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Common editing problems for beginning editors.

Common editing problems for beginning editors.


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  • 1. Common problems By Bradley Wilson, Ph.D. With thanks to Martin “Red” Gibson
  • 2. • Don’t teach grammar just for the sake of grammar. Those educators were right that diagramming for the thrill of getting the little words on all the right lines isn’t very useful. But do focus on the important problems students have and give them the necessary feedback. Teaching grammar
  • 3. The biggies? Pronoun-antecedent agreement, subject-verb agreement, parallelism – or lack of it, that and which, who and whom, possessives and contractions, dangling and misplaced modifiers, passive voice and commas, commas, commas. Candace Perkins Bowen Kent State University
  • 4. Subject/verb agreement
  • 5. • One of the cheerleaders who went with the team is/are planning to take pictures. Subject/verb agreement
  • 6. • One of the cheerleaders who went with the team is/are planning to take pictures. • Is. One is singular. It takes a singular verb. Subject/verb agreement
  • 7. • One of the cheerleaders who went with the team is/are planning to take pictures. • Is. One is singular. It takes a singular verb. • Getting ready for the holidays is/are a lot of work. Subject/verb agreement
  • 8. • One of the cheerleaders who went with the team is/are planning to take pictures. • Is. One is singular. It takes a singular verb. • Getting ready for the holidays is/are a lot of work. • Is. Take out the prepositional phrase. Substitute a pronoun. “It is a lot of work.” Subject/verb agreement
  • 9. Subject/verb agreement
  • 10. • The president of the University Programming Board, along with all the board members, is/ are having a party. Subject/verb agreement
  • 11. • The president of the University Programming Board, along with all the board members, is/ are having a party. • Is. The president is having a party. He is singular. Subject/verb agreement
  • 12. • The president of the University Programming Board, along with all the board members, is/ are having a party. • Is. The president is having a party. He is singular. • Each of the girls has/have to prepare a paper for the class. Subject/verb agreement
  • 13. Subject/verb agreement
  • 14. • The Society of Professional Journalists is/are having a meeting this week. Subject/verb agreement
  • 15. • The Society of Professional Journalists is/are having a meeting this week. • Is. Again, substitute a pronoun for the proper noun. “It is having a meeting.” Subject/verb agreement
  • 16. • The Society of Professional Journalists is/are having a meeting this week. • Is. Again, substitute a pronoun for the proper noun. “It is having a meeting.” • The Midwestern Singers choir has/have a concert next week. Subject/verb agreement
  • 17. • The Society of Professional Journalists is/are having a meeting this week. • Is. Again, substitute a pronoun for the proper noun. “It is having a meeting.” • The Midwestern Singers choir has/have a concert next week. • Has. “It has a concert next week.” Not “they.” Subject/verb agreement
  • 18. Subject/verb agreement
  • 19. • The choir members is/are voting to sing a religious hymn. Subject/verb agreement
  • 20. • The choir members is/are voting to sing a religious hymn. • Are. Again, substitute a pronoun for the proper noun. “They are voting…” Subject/verb agreement
  • 21. • The choir members is/are voting to sing a religious hymn. • Are. Again, substitute a pronoun for the proper noun. “They are voting…” • Each of the two dozen choir members is/are casting a vote. Subject/verb agreement
  • 22. • The choir members is/are voting to sing a religious hymn. • Are. Again, substitute a pronoun for the proper noun. “They are voting…” • Each of the two dozen choir members is/are casting a vote. • Is. Each takes a singular verb. Period. Subject/verb agreement
  • 23. Subject/verb agreement
  • 24. • My luggage has/have been stolen. Subject/verb agreement
  • 25. • My luggage has/have been stolen. • Has. Some collective nouns are considered singular, including luggage, baggage, equipment, etc. Subject/verb agreement
  • 26. • My luggage has/have been stolen. • Has. Some collective nouns are considered singular, including luggage, baggage, equipment, etc. • The congregation is/are deep in prayer. Subject/verb agreement
  • 27. • My luggage has/have been stolen. • Has. Some collective nouns are considered singular, including luggage, baggage, equipment, etc. • The congregation is/are deep in prayer. • Is. Even though it refers to a group of people, it is singular. Subject/verb agreement
  • 28. Subject/verb agreement
  • 29. • The committee was/were shuffling their feet and scratching its/their heads. Subject/verb agreement
  • 30. • The committee was/were shuffling their feet and scratching its/their heads. • Were. Their. Collective nouns take plural verbs when the group is meant to be thought of as individuals. Subject/verb agreement
  • 31. • The committee was/were shuffling their feet and scratching its/their heads. • Were. Their. Collective nouns take plural verbs when the group is meant to be thought of as individuals. • The bacteria, she said, was/were quite interesting. Subject/verb agreement
  • 32. Subject/verb agreement
  • 33. • There exist/exists many beasts in the wilderness. Subject/verb agreement
