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The Seventh Deadly Sin


7The Dreaded 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 of their pet peeves (otherwise known as common writing errors).
Pet Peeve Examples of Incorrect Usage
utilize vs. use Descartes utilizes the wax argument to show that we know physical objects with the mind, not the senses.
bloated diction Once liberty is actualized, justice will burgeon.
inflated, imprecise words The lifestyles of the majority of 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; it does not prove it.)
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.
loose vs. lose Forecasters fear that stocks will loose value next year.
entitled vs. titled My favorite song is entitled “Darwin Derby” by Vulfpeck. (Entitled means “a right to do or have.”)
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.
misuse of apostrophes The 1920’s marked the height of the Swing Era.
(Apostrophes indicate omitted numerals: the ’80s. Show plural by adding s.)
less vs. fewer The incumbent received less votes than the challenger.
general sloppiness My English professor cares to much about grammer and speling.

Contact Information


Writing Center

Kirner-Johnson 152
315-859-4363
Find Your Voice
Written & Oral Communication

Find Your Voice


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.

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