Common Writing Errors Professor Tricia Zunker, EsqColorado State University-Global Campus
Apostrophe: Possessive The apostrophe has several uses. One use is to indicate something is possessive Example: Bill’s book is missing. Correct Example: Bills book is missing. Incorrect
Apostrophe: PluralDo not use an apostrophe to indicate somethingis plural.Example: The dogs are barking. CorrectExample: The dog’s are barking. Incorrect.There is more than one dog, so the word is plural.There is no apostrophe in plural unless the plural nounmust also indicate it is possessive.Example: The dogs’ owner was upset. Correct.Here, there are several dogs who have the same owner.
Apostrophe: Contractions Contractions are two words combined. Example: they’re = they are They’re here = They are here. Often, people do not properly indicate a contraction and omit the apostrophe. Some key contractions to be aware of include: You’re = you are. Do not confuse this with “your” which is a possessive pronoun. They’re = they are. Do not confuse this with “their” which is a possessive pronoun or “there.” It’s = it is. Do not confuse this with “its” which is a possessive pronoun.
Comma vs Semi-Colon A semi-colon functions like a period; it does not function like a comma. This means there must be a complete sentence on both sides of the semi-colon—no sentence fragments on either side. Example: He was late for class; he decided to sit in the back. Correct Example: He was in a car accident; very scary. Incorrect.
Proper Noun vs Common Noun A noun is a person, place, thing or idea. A proper noun is a specific person, place, thing or idea. A common noun is a general idea. Proper nouns are capitalized Common nouns are capitalized only if the noun is the first word in the sentence. Example: My Mother said always be kind. Incorrect. This is a general noun, even though it may be specific to me. Mother is only capitalized if it is the first word or if it is used in a title (i.e., Mother Theresa). Example: My mother is a great cook. Correct. This is a general noun, even though it is specific to me. Example: The Coach said get back on the field. Incorrect. General noun. Example: I listed to Coach Smith and succeeded. Correct. This is a clear reference to a specific named individual.
Agreement Subject-verb agreementMake sure the subject and verb agree. A singular subjectmust agree with a singular verb. A plural subject mustagree with a plural verb. Example: The baby are crying. Incorrect. This is a singular subject with a plural verb. Example: The baby is crying. Correct. This is a singular subject with a singular verb.For more information, review this helpful site:http://www.grammarbook.com/grammar/subjectVerbAgree.aspNoun-Pronoun AgreementJust like subjects and verbs, the noun and pronoun have to agree.Example: The salesman has to go to their station. IncorrectExample: The salesman has to go to his station. Corrrect
Prepositions Prepositions are words that are followed by a noun. They are not followed by a verb. For a list of prepositions, click here: http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/prepositions-list.htm Clear rule: Never end a sentence with a preposition.
Spell out each word Acronyms: When using acronyms, spell each word out the first time. Numbers: Whole numbers less than ten should be spelled out rather than writing the numeral. For a complete list of number rules, click here: http://www.grammarbook.com/numbers/numbers.asp
Tone Keep the tone academic and semi-formal, at a minimum. This writing should demonstrate college-level writing. Avoid slang and colloquial expressions. Support your analysis with clear discussions of the concepts, specific examples and credible sources.
Don’t write in the second person Writing in the second person means you are addressing “you” or “your” throughout your paper. That is not appropriate for the writing in this class. Clear rule: Do not refer to “you” or “your” in your papers. If you find you are inserting “you,” try replacing with “one” instead.
Analysis: Answer Questions Sometimes students include questions in their writing. That is not appropriate for this course. It is important to consider those questions, but your writing should reflect critical thinking and analysis to the questions you consider. Write in statements, not questions.
Analysis: Excessive Quoting Excessive quoting does not illustrate analysis. It is also not permitted. Avoid excessive quoting. If you find something lengthy you would like to quote directly, find a way to paraphrase what is being discussed and add your own thoughts and reflections to demonstrate increased analysis.
Sources Your sources must always be academic. Wikipedia is not an academic source.
Edit your work Make sure to edit your work. Be cautious with spellcheck; while you may have spelled a word correctly, it may not be the correct word. I have seen many papers discussing “trails” that meant “trials” for instance. Avoid lengthy, run-on sentences and generally awkward statements. Reading your work aloud is strongly encouraged as it will help you identify some problem areas. Clarity is key in your academic writing.
Paragraph Structure Proper paragraph structure includes a topic sentence introducing the concept of the paragraph, supporting sentences in the body of the paragraph and a concluding sentence summarizing the main concept. Avoid paragraphs which are too long and which are too short. 5-8 sentences is ideal for one paragraph.
APA APA format must be used for your citing throughout your papers and for the references section at the end.
Plagiarism Plagiarism is submitting someone else’s thoughts or writing as your own. Plagiarism is forbidden. Cite your sources properly to avoid potential plagiarism issues. Only 15-20% of you paper may be quoted. Here is a short video providing a quick overview of plagiarism and how to avoid it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2q0NlWcTq1Y
Read your feedback Always read instructor feedback to avoid making the same error in future writing assignments.