  • 34. • There exist/exists many beasts in the wilderness. • Exist. Substitute the subject following the verb to determine agreement. Subject/verb agreement
  • 35. • There exist/exists many beasts in the wilderness. • Exist. Substitute the subject following the verb to determine agreement. • Here is/are the horseshoes. Subject/verb agreement
  • 36. • There exist/exists many beasts in the wilderness. • Exist. Substitute the subject following the verb to determine agreement. • Here is/are the horseshoes. • Are. Again, the real subject is after the verb. Subject/verb agreement
  • 37. Subject/verb agreement
  • 38. • None of the cards was/were in its right place. Subject/verb agreement
  • 39. • None of the cards was/were in its right place. • Was. When it means “no single one,” it takes a singular verb. Subject/verb agreement
  • 40. • None of the cards was/were in its right place. • Was. When it means “no single one,” it takes a singular verb. • None of the consultants agree/agrees on whether or not to destroy records. Subject/verb agreement
  • 41. • None of the cards was/were in its right place. • Was. When it means “no single one,” it takes a singular verb. • None of the consultants agree/agrees on whether or not to destroy records. • Agree. Use a plural verb with none when the sense is no two or no amount. Subject/verb agreement
  • 42. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • 43. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement • The soccer team won its/their first game.
  • 44. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement • The soccer team won its/their first game. • Its. The collective group is one unit. Singular.
  • 45. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement • The soccer team won its/their first game. • Its. The collective group is one unit. Singular. • Neither of the students had his/their paper completed.
  • 46. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement • The soccer team won its/their first game. • Its. The collective group is one unit. Singular. • Neither of the students had his/their paper completed. • His. Singular. To avoid his/her, try using plural subjects and verbs.
  • 47. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • 48. • Everyone scratched his/their own back. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • 49. • Everyone scratched his/their own back. • His. Or her. But in either case, it’s singular. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • 50. • Everyone scratched his/their own back. • His. Or her. But in either case, it’s singular. • Everyone’s coloring her/their hair these days. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • 51. • Everyone scratched his/their own back. • His. Or her. But in either case, it’s singular. • Everyone’s coloring her/their hair these days. • His. Singular. Sorry, not to be sexist, but style rules say that indefinite antecedents take “his.” But the language is evolving. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • 52. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • 53. • Flores and Hofmann licked his/their chops. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • 54. • Flores and Hofmann licked his/their chops. • Their. Two or more antecedents joined by and take a plural pronoun. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • 55. • Flores and Hofmann licked his/their chops. • Their. Two or more antecedents joined by and take a plural pronoun. • The football team play/plays well together. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • 56. • Flores and Hofmann licked his/their chops. • Their. Two or more antecedents joined by and take a plural pronoun. • The football team play/plays well together. • Plays. Just remember that those groups are “its” and not “theys.” Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
  • 57. Passive voice
  • 58. • The bum was bullied by the gang members. Passive voice
  • 59. • The bum was bullied by the gang members. • The gang members bullied the bum. Active voice is almost always preferable. Passive voice
  • 60. • The bum was bullied by the gang members. • The gang members bullied the bum. Active voice is almost always preferable. • Her tutu was tugged on by him. Passive voice
  • 61. • The bum was bullied by the gang members. • The gang members bullied the bum. Active voice is almost always preferable. • Her tutu was tugged on by him. • He tugged on her tutu. Notice that the pronoun in the objective cases moves to the nominative case. Passive voice
  • 62. Passive voice
  • 63. • The faux pas was ignored for several days. Passive voice
  • 64. • The faux pas was ignored for several days. • Sometimes who did the acting is unknown. Then passive voice works. Passive voice
  • 65. • The faux pas was ignored for several days. • Sometimes who did the acting is unknown. Then passive voice works. • The president was assassinated. Passive voice
  • 66. • The faux pas was ignored for several days. • Sometimes who did the acting is unknown. Then passive voice works. • The president was assassinated. • Until we know who was the killer, passive voice works. Even once you know, emphasizing the president and the action may Passive voice
  • 67. Passive voice
  • 68. • The source was being interviewed by the reporter when the phone rang. Passive voice
  • 69. • The source was being interviewed by the reporter when the phone rang. • The reporter was interviewing the source when the phone rang. Passive voice
  • 70. That and which
  • 71. That and which • Everyone likes a ship that/which doesn’t sink.
