On The Write Track


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The twenty most common writing errors and how to avoid them.

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On The Write Track

  1. 1. On the Write Track Twenty Common Errors and Ways to Correct Them: A Guide to Better Writing
  2. 2. 1. Fragments are incomplete thoughts. Sentences must be complete thoughts. <ul><li>X My parents are strict. Like when they won’t let me stay out late. </li></ul><ul><li>My parents are strict; they won’t let me stay out late. </li></ul><ul><li>X The school has many rules. For example not chewing gum. </li></ul><ul><li>The school has many rules. For example, chewing gum is not allowed. </li></ul><ul><li>X We went to the mall. But didn’t see the movie. </li></ul><ul><li>We went to the mall but didn’t see the movie. </li></ul>
  3. 3. 2. Run-ons = two sentences “run together” <ul><li>e.g. The current was swift he could not swim. </li></ul><ul><li>The current was swift. He could not swim. </li></ul><ul><li>The current was swift, and he could not swim. </li></ul><ul><li>The current was swift; he could not swim. </li></ul>
  4. 4. 3. Comma splices are two sentences “spliced” (joined) with a comma. <ul><li>e.g. I like her very much, she has a sense of humor. </li></ul><ul><li>Correct comma splices the way you would a run-on. </li></ul><ul><li>I like her very much. She has a sense of humor. </li></ul><ul><li>I like her very much, and she has a sense of humor. </li></ul><ul><li>I like her very much; she has a sense of humor. </li></ul>
  5. 5. 4. Commas should precede coordinating conjunctions when joining sentences. <ul><li>Use a comma before the words and, or, but, nor, for, yet, or so when these words join two independent clauses (sentences). </li></ul><ul><li>Remember the acronym “fanboys.” </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. He wanted to work, but no job was available. </li></ul><ul><li>No comma is used when joining a dependent clause or phrase. </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. He wanted to work if he could find a job. </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. He wanted to work but couldn’t find a job. </li></ul>
  6. 6. 5. Commas should be used correctly when joining independent and dependent clauses containing a subordinating conjunction. <ul><li>When the dependent clause comes first, a comma should be used. </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. Because the roads were icy, school was closed. </li></ul><ul><li>A comma is not necessary when the dependent clause follows. </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. School was closed because the roads were icy. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Common Subordinating Conjunctions <ul><li>after in order that until </li></ul><ul><li>although once when </li></ul><ul><li>as since whenever </li></ul><ul><li>as if so that where </li></ul><ul><li>because than whereas </li></ul><ul><li>before that wherever </li></ul><ul><li>even though though while </li></ul><ul><li>if unless </li></ul>
  8. 8. 6. Sentences connected by a conjunctive adverb must be separated by a semicolon or period, not just a comma. <ul><li>X John flunked math, therefore he didn’t graduate. </li></ul><ul><li>John flunked math; therefore, he didn’t graduate. </li></ul><ul><li>John flunked math. Therefore, he didn’t graduate. </li></ul><ul><li>Conjunctive adverbs work best at the front of a sentence. </li></ul><ul><li>X John flunked math. He did, however, graduate. </li></ul><ul><li>John flunked math. However, he did graduate. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Common Conjunctive Adverbs <ul><li>also likewise similarly </li></ul><ul><li>anyway meanwhile still </li></ul><ul><li>besides moreover then </li></ul><ul><li>certainly namely therefore </li></ul><ul><li>finally nevertheless thus </li></ul><ul><li>furthermore next </li></ul><ul><li>however now </li></ul><ul><li>instead otherwise </li></ul>
  10. 10. 7. Subjects and verbs must agree in number. <ul><li>X One of my goals have been to go to law school. </li></ul><ul><li>One of my goals has been to go to law school. </li></ul><ul><li>X Neither of the children like spinach. </li></ul><ul><li>Neither of the children likes spinach. </li></ul><ul><li>X The passenger, along with the driver, were injured. </li></ul><ul><li>The passenger, along with the driver, was injured. </li></ul><ul><li>X Here’s the keys you wanted. </li></ul><ul><li>Here are the keys you wanted. </li></ul>
  11. 11. 8. Pronouns and their antecedents must agree in gender and number. Pronoun references should be clear, not vague. <ul><li>X Someone forgot their keys. </li></ul><ul><li>Someone forgot his or her keys. </li></ul><ul><li>X Every student should have their textbook. </li></ul><ul><li>Every student should have his or her textbook. </li></ul><ul><li>All students should have their textbooks. </li></ul><ul><li>X Jane looked at her mother as she opened the gift. </li></ul><ul><li>Opening the gift, Jane looked at her mother. </li></ul><ul><li>Jane looked at her mother opening the gift. </li></ul>
  12. 12. 9. Do not shift or change the tenses of verbs. Choose a tense and stay with it. <ul><li>X She works hard but made little money. </li></ul><ul><li>She works hard but makes little money. </li></ul><ul><li>She worked hard but made little money. </li></ul><ul><li>Write formal essays about literature in the present tense. </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. Shakespeare characterizes Hamlet as a man of indecision. He cannot decide whether “to be or not to be.” </li></ul>
  13. 13. 10. Do not use the 2 nd person pronoun “you” in formal writing. <ul><li>X Good writers make you want to read more. </li></ul><ul><li>Good writers make one want to read more. </li></ul><ul><li>X TV commercials try to make you buy products. </li></ul><ul><li>TV commercials try to make viewers buy products. </li></ul>
