Deadly sins of writing


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The most common errors students make in their writing.

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Deadly sins of writing

  1. 1. The Most Common Errors Students Make
  2. 2.  Sentence Structure  Deadliest Sins  Indicate Weak Knowledge of How Sentences Work Grammar  Range From Dangerous to Annoying Mechanics  Includes Spelling, Punctuation and Proofing
  3. 3.  Comma Splices  Dangerous but not always deadly  More than 5 can lower grade Run-on Sentences  Deadlier than comma splices  More than 5 can lower grade a couple of levels Fragments  Deadliest of all  More than 5 can result in a failing grade.
  4. 4.  Two complete sentences joined by a comma  You knew the two sentences belonged together.  But you chose the wrong method to join them
  5. 5.  I was hungry, I made lunch.  Two independent clauses joined by a comma  Commas generally join something that is a sentence to something that is not.
  6. 6.  Find a comma  Place finger over comma  Read what comes before and after comma  If both are complete sentences, you have a comma splice. Repeat the process  Shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.
  7. 7.  Make two sentences Join with semicolon Join with semicolon and connecting word Coordination Subordination
  8. 8.  I was hungry. I made lunch  Structurally correct  Simplest solution  Use as fallback if nothing else works or comes to mind Not usually the best choice  Can make your writing choppy  Can give bad impression  That your sentences lack sophistication.  That your sentences lack variety.
  9. 9.  I was hungry; I made lunch.  Structurally correct  Ideas must be closely related  May not be the best choice  Like periods, semicolons separate rather than join
  10. 10.  I was hungry; therefore, I made lunch.  Structurally correct  Transitional word helps join the sentences.  Better than semicolon alone
  11. 11.  I was hungry, so I made lunch.  Use a conjunction to join the two sentences.  If there is a complete sentence on either side of a conjunction, you must use a comma before the conjunction.  The conjunction coordinates between two equals (independent clauses)
  12. 12.  Because I was hungry, I made lunch. I made lunch because I was hungry.  One of the sentences has been turned into a dependent clause  If the dependent clause comes first, you will need a comma.
  13. 13.  I was hungry I made lunch. The fender-bender of writing  Two sentences jammed together without any punctuation whatsoever  Raises doubts about your understanding of how sentences work
  14. 14.  Read out loud  Gets ear involved  Ear expects certain cues at end of sentence  Changes in pitch Watch out for pauses  If you have to stop to figure out what is going on, there is most likely a problem.
  15. 15.  Same as fixing comma splices  Two separate sentences  Semicolon  Semicolon with connecting word  Coordination  Subordination  Throw away and write something completely different
  16. 16.  Sentences that aren’t all there  Missing subject  Missing verb  Missing complete verb  Lacking auxiliary  Missing subject and verb
  17. 17.  Dependent clause Which Others
  18. 18.  I made lunch. Because I was hungry.  A dependent clause cannot stand alone as a sentence.  Often begins with Because  Must be connected to an independent clause
  19. 19.  I made lunch. Because I was hungry.  Usually can be fixed by connecting to the sentence before or after it. I made lunch because I was hungry.  Or Because I was hungry, I made lunch.
  20. 20.  He was very hungry. Which is true.  Which introduces parenthetical material  If used properly, which will have a comma before it.
  21. 21.  Easy to spot  Unless it’s a question, if a sentence begins with which, it is a fragment.  Which car is yours? is okay.  Which was true. is not.
  22. 22.  Join to sentence before  Don’t forget the comma. He was very hungry, which is true.
  23. 23.  Missing subject  Went to the store.  He went to the store. Missing verb  He very hungry.  He is very hungry. Missing subject and verb  At the store.  He is at the store.
  24. 24.  Coordination Subordination Series Interrupter Parenthetical Expression
  25. 25.  Uses comma with conjunction that joins independent clauses  For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So are the conjunctions.  Think FANBOYS
  26. 26.  I was hungry, so I made lunch.  Use comma if there is a complete sentence on either side of the conjunction. I washed the dishes and took out the garbage.  Complete sentence on only one side of the conjunction.  Do not use a comma.
  27. 27.  Adds conjunctive adverb to an independent clause  Turns into dependent clause Dependent clause must be joined to an independent clause (complete sentence).  If dependent clause is left to stand by itself, it will be a fragment
  28. 28.  Because I was hungry, I made lunch.  The word because turns “I was hungry” into a dependent clause.  If the part that cannot stand alone (dependent clause in this case) comes first, it must be followed by a comma.  Short prepositional phrases are an exception.
  29. 29.  I made lunch because I was hungry.  If the part that cannot stand alone (dependent clause in this case) comes last, do not use a comma.
  30. 30.  Use commas to separate items in a series. I went fishing with Bob, Mary, and Ted.  The comma before the last item is optional.  But be consistent.
  31. 31.  Is inserted into an otherwise perfectly good sentence.  Test: If you remove the interrupter, you should have a complete sentence left over.
  32. 32.  Mary, unfortunately, was drunk last night.  Word unfortunately is inserted as a comment into the middle of a sentence.  If you take out unfortunately, you will still have a complete sentence left: Mary was drunk last night.  You must use a comma on both sides of the interrupter.  Unless at beginning or end
  33. 33.  Do you remember, Mary, how drunk you were last night?  Interrupters are also used when you write or speak directly to someone.  Again, take out the interrupter, and you still have a sentence left over: Do you remember how drunk you were last night?
  34. 34.  Dates and addresses are also interrupters.  On October 6, 1989, Mary Louise Smith was born.  Living in Lillington, NC, has its benefits.  His address is 123 Elm Street, Greensboro, NC, 28325.  In every case, a complete sentence is left over after you remove the interrupter.