  • 72. That and which • Everyone likes a ship that/which doesn’t sink. • That. That is the preferred pronoun to introduce essential clauses that refer to inanimate objects or animals without names.
  • 73. That and which • Everyone likes a ship that/which doesn’t sink. • That. That is the preferred pronoun to introduce essential clauses that refer to inanimate objects or animals without names. • There isn’t a single item in my closet that/ which would conform to the dress code.
  • 74. That and which • Everyone likes a ship that/which doesn’t sink. • That. That is the preferred pronoun to introduce essential clauses that refer to inanimate objects or animals without names. • There isn’t a single item in my closet that/ which would conform to the dress code. • That. Again, this essential clause modifies
  • 75. That and which
  • 76. • The crawdads that/which remain on their plates will be cat food. That and which
  • 77. • The crawdads that/which remain on their plates will be cat food. • That. Once again, essential. No commas. That and which
  • 78. • The crawdads that/which remain on their plates will be cat food. • That. Once again, essential. No commas. • The daffodils that/which were left at her doorstep were a sign of love. That and which
  • 79. • The crawdads that/which remain on their plates will be cat food. • That. Once again, essential. No commas. • The daffodils that/which were left at her doorstep were a sign of love. • That. Again, this essential clause modifies daffodils. That and which
  • 80. That and which
  • 81. • The crawdads, that/which were once pets living in an aquarium, made a fine meal. That and which
  • 82. • The crawdads, that/which were once pets living in an aquarium, made a fine meal. • Which. Nonessential. Nonrestrictive. Can be cut. That and which
  • 83. • The crawdads, that/which were once pets living in an aquarium, made a fine meal. • Which. Nonessential. Nonrestrictive. Can be cut. • The message, that/which may have been written in Russian, fell into the wrong hands. That and which
  • 84. • The crawdads, that/which were once pets living in an aquarium, made a fine meal. • Which. Nonessential. Nonrestrictive. Can be cut. • The message, that/which may have been written in Russian, fell into the wrong hands. • Which. Nonrestrictive. Nonessential. Commas. That and which
  • 85. That and which
  • 86. • Note that “that” is ordinarily found leading into a restrictive clause, while “which” announces the arrival of nonrestrictive clauses. That and which
  • 87. • Note that “that” is ordinarily found leading into a restrictive clause, while “which” announces the arrival of nonrestrictive clauses. • Essential = restrictive. Cannot be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence. That and which
  • 88. • Note that “that” is ordinarily found leading into a restrictive clause, while “which” announces the arrival of nonrestrictive clauses. • Essential = restrictive. Cannot be eliminated without changing the meaning of the sentence. • Nonessential = nonrestrictive. Can be eliminated without altering the basic meaning of the sentence. Set off with commas. That and which
  • 89. Who and whom
  • 90. • The woman who/whom rented the room left the window open. Who and whom
  • 91. • The woman who/whom rented the room left the window open. • Who is functioning as the subject of that clause. Who and whom
  • 92. • The woman who/whom rented the room left the window open. • Who is functioning as the subject of that clause. • The woman from who/whom I rented the room left the window open. Who and whom
  • 93. • The woman who/whom rented the room left the window open. • Who is functioning as the subject of that clause. • The woman from who/whom I rented the room left the window open. • In this case, whom. It’s the object of the preposition from and is, therefore, the objective case. Who and whom
  • 94. • The woman who/whom rented the room left the window open. • Who is functioning as the subject of that clause. • The woman from who/whom I rented the room left the window open. • In this case, whom. It’s the object of the preposition from and is, therefore, the objective case. • Who/Whom do you wish to see? Who and whom