  14. 14. 11. Avoid using passive voice verbs. The subject of the sentence should do the “verbing.” <ul><li>Passive voice verbs are weak and can obscure responsibility. </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. “Mistakes were made.” “Slaves were brought to America.” </li></ul><ul><li>passive: The ball was hit by Sally. </li></ul><ul><li>active: Sally hit the ball. </li></ul><ul><li>Writing is better when it contains active, strong, and precise verbs. Avoid the verb “seems.” </li></ul>
  15. 15. 12. Avoid “there are,” “there is,” and “it is.” Let the subject of the verb precede it. <ul><li>X There are many students in the room. </li></ul><ul><li>Many students are in the room. </li></ul><ul><li>X It is difficult to understand the theme of the story. </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding the theme of the story is difficult. </li></ul><ul><li>It is OK to say, for example, “It’s raining.” </li></ul>
  16. 16. 13. Avoid using “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those” as nouns. Try to use them as adjectives followed by nouns. <ul><li>Rarely should a sentence begin with this, that, or it. </li></ul><ul><li>X I lost five dollars. That really made me mad. </li></ul><ul><li>Losing five dollars really made me mad. </li></ul><ul><li>I lost five dollars. That loss really made me mad. </li></ul><ul><li>X That was the worst movie I have ever seen. </li></ul><ul><li>That movie was the worst I have ever seen. </li></ul><ul><li>I don’t like that kind of movie. </li></ul>
  17. 17. 14. Avoid these expressions: is where, is how, is when, is because, and is why. Especially avoid “the reason… is because…” <ul><li>X Elsinore castle is where Hamlet lives. </li></ul><ul><li>Elsinore castle is the place where Hamlet lives. </li></ul><ul><li>X Picking the right numbers is how to win the lottery. </li></ul><ul><li>Picking the right numbers is the way to win the lottery. </li></ul><ul><li>X A touchdown is when the ball crosses the goal line. </li></ul><ul><li>A touchdown occurs when the ball crosses the goal line. </li></ul><ul><li>X The reason I like to ski is because it’s a challenge. </li></ul><ul><li>I like to ski because skiing is a challenge. </li></ul>
  18. 18. 15. Avoid misplaced, dangling, or appended participial phrases. <ul><li>X Rising over the hill, the men saw the bright red sun. </li></ul><ul><li>The men saw the bright red sun rising over the hill. </li></ul><ul><li>X He fell down the steps, breaking his leg. </li></ul><ul><li>Falling down the steps, he broke his leg. </li></ul><ul><li>He fell down the steps and broke his leg. </li></ul>
  19. 19. 16. Avoid thesaurus goofs—use the proper meaning of a word. Check spelling. <ul><li>X In winter we should wear tepid clothes. </li></ul><ul><li>How does sunlight effect/ affect plants? </li></ul><ul><li>Will you lend /loan me a dollar? </li></ul><ul><li>I love you since/ because you are kind. </li></ul><ul><li>She is taller then/ than her brother. </li></ul><ul><li>Misspelled words may show laziness or carelessness. </li></ul><ul><li>definate/ definite seperate/ separate </li></ul><ul><li>posses/ possesses alot/ a lot </li></ul><ul><li>alright/ all right can not/ cannot </li></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>Use the correct word. it/it’s there/their to/two/too </li></ul><ul><li>Its shows possession, e.g. The cat licked its fur. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s is a contraction meaning “it is.” e.g. It’s raining. </li></ul><ul><li>There is an adverb. e.g. Let’s go there after lunch. </li></ul><ul><li>Their shows possession. e.g. Let’s go to their house. </li></ul><ul><li>To is a preposition. e.g. Let’s go to the movie. </li></ul><ul><li>Two tells how many. e.g. Let’s see two movies. </li></ul><ul><li>Too means “very” or “also.” e.g. That cake is too sweet. Let’s invite her too. </li></ul><ul><li>Everyday is an adjective; every day is an adjective + noun. </li></ul>
  21. 21. 18. Use apostrophes, semicolons, and colons correctly. <ul><li>An apostrophe (’) shows possession. </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. John’s coat is on the chair. That coat is John’s. </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. The coach’s advice helped the team win the game. </li></ul><ul><li>A semicolon (;) joins two independent clauses. </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. The bus will leave soon; students should be ready. </li></ul><ul><li>A colon (:) introduces a list or replaces “namely” in an explanation or example. Never use a colon after a verb. </li></ul><ul><li>X The seasons of the year are: winter, spring, summer, and fall. </li></ul><ul><li>The year has four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. </li></ul>
  22. 22. 19. Use commas after an introductory word, expression, or phrase. <ul><li>Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn! </li></ul><ul><li>To win the game, we needed luck. </li></ul><ul><li>Gradually, he climbed the mountain. </li></ul><ul><li>In fact, only you can decide. </li></ul><ul><li>Frustrated, he quit the team. </li></ul><ul><li>Trying his best to understand, John read slowly. </li></ul><ul><li>X While we were eating the dog began to bark. </li></ul><ul><li>X Two years before the peace treaty had been signed. </li></ul>
  23. 23. 20. Use quotes around the titles of articles, short stories, songs, and poems; use italics or underline for magazines, newspapers, movies, books, novels, record albums, or plays. <ul><li>“ The Raven” poem Macbeth play </li></ul><ul><li>“ Eveline” short story Rebecca novel </li></ul><ul><li>“ Teen Drug Use” article Newsweek </li></ul><ul><li>“ When Doves Cry” song magazine </li></ul><ul><li>Purple Rain </li></ul><ul><li>album </li></ul>
  24. 24. Be concise and direct in writing. <ul><li>X The reason that we are meeting is that we need to consider revising the constitution. </li></ul><ul><li>We are meeting to consider revising the constitution. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t be redundant. </li></ul><ul><li>X He didn’t return the book back to the library. </li></ul><ul><li>X As a rule, the hero usually triumphs over the villain. </li></ul><ul><li>X Prepay before pumping gas. </li></ul>