Seven Sins of Writing
In most instances, put the verb in the active voice rather than in the passive voice. Passive voice produces a sentence in which the subject receives an action. In contrast, active voice produces a sentence in which the subject performs an action.
Incorrect Punctuation of Two Independent Clauses
Writers often combine independent clauses in a single compound sentence to emphasize a close relationship between ideas. The punctuation of compound sentences varies depending upon how you connect the clauses.
Concise writing is key to clear communication. Wordiness obscures your ideas and frustrates your reader. Make your points succinctly.
Misuse of the Apostrophe
Apostrophes may indicate possession or mark omitted letters in contractions. Writers often misuse apostrophes when forming plurals and possessives. The basic rule is quite simple: use the apostrophe to indicate possession, not a plural.
Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers
Misplaced and dangling modifiers create illogical, even comical, sentences. We confuse our readers if we fail to connect modifiers (words that describe or limit other words) to the words they modify; be sure to place modifiers next to the words they modify.
Pronouns are useful as substitutes for nouns, but a poorly chosen pronoun can obscure the meaning of a sentence.
Writing Pet Peeves
Learning to write clearly and effectively is at the heart of Hamilton College’s mission statement: “Hamilton students learn to think independently, embrace difference, write and speak persuasively, and engage issues ethically and creatively.” We asked our professors to share some common writing mistakes.
Developing the ability to communicate in a clear, organized, and effective way is a central goal of a liberal arts education — and a prerequisite for a successful career. That’s why we established centers for writing and speaking.
Office / Department Name
Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center
Writing Center Director