  • 95. Who and whom
  • 96. • The seamstress who/whom is stroking the cement gargoyle has green hair. Who and whom
  • 97. • The seamstress who/whom is stroking the cement gargoyle has green hair. • Who. Again, it’s functioning as the subject of that clause. Furthermore, it’s essential and therefore not set off by commas. Who and whom
  • 98. • The seamstress who/whom is stroking the cement gargoyle has green hair. • Who. Again, it’s functioning as the subject of that clause. Furthermore, it’s essential and therefore not set off by commas. • Deborah Luminary, who/whom keeps cats, works for the city of Wichita Falls. Who and whom
  • 99. • The seamstress who/whom is stroking the cement gargoyle has green hair. • Who. Again, it’s functioning as the subject of that clause. Furthermore, it’s essential and therefore not set off by commas. • Deborah Luminary, who/whom keeps cats, works for the city of Wichita Falls. • Who. Nominative. Nonessential. Commas. Who and whom
  • 100. Contractions
  • 101. • Jack Fuller, the maestro, who’s/whose playing tuba in a recital next week, is a famous conductor. Contractions
  • 102. • Jack Fuller, the maestro, who’s/whose playing tuba in a recital next week, is a famous conductor. • Who’s. It’s the contraction of who is. And this nonessential clause needs a verb. Whose is a possessive pronoun. Contractions
  • 103. • Jack Fuller, the maestro, who’s/whose playing tuba in a recital next week, is a famous conductor. • Who’s. It’s the contraction of who is. And this nonessential clause needs a verb. Whose is a possessive pronoun. • It’s/Its snowing outside. Contractions
  • 104. • Jack Fuller, the maestro, who’s/whose playing tuba in a recital next week, is a famous conductor. • Who’s. It’s the contraction of who is. And this nonessential clause needs a verb. Whose is a possessive pronoun. • It’s/Its snowing outside. • Every sentences must have a verb. In this case, the verb is part of the contraction: “it is.” Contractions
  • 105. Possessives
  • 106. • Remember, possessive pronouns, by their very nature, are possessive. They NEVER require an apostrophe. Possessives
  • 107. Possessives
  • 108. • Those clarinets are yours/yours’. Possessives
  • 109. • Those clarinets are yours/yours’. • Yours. Remember, possessive pronouns never take an apostrophe. Possessives
  • 110. • Those clarinets are yours/yours’. • Yours. Remember, possessive pronouns never take an apostrophe. • Thank you for your/you’re honesty. Possessives
  • 111. • Those clarinets are yours/yours’. • Yours. Remember, possessive pronouns never take an apostrophe. • Thank you for your/you’re honesty. • Your. Possessive pronoun, not a contraction. Possessives
  • 112. • Those clarinets are yours/yours’. • Yours. Remember, possessive pronouns never take an apostrophe. • Thank you for your/you’re honesty. • Your. Possessive pronoun, not a contraction. • Its/It’s grenades were better than ours. Possessives
  • 113. Possessives
  • 114. • That slab of pork is Allisons/Allison’s. Possessives
  • 115. • That slab of pork is Allisons/Allison’s. • Add the apostrophe to form a possessive. Possessives
  • 116. • That slab of pork is Allisons/Allison’s. • Add the apostrophe to form a possessive. • That slab of marble is ours/ours’. Possessives
  • 117. • That slab of pork is Allisons/Allison’s. • Add the apostrophe to form a possessive. • That slab of marble is ours/ours’. • For personal pronouns, remember, there is no apostrophe in the possessive case. Possessives
  • 118. Possessives
  • 119. • The maestro, who’s/whose playing tuba in a recital next week, is a famous conductor. Possessives
  • 120. • The maestro, who’s/whose playing tuba in a recital next week, is a famous conductor. • Who’s. It’s the contraction of who is. And this nonessential clause needs a verb. Whose is a possessive pronoun. Possessives
  • 121. BY BRADLEY WILSON, PH.D. BRADLEYWILSON08@GMAIL.COM BRADLEYWILSONONLINE.NET TWITTER: BRADLEYWILSON09 PHOTO BY KEVIN NIBUR