Putting It All Together

In this section of Grammar Essentials, you have learned about the 20 most common errors students make and how you can avoid them. Hopefully, you have also learned that, if you have had these errors marked on your papers, you aren’t alone. The key is having awareness, as this can help you when you edit.

To help you review, check out the video below, which provides a basic overview of what you have learned about the 20 most common errors students in the United States make.

Video Transcript

The 20 Most Common Errors

This Prezi will provide you with an overview of the 20 most common errors students in the United States make. Once you know about these errors, you are on the right path to eliminating them, resulting in clean, clear writing, which is treasured by all!

1. Wrong Word
Be careful of using the thesaurus in order to find a “bigger” word. Sometimes, simple is just better. Also, be careful not to let your spell checker change your words to different words.
2. Comma after Introductory Elements
Any words or phrases that come before the main clause in your sentence should be set off with a comma.
3. Missing or Incomplete Documentation
Be sure to cite all borrowed information—including direct quotes, paraphrases, and summarized material with correct citations.
4. Pronoun Reference
When you use pronouns, like “he,” “they,” “her,” etc., be sure it is clear what that pronoun refers to. You do not want to leave your readers wondering who “they” are.
5. Spelling
There are probably two rules to keep in mind to help you address spelling errors:

  1. Run the spell-checker!
  2. Don’t trust the spell-checker!

Spell checkers are wonderful tools, but they are not perfect. Be sure to edit for spelling yourself after you run your spell check.

6. Quotation Errors
Here are a couple of things to remember when it comes to quotation marks:

  • Punctuation (except question and exclamation marks) should be placed inside the quotes.
  • Be sure to use quotation marks around direct quotes.
7. Unnecessary Comma
Comma rules are not really subjective at all. If you do not need a comma according to one of the rules outlined in the “Punctuation” area of Grammar Essentials, you should leave it out.
8. Capitalization
Just because you do not have to use capitalization when you text message does not mean it is okay not to capitalize when you write in other situations. In academic writing, be sure to capitalize proper noun. Also, don’t forget to capitalize “I.”
9. Missing Word
Be sure to edit carefully. It is easy to miss missing words when we are reading our work. It is a good idea to read in reverse to help you slow down and catch errors like missing word errors.

10. Faulty Sentence Structure
Be sure your sentences are clear in structure. Sometimes, when we write we may start a sentence one way, lose our train of thought, and, then, end the sentence another way. You will need to edit carefully to make sure your sentences make sense structurally.
11. Missing Comma with Nonrestrictive Element
Be sure to place commas around “extra” information or information that is nonessential in your sentences. And, remember, meaning in the sentence is important in helping you determine what information is essential or not.
12. Verb Tense Shift
When you are writing, it is important to be consistent with your verb tenses. For example, if you are using past tense for your verbs, you should make sure you do not slip into present tense.
13. Missing Comma in Compound Sentence
When you join two independent clauses (complete thoughts) with a coordinating conjunction (one of the FANBOYS), you must place a comma before the coordinating conjunction. But, remember, just because you use a FANBOY does not mean you necessarily need a comma. It is just when you are using a FANBOY to join two independent clauses.
14. Apostrophes
Remember to use apostrophes to show ownership. They should not be used to make words plural.
15. Run-On Sentence
A run-on or fused sentence occurs when you join two independent clauses but do not put a boundary between the independent clauses. Because independent clauses are really complete sentences, you need a boundary (period, semicolon, or comma with a FANBOY) when you join them.
16. Comma Splice
A comma splice occurs when you use a comma to separate independent clauses. Commas cannot make sentence boundaries. They are not strong enough for this job.
17. Pronoun Agreement
When you use a pronoun, you have to be sure that your pronoun agrees in number and gender with the noun it is replacing. One common problem students have is using “they” to replace a singular noun like “student.”
18. Poorly Integrated Quote
Don’t just “plop” a quote into your essay. Be sure you provide your readers with some cues that a quote is coming using a signal phrase of some kind.
19. Hyphens
The rules for hyphens can seem a little tricky, but the basic rule is to just remember that you should hyphenate when you have two or more words that modify a noun that follows. For example, state-of-the-art gaming system should be hyphenated. There are also some words that work together to form one noun that should be hyphenated, such as mother-in-law.
20. Sentence Fragment
Sentence fragments are common errors that are judged harshly. If you have an incomplete sentence that is punctuated like it is a complete sentence, you have a sentence fragment. You will definitely want to avoid fragments!

NOTE: Because the use of the singular they is new, you may find some people who disagree, but most academics now agree that the singular they is correct. Please always refer to your style guide, as some style guides still recommend not using the singular they.

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