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On the Write Track. Twenty Common Errors and Ways to Correct Them: A Guide to Better Writing. 1. Fragments are incomplete thoughts. Sentences must be complete thoughts. X My parents are strict. Like when they won’t let me stay out late.

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on the write track

On the Write Track

Twenty Common Errors and Ways to Correct Them: A Guide to Better Writing

1 fragments are incomplete thoughts sentences must be complete thoughts
1. Fragments are incomplete thoughts. Sentences must be complete thoughts.

X My parents are strict. Like when they won’t let me stay out late.

  • My parents are strict; they won’t let me stay out late.

X The school has many rules. For example not chewing gum.

  • The school has many rules. For example, chewing gum is not allowed.

X We went to the mall. But didn’t see the movie.

  • We went to the mall but didn’t see the movie.
2 run ons two sentences run together
2. Run-ons = two sentences “run together”

e.g. The current was swift he could not swim.

  • The current was swift. He could not swim.
  • The current was swift, and he could not swim.
  • The current was swift; he could not swim.
3 comma splices are two sentences spliced joined with a comma
3. Comma splices are two sentences “spliced” (joined) with a comma.

e.g. I like her very much, she has a sense of humor.

Correct comma splices the way you would a run-on.

  • I like her very much. She has a sense of humor.
  • I like her very much, and she has a sense of humor.
  • I like her very much; she has a sense of humor.
4 commas should precede coordinating conjunctions when joining sentences
4. Commas should precede coordinating conjunctions when joining sentences.

Use a comma before the words and, or, but, nor, for, yet, or so when these words join two independent clauses (sentences).

Remember the acronym “fanboys.”

e.g. He wanted to work, but no job was available.

No comma is used when joining a dependent clause or phrase.

e.g. He wanted to work if he could find a job.

e.g. He wanted to work but couldn’t find a job.

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5. Commas should be used correctly when joining independent and dependent clauses containing a subordinating conjunction.

When the dependent clause comes first, a comma should be used.

e.g. Because the roads were icy, school was closed.

A comma is not necessary when the dependent clause follows.

e.g. School was closed because the roads were icy.

common subordinating conjunctions
Common Subordinating Conjunctions

after in order that until

although once when

as since whenever

as if so that where

because than whereas

before that wherever

even though though while

if unless

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6. Sentences connected by a conjunctive adverb must be separated by a semicolon or period, not just a comma.

X John flunked math, therefore he didn’t graduate.

  • John flunked math; therefore, he didn’t graduate.
  • John flunked math. Therefore, he didn’t graduate.

Conjunctive adverbs work best at the front of a sentence.

X John flunked math. He did, however, graduate.

  • John flunked math. However, he did graduate.
common conjunctive adverbs
Common Conjunctive Adverbs

also likewise similarly

anyway meanwhile still

besides moreover then

certainly namely therefore

finally nevertheless thus

furthermore next

however now

instead otherwise

7 subjects and verbs must agree in number
7. Subjects and verbs must agree in number.

X One of my goals have been to go to law school.

  • One of my goals has been to go to law school.

X Neither of the children like spinach.

  • Neither of the children likes spinach.

X The passenger, along with the driver, were injured.

  • The passenger, along with the driver, was injured.

X Here’s the keys you wanted.

  • Here are the keys you wanted.
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8. Pronouns and their antecedents must agree in gender and number. Pronoun references should be clear, not vague.

X Someone forgot their keys.

  • Someone forgot his or her keys.

X Every student should have their textbook.

  • Every student should have his or her textbook.
  • All students should have their textbooks.

X Jane looked at her mother as she opened the gift.

  • Opening the gift, Jane looked at her mother.
  • Jane looked at her mother opening the gift.
9 do not shift or change the tenses of verbs choose a tense and stay with it
9. Do not shift or change the tenses of verbs. Choose a tense and stay with it.

X She works hard but made little money.

  • She works hard but makes little money.
  • She worked hard but made little money.

Write formal essays about literature in the present tense.

e.g. Shakespeare characterizes Hamlet as a man of indecision. He cannot decide whether “to be or not to be.”

10 do not use the 2 nd person pronoun you in formal writing
10. Do not use the 2nd person pronoun “you” in formal writing.

X Good writers make you want to read more.

  • Good writers make one want to read more.

X TV commercials try to make you buy products.

  • TV commercials try to make viewers buy products.
11 avoid using passive voice verbs the subject of the sentence should do the verbing
11. Avoid using passive voice verbs. The subject of the sentence should do the “verbing.”

