors alone won’t cause a failing grade, they can come off sloppy and leave your professor wondering how much time and attention you put into the assignment that’s why it’s so important to learn the proper way to write.

Female with blond hair holding a red cell phone with both hands texting. She will learn good grammar when texting

Here are some common grammatically incorrect colloquialisms you should look out for:

gonna: going to               coulda: could have

wanna: want to                kinda: kind of

woulda: would have         supposeta: supposed to

dontcha: don’t you           mighta: might have

whatcha: what are you     shoulda: should have

gotcha: got you               dunno: don’t know

haft: have to                    gotta: got to

lemme: let me                  outta: out of

I’mma: I’m going to        oughta: ought to

letcha: let you                  gimme: give me

Some of these grammar mistakes may seem excessive, but they make the difference between basic and exceptional. We’re all bound to make small grammar errors now and then, but it’s important to keep it to a bare minimum. You never want to give your professors the opportunity to doubt your work.

Spell Check To Ensure Good College Grammar

Use spell check but don’t solely rely on it, spell check has its limitations. It won’t catch homophonic errors or words that are spelled correctly but misused. There are several good websites that you can plug your paper into for free and check for grammar and punctuation mistakes. I frequently used, Grammarly. It’s also good to have another set of eyes on your paper, such as having a family member or classmate proofread your work.

Be sure to read, Why You Should Make Friends With Your College Classmates.