Writing errors that drive readers crazy and how to avoid them.
(the errors, not the readers)
1. Pronoun Agreement
When a pronoun is not the same number as the noun it replaces.
Don’t let someone convince you to go into debt, particularly if they are trying to sell you something.
Before the conference, each participant must provide the coordinator with their emergency contact information.
2. Pronoun Case
When a pronoun is not the same case (subject or object of the sentence) as the noun it replaces.
There was never any argument between my mother and I over who I should date. The university will not allow we faculty to park in the new garage.
3. Subject-verb Agreement
When a sentence contains a singular subject and a plural verb or a plural verb and a singular subject.
Garrison or his father plan the family’s annual vacation.
The class officer, along with the faculty advisor, helps students understand the requirements.
4. Verb Shift (tense and voice)
When the tense of the verbs does not an accurately reflect the time of the action or when the verb shifts from active to passive (or passive to active) voice.
Voice: the relation of the subject to the action.
Active Voice: the subject does the action passive voice: the subject receives the action.
You should have seen it; Carol slips on the ice, and after checking every inch of her skull, decided she hurt her head.
Ludwig polished the engagement ring, rechecked its authenticity, and was demolished when his intended bride said no.
An incomplete sentence or dependent clause.
Scrambling for his seat on the plane, tripping over his suitcase, because James was late and angry. A terrible combination.
Because I said so!
6. Run-on Sentences & Comma Splices
Two or more independent clauses (sentences) without any formal separation or separated by a comma.
Susan, Carlos, and Kim wanted to take the same math class, they had so much fun together in history.
Although it rarely snows in San Francisco, it did last winter three inches of soft snow covered my front yard.
7. Apostrophe Use
Incorrect use of an apostrophe to indicate possession or in a contraction.
While a cat can lick its paws, it’s impossible for a dog to do so.
Who’s going to make sure the room is clean for the man whose name is on the reservation?
8. Confusing Colons & Semicolons
A semicolon, most often, takes the place of a coordinator (and, but, for, or, so. nor, yet) or conjunctive adverb (however, moreover, indeed, consequently) to join independent clauses while a colon indicates a list or formal quote to follow an independent clause.
Gladwell has written three best-sellers; he’s both prolific and brilliant.
Gladwell has written three best-sellers: Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers.
9. Misplaced/Dangling Modifiers
A phrase misplaced from the noun or verb it modifies.
I shot an elephant in my pajamas.
A good man is essential to be happy.
10. Wrong Words
Confusing words that look or sound similar.
The effect/affect of laying/lying in the sun can be quite/quiet devastating.
While there is a large amount of sand in my shoe, there are a number of grains of sand in my eye.
It’s good to do your job well. He’s well enough to do good.
Only a chicken can lay in the sun.