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Causes of ‘careless’ grammatical errors in writing tests

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DOI: 10.25236/ILECL.2019.028


Mu Lu

Corresponding Author

Mu Lu


‘Careless’ errors on the application of grammatical rules (for example, she like dogs) are a particularly recurrent challenge for my students in writing tests. The students are able to articulate these rules and apply them without any difficulty in grammar-type tests and when such errors are pointed out, the students can correct them independently. Furthermore, the students insist that, had they been given sufficient time, they could have avoided those errors. For these reasons, my students refer to such mistakes as careless errors. Potential reasons for these careless errors in writing tests will be explored in this paper. The theoretical basis is Krashen's (1982) model of second language acquisition (SLA) and McLaughlin’s (1978) information-processing perspective. These two theories have different strengths and limitations, providing different standpoints for explaining careless errors, which allows me to reflect on my puzzle (that is to say, why my students make careless mistakes in their writing despite understanding the relevant grammatical rules) more comprehensively and critically.


Careless errors; Grammatical errors; Writing tests; Reasons; SLA; Information processing