Common Mistakes in Writing

Common Mistakes in Writing: Comma Splice In your writing, there are 3 major problems that we commonly have to address as teachers/instructors/professors/etc. I want you to take the time to read about these. While we don’t expect this to fix your issues instantly, we are hoping that you’ll aim to make less of these mistakes in the future (especially on your papers, where these errors WILL be counted off for). Comma Splice — Commas are tricky because there are so many different ways you can use them, but one of the most common ways to use commas is to separate two main clauses that are connected by a coordinating conjunction.

That just means that when you join two things that could be sentences on their own with a word such as “and,” “but,” or “or,” you need a comma before the conjunction: Squiggly ran to the forest, and Aardvark chased the peeves. Squiggly ran to the forest is a complete sentence, and Aardvark chased the peeves is also a complete sentence. To join them with a comma, you need the word “and” or some other coordinating conjunction. If you just put a comma between them, that’s an error called a comma splice or a comma fault: Squiggly ran to the forest, Aardvark chased the peeves. wrong) The easiest way to remember how to check for a comma splice, is to read the sentence in your head. If it sounds like it could be two (or more) separate sentences, then it probably is. Here’s another example: Sara obviously named that one, she was a sucker for those old “Happy Days” reruns. It should read: Sara obviously named that one. She was a sucker for those old “Happy Days” reruns. Now, be aware that sometimes making one sentence into two can make your writing sound choppy. There are other ways you can fix comma splices though, to take care of such an issue..

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Such as using a coordinating conjunction (and, or, but, so, etc. ): Aspen was too far away for us to drive there, we decided to fly. (incorrect) Becomes: Aspen was too far away for us to drive there, so we decided to fly. You can also subordinate one clause to the other. This can prioritize the importance of each clause, which is sometimes very handy: Because Aspen was too far away for us to drive there, we decided to fly. Now, there is one other way to fix Comma Splices, and that is a semicolon. However, I would suggest against using a semicolon, as often times they’re unnecessary and used improperly.

Also, you can conjunctive adverbs with the semicolon: Aspen was too far away for us to drive there; we decided to fly. (semicolon) Aspen was too far away for us to drive there; instead, we decided to fly. (semicolon and conjunctive adverb) Once again though, I’d like to stress not using a semicolon because of their erroneous nature. One of the other methods should suffice. Contact myself or Dr. Wilson if you need any help with these. Common Mistakes in Writing: Run-on Sentences The second mistakes we’re going to cover, is the run-on sentence (also known as a fused sentence).

Run-on sentence–This is when you have two or more independent clauses without any kind of punctuation (as opposed to the incorrect comma splice, which uses a comma) separating them. There are many ways you can correct these: The new chancellor instituted several new procedures some were impractical. (wrong) -By making two sentences: The new chancellor instituted several new procedures. Some were impractical. -By joining the two clauses with a semicolon, if they are closely related (I advise against this one): The new chancellor instituted several new procedures; some were impractical. By joining the two clauses with a semicolon followed by a conjunctive adverb (I also advise against this one): The new chancellor instituted several new procedures; however, some were impractical. -By joining the two clauses with a comma and coordinating conjunction: The new chancellor instituted several new procedures, but some were impractical. -By subordinating one clause to the other: The new chancellor instituted several new procedures, some of which were impractical. You’ll notice that with run-on sentences and comma splices, the two are very similar issues and solved in the same manner.

It’s a good rule of thumb to remember them together. If you need any help, contact Dr. Wilson or myself. Common Mistakes in Writing: Sentence Fragments The last major error that we encounter in writing is the sentence fragment. These are a bit trickier to solve than the other two issues, but you should have no problem as long as you take your time with them. Sentence Fragment–A part of a sentence that is punctuated as a complete sentence. It may lack a subject, a predicate, or both, or it may be a dependent clause. It can be fixed in one of three ways: He quit his job.

And cleared out his desk. (the second sentence is wrong) This deals with a missing subject or predicate. These are usually the result of faulty punctuation of a compound predicate. Either add the subject, or change the punctuation to incorporate the fragment into the preceding sentence: He quite his job. And he cleared out his desk. Or: He quit his job and cleared out his desk. A missing or incomplete predicate is often the result of using a verbal instead of a finite verb. Usually, the best remedy is addition of a helping verb: Sheila waiting to see you. Becomes: Sheila is waiting to see you.

Although a dependent clause has a subject and a predicate, it cannot stand alone as a sentence because it begins with a relative pronoun (that, which, who) or a subordinating conjunction (such as although, because, if, when, or while). A dependent-clause fragment can be repunctuated and added to an independent clause, rewritten as a separate sentence, or rewritten as an independent clause and linked to another independent clause with a comma and a coordinating conjunction: Larry was late for class. Because he had forgotten to set the alarm clock. (wrong) Becomes: Larry was late for class because he had forgotten to set the alarm clock.

The gas station attendant gave us directions to the beach. Which turned out to be all wrong. (wrong) Becomes: The gas station attendant gave us directions to the beach. Which They turned out to be all wrong. Or: The gas station attendant gave us directions to the beach, but they turned out to be all wrong. Usually, a phrase can be attached to the preceding sentence with a simple change in capitalization and punctuation: My advisor approved the project. After much discussion. (wrong) Becomes: My advisor approved the project after much discussion. We reorganized the study group. Distributing the workload more evenly. (wrong)

Becomes: We reorganized the study group, distributing the workload more evenly. Explanatory phrases (beginning with expressions like for example, such as, and that is), lists, and appositives (a noun or a noun phrase that renames another noun right beside it) are common sources of sentence fragments: The faculty wants additional benefits. For example, the free use of university automobiles. (wrong) Becomes: The faculty wants additional benefits, such as the free use of university automobiles. Or: The faculty wants additional benefits. One is the free use of university automobiles. I have so many things to do today.

Washing, ironing, vacuuming, dusting, baking, and doing dishes. (wrong) Becomes: I have so many things to do today: washing, ironing, vacuuming, dusting, baking, and doing dishes. These are my classmates. A fine group of people. (wrong) Becomes: These are my classmates, a fine group of people. That pretty much covers it for fragments. Sometimes there are intentional fragments in informal writing, such as novels or scripts. These are meant to convey emotion or a more powerful point. Formal writing (essays, letters, etc. ) stays away from these as much as possible and so should you. If you have any questions, contact Dr. Wilson or myself.

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