Common Writing Mistakes
by E.H. Williams, Biology Dept.
Comma splices and run-on sentences may be corrected in five principal ways:
- Use a period. Write two sentences.
- Use a semicolon.
- Use a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor, but, for, so, and yet).
- Make one of the clauses dependent (subordinate), and use a subordinating conjunction such as after, although, because, before, if, since, though, unless, until, when, where, and while.
- Reduce one of the independent clauses to a phrase or even a single word.
Other common comma errors
Semicolon misuseTypographically, a semicolon is part comma, part period, and it does indeed function as a strong comma or as a weak period. It can never function as a colon. As a strong comma, it can be used to provide strong separation of two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction (normally, a comma provides this separation) or to separate a series of phrases or clauses with internal commas.
Bell and Mitchell simulated ocean bacterial and algal growth using; marine algae, bacteria, ...
Lack of parallel structure
Misplaced and dangling modifiers
Nouns as modifiers
Confused phrasing and word choice
Erroneous word choice
|affect - effect||
Usually affect is a verb, meaning "to influence," and effect is a noun, meaning "result." But effect occasionally is used as a verb meaning "to bring about."
Social activities may affect your grades, but the effect better be little, or we can effect a change in your life style!
|farther - further||
Farther refers to additional distance, and further refers to additional time, amount, or other abstract matters.
You may be further from an "A" than you think, so when you study, go no farther than the best place to concentrate.
|less - fewer||
Less refers to bulk amounts, while fewer refers to separate (countable) items.
Those with less knowledge receive fewer high grades.
|between - among||
among Between is used when two are concerned (the word comes from "by twain" in Middle English), while among is used when more than two are concerned.
Between you and me, these mistakes are common among all of us.
|feel - think||
In common usage, feel means to sense, to be emotionally affected by something, or to have a general or thorough conviction of something. Think means to use reason or to examine with the intellect.
I think that you can write better than you have, while I feel encouraged by the improvements in your writing.
|which - that||
Use that in restricting (limiting) clauses: "The rocking chair that creaks is on the porch." You are distinguishing between two, or more, rocking chairs.
Use which in nonrestrictive (in effect, parenthetic) clauses: "The rocking chair, which creaks, is on the porch." You have one rocking chair, and it creaks.
The difference in these sentences is this: in the first, one rocking chair is singled out from several – the one that creaks; in the second, the fact that the rocking chair creaks is tossed in; it is not added for the purpose of identifying the one chair out of several.
Note: Use who for people, in both restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.
A technique that can improve your writing is proofreading, which can show you unintentional errors.
|since - because||
Since is often used to mean because: "Since you ask, I'll tell you." Its primary meaning, however, relates to time: "I've been waiting since noon." Most people now accept since in place of because; however, when since is ambiguous and may also refer to time ("Since he joined the navy, she found another boyfriend") it is better to say because or after, depending on which you mean.
Because you are intelligent and careful, your writing has improved since the beginning of this course.
Parts have been taken directly from the following two sources (mostly from the first):