A paper with one of the errors listed below loses half a letter grade (e.g., from B to B-). Additional errors of the same category (e.g., three sentence fragments) will not lower the grade further, but additional errors in other categories will (one-half letter grade per category).
1. Fragments: Fragments are groups of words that appear to be sentences but lack either a subject or a verb or both.
Incorrect: We talked about what we like to do most. For example, swimming and golf.
Correct: We talked about what we like to do most: swimming and golf.
NOTE: Professional writers often make intentional use of sentence fragments. Once you are a professional writer, you too will be free to employ this device.
2. Comma Splices: A comma splice results when two sentences are joined by only a comma.
Incorrect: Most people fall in love at first sight, I fall in love at first sound.
Correct: Most people fall in love at first sight, but I fall in love at first sound. Or: Most people fall in love at first sight. I fall in love at first sound.
3. Subject-Verb Agreement: Readers are confused when the subject and the verb of a sentence do not agree in number (singular or plural) or person (first, second, or third).
Incorrect: High levels of air pollution causes damage to the lungs.
Correct: High levels of air pollution cause damage to the lungs. (The subject is levels, not pollution.)
Incorrect: My sister and my friend has paintings in the show.
Correct: My sister and my friend have paintings in the show. (The subject refers to two people.)
4. Run-ons: These occur when two sentences are fused together with no punctuation.
Incorrect: In life, Chopin's mother did the same as Chopin's character Mrs. Mallard does in "The Story of an Hour" she takes advantage of the unplanned circumstances.
Correct: In life, Chopin's mother did the same as Chopin's character Mrs. Mallard does in "The Story of an Hour": She takes advantage of the unplanned circumstances.
5. Pronouns: A pronoun takes the place of a noun in writing and needs to agree in number (plural or singular) with the noun.
Incorrect: A hero has tremendous influence on the people around them.
Correct: A hero has tremendous influence on the people around him.
Pronouns should not have ambiguous or vague references:
Incorrect: Wildlife has been subjected to both pollution and the destruction of natural habitats. This has led to a decline in wildlife population.
Correct: Wildlife has been subjected to both pollution and the destruction of natural habitats. This combination has led to a decline in wildlife population.
6. Other problem areas:
Do not confuse its and it's. It's means it is. Do not confuse your and you're, nor who's and whose. Do not use there for their or for they're, nor to for too or for two.
THESE EXAMPLES ARE MERE ILLUSTRATIONS. A good writer’s handbook will explain in greater detail what these errors are and how to avoid them.
Acronyms: First occurrence of an acronym is not spelled out for the reader.
Abbreviations: Abbreviations are punctuated incorrectly, e.g., do not contain periods.
Apostrophes: Confusion between apostrophe plus s (single possessor) and s plus apostrophe (more than one possessor).
Common misspellings: Two categories: a) those words that a spellchecker should detect, and b) those that a spellchecker cannot ensure are correct.
Category B examples: then/than; two/to/too; its/it's; are/our; in to/into; with out; through out; there/their/they're
Incorrect plurals: companys; societys
References: In-text references are missing or incomplete; reference list at the end of a paper is improperly formatted or punctuated; a particular documentation style is not used consistently.
Quotations: Proper formatting for punctuation and indentation of quotations is not followed; missing quotation marks; improper or missing attributes in body text.
Numbers: The numbers zero through nine are not written out; numbers beginning a sentence are not written out.
Commas: Commas are missing after each item in a series comma is not inserted after a subordinate clause that begins a sentence; commas are missing in dates.
Colons and Semicolons: Colons and semicolons are used interchangeably; both are used incorrectly; both are omitted when required.
Hyphenation: Words that should not have a hyphen contain one; words that should be hyphenated are not.
Contractions: Contractions should not be used in formal writing.
Capitalization: Proper nouns are not capitalized; titles of works are not capitalized (or italicized); use of random capitalization-not conforming to any rule of capitalization; indiscriminate use of all capital letters when mixed case is more appropriate or legible.
Passive Voice: Use of a passive voice construction when the subject of the sentence should be the actor.
Labeling: Missing, ambiguous, or incomplete labeling of tables and figures.
Headings and Titles: Headings and titles in body text are not clearly distinguishable from actual body text; heading levels are not discernible.
Language Register: Writing should not read like speech unless this is the intention of the author. Colloquial phrasing, and expressions, slang and jargon should be avoided.