The Seventh Deadly Sin

Committing Pet Peeves

Learning to write clearly and effectively is a central part of your education. As the Hamilton College Catalogue notes, "The college expects its students to think, write and speak with clarity, understanding and precision." Below is a list of professors' pet peeves you should bear in mind as you aim for "clarity, understanding and precision" in your writing.

Pet Peeve Example
utilize vs. use “Descartes utilizes the wax argument to show that we know physical objects with the mind, not the senses.”
singular/plural disagreement “The student finished the essay, only to discover that their printer did not work.”
bloated diction “Once liberty is actualized, justice will burgeon.”
"inflated, imprecise words" The lifestyles of many individuals were difficult due to what society utilized against them.
misuse of prove/proof “The results prove that our hypothesis was correct. (A study supports a hypothesis, not proves it.)”
general sloppiness The English department cares to much about grammer and speling.
burying the subject The significance of the study is that there is....
unnecessary subordinate clause and passive voice There was one factor that was ignored by the con side: ....
use of I as object of verb They went with Dido and I to tour the Colosseum.
  The family came to see David and I perform.
indefinite antecedent President Johnson’s ignoring of George Ball's Vietnam memo proved disastrous for him. (for whom?)
loose vs. lose Forecasters fear that stocks will loose value next year.
treating data as singular The data shows that medication affects ADHD symptoms.
than vs. then The data indicate that Americans work more hours then Europeans.
vacuous first sentences Scientists have studied DNA for years.
affect vs. effect We studied the affect of the angle on acceleration.
less vs. fewer Bush got less votes than Gore in 2000.
who vs. that Anyone that disagrees please speak up.
use of impact as a verb Logging heavily impacted the Adirondacks.
use of impact when violent implications are inappropriate “The poem had a quiet, gentle impact on me.”


Sunday 1 p.m. -
10 p.m.
Monday 9 a.m. -
10 p.m.
Tuesday 9 a.m. -
10 p.m.
Wednesday 9 a.m. -
10 p.m.
Thursday 9 a.m. -
10 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m. -
5 p.m.
Saturday CLOSED

Contact Information

Writing Center

Kirner-Johnson 152
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