Seven Stupid but Easily Avoidable Grammatical Errors You're Probably Going to Make in This Class
If you're reading this, then you're either in one of my English classes, or another university-level course that I teach, and so any writing assignments you submit to me should be relatively free of errors in grammar in spelling. If they're not, you'll be penalized according to the rules of the excessive errors policy. Most students entering LSU have a better than average mastery of mechanics, so I usually do not see many elementary and serious errors in their writing such as subject/verb agreement errors, spelling errors, sentence fragments and run on sentences. However, there are seven persistent errors that students continue to make that cost them points on assignments. If you're one of these students, you need to knuckle down and understand why these things are errors and then learn how to stop making them.
Comma Splices:. A comma splice occurs when you join two independent clauses with only a comma. Visit this website for assistance recognizing and correcting comma splice errors: http://www.lsu.edu/faculty/jpullia/commasplice.htm
Subject/Pronoun Agreement Error: In formal writing, "they" and "their" are not gender neutral singular pronouns, and you may not use them in this way. Visit this website for assistance understanding how to make your pronouns agree in number with their antecedents while using gender neutral language: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/gender.html
Subject/Indefinite Pronoun Agreement Error: People who are so used to using "they" and "their" as gender neutral pronouns, whether or not the antecedent is singular or plural, have never memorized which indefinite pronouns are singular, which are plural, and which are varied. Visit this website for assistance understanding what an indefinite pronoun is and how to memorize which ones are singular and which ones are plural: http://englishplus.com/grammar/00000027.htm.
Misuse of Colon: Visit this website for help understanding how to use a colon correctly: The Colon.
Misuse of Semicolon: Visit this website for help understanding how to use a semicolon correctly. The Semicolon.
Capitalization: So many people do not understand the rules about when something is a proper noun and should therefore be capitalized. As a result, they whimsically and promiscuously capitalize nouns. When they do this in my class, they get into trouble. Visit this website to brush up on these rules so that you can stop making this mistake: Capitalization. If you are in doubt about whether or not a word is a proper noun, look it up in dictionary.com. The word will be capitalized if it is routinely used as a proper noun.
Italics and Quotation Marks: Students are frequently confused about when to italicize titles or enclose them in question marks, and their confusion is sometimes exacerbated by publications such as The New York Times that seem to put quotation marks around all titles rather than observing the rules of standard English that require major titles to be italicized or underlined, and minor ones to be put in quotation marks. Visit these websites for assistance understanding how to use quotation marks and italics: Quotation marks (http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/577/04/) and Italics (http://www1.umn.edu/urelate/style/italics.html#Anchor-TITLES-47383).