Errors Frequently Made by Students
|Following are some grammatical errors
frequently made by students and brief information about how to fix them.
These errors are generally not detected by grammar check. For further
assistance understanding these errors or learning to eliminate them from
your writing, consult your grammar handbook or visit the
Writing Center. Also consult your grammar handbook to better
understand any grammar terms used here that you're not familiar with.
Missing Commas--Writers make this error most frequently when they fail to include a comma before a coordinating conjunction that joins two independent clauses. Writers also make this error when they fail to enclose an appositive with commas.
Unnecessary Commas--this error occurs most frequently when students separate a subject from a verb with a comma. Here's an easy test to see if your comma is unnecessary. Read the sentence to yourself aloud. Would you pause where that comma is? If not, take it out (unless it will cause a comma splice), since it is interrupting the flow of your sentence.
Misuse of Colon: colons are used to point the reader's attention towards information to the immediate right of them. This information must illustrate or elaborate on what was placed to the left of the colon. But beware: colons are frequently misused when people put them before lists where the grammar of the sentence calls for no punctuation at all.
Misuse of Semicolon: semicolons are used to join two things of equal grammatical weight, such as two independent clauses. They can also be used to separate items in a series if that information is particularly complex. Check your grammar handbook for more details about how to use semicolons correctly.
Subject/Pronoun Agreement Errors--Generally subject/pronoun agreement errors are made when the writer attempts to use "they" and "their" as gender neutral singular pronouns. While their hearts are in the right place, as they're attempting to use inclusive language, their grammar is nevertheless incorrect, as pronouns must agree in number with their antecedents. This problem also occurs when writers don't know whether the indefinite pronouns they use are singular or plural. Consult your grammar handbook for a list of indefinite pronouns. This list will indicate which pronouns are singular, plural or variable.
Faulty Parallelism--This is a problem with sentence structure, specifically with items in a series. Parallel ideas need to be expressed in parallel structures. The following sentence suffers from faulty parallelism: Leopold's favorite activities are menacing mice, sleeping on the hood of the car and dog terrorizing. Notice that the first two parts of this list begin with gerunds (those "ing" verbs), but the last one breaks this pattern. Here's the same sentence, correctly structured: Leopold's favorite activities are menacing mice, sleeping on the hood of the car and terrorizing dogs.
Misplaced Modifier--This is still another problem with sentence structure. Here a modifying phrase is separated from what it describes. Sometimes this problem is just amusing, whereas other times it can causes confusion as it modifies the wrong thing. Here is an example of a misplaced modifier: Wearing a burgundy gown with a plunging neckline, the men took immediate notice of Zelda. Are these men, collectively, wearing this low cut evening gown? Here is the sentence correctly structured: The men took immediate notice of Zelda, who was wearing a burgundy gown with a plunging neckline.
Dangling Modifier--Dangling modifiers are similar to misplaced modifiers in that this is yet another with placement of a modifying phrase in a sentence. However, while a misplaced modifiers is not located next to the phrase in the sentence it modifies, a dangling modifier has nothing in the sentence that is properly modifies. Here is an example of a dangling modifier: Scratching his fleas, a pinecone fell and hit Freddy on the head. The structure of this sentence indicates that pinecones scratch at fleas, when instead, it is Freddy who has the pest problem. Here is the sentence correctly structured: Freddy was scratching his fleas when a pinecone fell and hit him on the head.
Usage--Usage errors occur when writers mistake words that sound similar but are spelled differently, or when they use a word outside of its dictionary definition. To understand usage errors, consult your grammar handbook, which should have a list of words that are frequently confused. You may also consult a dictionary.