  35. 35.  Parenthetical expressions contain extra, non-vital information.  Also known as nonrestrictive clauses  Parenthetical expressions must be set off by commas on both sides.  Unless at the beginning or end of the sentence
  36. 36.  Bob, who is 21, wrecked his car yesterday. Two-part test:  If expression is removed, there must be a complete sentence left.  Removing the expression must not change the fundamental meaning of the sentence.
  37. 37.  The man who stole my car was arrested.  Passes part one of the test.  There is a complete sentence left over when you remove the expression: The man was arrested.  Does not pass part two:  Removing the expression changes the meaning of the sentence.  Therefore, do not use commas.
  38. 38.  Use pronoun who to refer to people.  Who is used for both parenthetical and nonparenthetical expressions. Use that or which to refer to nonpersons.  Use that for nonparentheticals  Use which for parentheticals
  39. 39.  Semicolons Colons Question Marks Quotation Marks
  40. 40.  When in doubt, cut it out  No rule that requires them Correct usage is simple  Only use where you would otherwise use a period.  Ideas in two sentences must be closely related.  Correct: I was hungry; I made lunch.  Incorrect: I was hungry; I bought a new pair of shoes.
  41. 41.  Also used in complex series  Where one or more of the items contains a comma  I went fishing with Bob, who is 21; Mary, who is 18; and Fred, who is 30.  In this case you must use a comma before the last item in the series.
  42. 42.  Do not capitalize the first word that follows the semicolon.  Proper nouns are an exception  Bob was hungry; he made lunch.
  43. 43.  Introduces something to follow  Could be series  But does not have to be  Could be a single item Must have complete sentence before the colon
  44. 44.  I went fishing with: Ted, Mary and Bill.  This use of the colon is incorrect.  There is not a complete sentence before the colon I went fishing with the following people: Ted, Mary and Bill.  Correct usage  Complete sentence before the colon
  45. 45.  Capitalization depends on what follows the colon  If what follows is a complete sentence, capitalize the first word.  I found the source of the leak: A pipe was broken.
  46. 46.  If what follows is not a complete sentence, do not capitalize the first word.  With the exception of proper nouns  I found the source of the problem: a broken pipe.
  47. 47.  Go at the end of questions  Sin of omission  Proofread out loud! Two types of questions  Direct: What time is it?  Requires a question mark Indirect: I wonder what time it is.  This is a statement, not a question  Should be followed by a period
  48. 48.  In American English, periods and commas always go inside quotation marks  “I’m hungry,” Bob remarked. “I’m not going to wait for dinner.”  “I just read Poe’s ‘Annabelle Lee.’”
  49. 49.  Colons and semicolons always go outside of quotation marks.  Mary said she was “too tired”; I think she was making excuses.  There are two reasons I like the poem “love is”: It captures the essence of love, and it does so by using words we would never associate with love.
  50. 50.  Location of question marks depends on where the question is located  If quoted material is a question, question mark goes inside.  “Where is the restroom?” Bob asked.
  51. 51.  If question is part of a larger sentence that contains the quote, question mark goes outside.  Who said, “It’s hot in here”? Same rule applies to exclamation points
  52. 52.  Vague pronouns  Pronoun too far from antecedent  Pronoun itself is vague Pronoun–antecedent agreement  Pronoun must agree in number with its antecedent
  53. 53.  A substitute noun.  He, She, It, They, Them, Their, I, Me, Mine, You, Yours, etc.  Otherwise, you would find yourself saying, “David woke up and put on David’s slippers, went to David’s bathroom, and brushed David’s teeth.” Antecedent is noun pronoun refers to  Relationship must be clear
  54. 54.  Pronoun-antecedent relationship unclear  Pronoun could refer to more than one person  Mary told her mother that she hated her hair. Pronoun could be too far from antecedent  Use a noun form every second or third sentence
  55. 55.  Watch out for this.  A demonstrative pronoun  Used when you can point to an object.  This is a pencil. Don’t use this to refer to an abstract concept.  Welfare fraud is a growing problem. Something must be done about this.
  56. 56.  Pronoun, antecedent must agree in number.  Each student should turn their work in on time.  Antecedent (student) is singular  Pronoun (their) is plural  Make both singular or both plural  Students should turn their work in on time.  Each student should turn his or her work in on time.
  57. 57.  Subject and verb must agree in number.  One of the boys are going to bed.  Subject (one) is singular.  Verb (are) is plural.
  58. 58.  One of the boys are going to bed.  Prepositional phrase gets in the way  Noun in prepositional phrase is often right next to the verb.  Subject and verb are never in a prepositional phrase.  Say sentence without prepositional phrases.  One is going to bed.
  59. 59.  Refers back to a noun  Cannot be used by itself  Myself is the biggest culprit  The tickets were given to Dana and myself.  Usage is incorrect because myself does not refer back to a noun. I hurt myself.  Usage is correct because myself refers back to a proper pronoun I.
  60. 60.  Taking long way around  Subject of sentence becomes object.  Active Voice: I read the book.  Subject is I  Verb is read  Object is the book  Passive Voice: The book was read by me.  Object has become subject  Sentence picks up two extra words
  61. 61.  Not necessarily bad—unless overused  Watch for excess numbers of present participles  Was going, is going, am going, were going, etc.  Avoid using too many prepositional phrases in a single sentence.  Prepositional phrases start with preposition and end with noun  In the car, under the table
  62. 62.  Items in a series must have same grammatical structure.  Incorrect: When I grow up I want to be a doctor, lawyer or teach English.  Correct: When I grow up I want to be a doctor, lawyer or teacher.
  63. 63.  Trick is to become familiar with the words you misspell  Then you can look them up  If a dictionary is not available, substitute a word you can spell. Keep a list of misspellings  Probably won’t be more than 20 words  Read over list frequently.