Passive voice verbs are weak and can obscure responsibility.

e.g. “Mistakes were made.” “Slaves were brought to America.”

passive: The ball was hit by Sally.

active: Sally hit the ball.

Writing is better when it contains active, strong, and precise verbs. Avoid the verb “seems.”

12 avoid there are there is and it is let the subject of the verb precede it
12. Avoid “there are,” “there is,” and “it is.” Let the subject of the verb precede it.

X There are many students in the room.

  • Many students are in the room.

X It is difficult to understand the theme of the story.

  • Understanding the theme of the story is difficult.

It is OK to say, for example, “It’s raining.”

13 avoid using this that these and those as nouns try to use them as adjectives followed by nouns
13. Avoid using “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those” as nouns. Try to use them as adjectives followed by nouns.

Rarely should a sentence begin with this, that, or it.

X I lost five dollars. That really made me mad.

  • Losing five dollars really made me mad.
  • I lost five dollars. That loss really made me mad.

X That was the worst movie I have ever seen.

  • That movie was the worst I have ever seen.
  • I don’t like that kind of movie.
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14. Avoid these expressions: is where, is how, is when, is because, and is why. Especially avoid “the reason… is because…”

X Elsinore castle is where Hamlet lives.

  • Elsinore castle is the place where Hamlet lives.

X Picking the right numbers is how to win the lottery.

  • Picking the right numbers is the way to win the lottery.

X A touchdown is when the ball crosses the goal line.

  • A touchdown occurs when the ball crosses the goal line.

X The reason I like to ski is because it’s a challenge.

  • I like to ski because skiing is a challenge.
15 avoid misplaced dangling or appended participial phrases
15. Avoid misplaced, dangling, or appended participial phrases.

X Rising over the hill, the men saw the bright red sun.

  • The men saw the bright red sun rising over the hill.

X He fell down the steps, breaking his leg.

  • Falling down the steps, he broke his leg.
  • He fell down the steps and broke his leg.
16 avoid thesaurus goofs use the proper meaning of a word check spelling
16. Avoid thesaurus goofs—use the proper meaning of a word. Check spelling.

X In winter we should wear tepid clothes.

How does sunlight effect/affect plants?

Will you lend/loan me a dollar?

I love you since/because you are kind.

She is taller then/than her brother.

Misspelled words may show laziness or carelessness.

definate/definite seperate/separate

posses/possesses alot/a lot

alright/all right can not/cannot

use the correct word it it s there their to two too
Use the correct word.it/it’s there/their to/two/too

Its shows possession, e.g. The cat licked its fur.

It’s is a contraction meaning “it is.” e.g. It’s raining.

There is an adverb. e.g. Let’s go there after lunch.

Their shows possession. e.g. Let’s go to their house.

To is a preposition. e.g. Let’s go to the movie.

Two tells how many. e.g. Let’s see two movies.

Too means “very” or “also.” e.g. That cake is too sweet. Let’s invite her too.

Everyday is an adjective; every day is an adjective + noun.

18 use apostrophes semicolons and colons correctly
18. Use apostrophes, semicolons, and colons correctly.

An apostrophe (’) shows possession.

e.g. John’s coat is on the chair. That coat is John’s.

e.g. The coach’s advice helped the team win the game.

A semicolon (;) joins two independent clauses.

e.g. The bus will leave soon; students should be ready.

A colon (:) introduces a list or replaces “namely” in an explanation or example. Never use a colon after a verb.

X The seasons of the year are: winter, spring, summer, and fall.

  • The year has four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall.
19 use commas after an introductory word expression or phrase
19. Use commas after an introductory word, expression, or phrase.
  • Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!
  • To win the game, we needed luck.
  • Gradually, he climbed the mountain.
  • In fact, only you can decide.
  • Frustrated, he quit the team.
  • Trying his best to understand, John read slowly.

X While we were eating the dog began to bark.

X Two years before the peace treaty had been signed.

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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.

“The Raven” poem Macbeth play

“Eveline” short story Rebecca novel

“Teen Drug Use” article Newsweek

“When Doves Cry” song magazine

Purple Rain

album

be concise and direct in writing
Be concise and direct in writing.

X The reason that we are meeting is that we need to consider revising the constitution.

  • We are meeting to consider revising the constitution.

Don’t be redundant.

X He didn’t return the book back to the library.

X As a rule, the hero usually triumphs over the villain.

X Prepay before pumping gas.