2Presented by The Regent University Writing Center Adapted from “The Everyday Writer”Author: Andrea LunsfordSt. Martin’s Press
3Contents PART 1: Commas Pronouns Possession, Contractions, and Plural Words and Word EndingsTense and PersonPrepositionsSentence StructureSubject-verb agreement
4Missing comma after introductory element Error #1:Missing comma after introductory element
5DefinitionAn introductory element can be a word, a clause, or long phrase that modifies the rest of the sentence in some way. It comes before the subject and the verb of the sentence and needs to be followed by a comma.
6Examples of Introductory Elements Therefore, Thus, However, Nevertheless, Correspondingly, Contrastingly, Consequently, Furthermore, MoreoverIn addition, Also, On the other hand, For instance, First, Finally, In sum, As a resultIn the end, Then, Now, Besides, As a result, For example, Next, Of course, Otherwise, Still
7Examples of Error #1: Missing comma after introductory element X After the movie we went to the park. After the movie, we went to the park.X Later Peter came to pick me up. Later, Peter came to pick me up.X Under the table that came from my grandmother the dust slowly built up. Under the table that came from my grandmother, the dust slowly built up.
8Missing comma in a compound sentence Error #2:Missing comma in a compound sentence
9DefinitionWhen two sentences are joined together by a coordinating conjunction (such as for, and, nor, but, or, yet, or so. . . “f-a-n-b-o-y-s”), there must be a comma before the conjunction.
10Examples of Error #2: Missing comma in a compound sentence X Tina read Frankenstein but she didn’t enjoy it as much as The Scarlet Letter. Tina read Frankenstein, but she didn’t enjoy it as much as The Scarlet Letter.X Frank’s parents emigrated from Europe and his stepfather came from Australia. Frank’s parents emigrated from Europe, and his stepfather came from Australia.
11Missing comma with a non-essential element Error #3:Missing comma with a non-essential element
12DefinitionA non-essential element is a phrase or a clause that elaborates on the noun preceding it but does not significantly change the meaning of the sentence. It is offset by commas.
13Examples of Error #3: Missing comma with a non-essential element X Peter the oldest child enjoys listening to the radio. Peter, the oldest child, enjoys listening to the radio.X The train which rattled past the window woke up the whole family. The train, which rattled past the window, woke up the whole family.X My aunt introduced her best friend whose name is Sarah. My aunt introduced her best friend, whose name is Sarah.
14Lack of comma in a series Error #4:Lack of comma in a series
15DefinitionIn academic writing, there is a comma before the last item in a series of three or more.
16Examples of Error #4: Lack of comma in a series X My favorite speakers at Regent University have been Ravi Zacharias, Father Francis McNutt, Bob Biehl and Alan Keyes. My favorite speakers at Regent University have been Ravi Zacharias, Father Francis McNutt, Bob Biehl, and Alan Keyes.X At the Writing Center, coaches help students with topic selection, organization, sentence structure, grammar, proofreading and style. At the Writing Center, coaches help students with topic selection, organization, sentence structure, grammar, proofreading, and style.
17Unnecessary comma with an essential element Error #5:Unnecessary comma with an essential element
18DefinitionAn essential element is a phrase or clause that elaborates on or defines the preceding noun. The essential element is NOT offset by commas because it significantly changes or enhances the meaning of the sentence, and using commas indicates that it is not essential.
19Examples of Error #5: Unnecessary comma with an essential element X The pizzas, that had only cheese, were on sale. The pizzas that had only cheese were on sale.X The bike, that cost $2000, was left out in the rain. The bike that cost $2000 was left out in the rain.
20That vs. Which Essential (that): Non-essential (which): The pizzas that are on sale are the ones to buy.The sentence above indicates a specific kind of pizza is to be purchased.Non-essential (which):The pizzas, which are on sale, are the ones to buy.The sentence above indicates that pizzas—as opposed to other foods—should be purchased. The fact that they’re on sale is incidental (non-essential). Non-essential information is “by the way” information, or FYI information.
22DefinitionA main clause makes a complete statement and can stand alone as a sentence. (These appear on the Sentence Variety Chart as SV.)A subordinate clause is just like a main clause except that it begins with a subordinating word (i.e. after, although, as, because, even though, since, so that, unless, where, while, whose, etc.).(LB Brief, p. 213)
23Examples of Subordinate Clauses The Comma Rule: 1. SV sub SV . or 2. Sub SV, SV.We changed this PowerPoint when we saw how students struggled.When we saw how students struggled, we changed this PowerPoint.Even though he knew it was wrong, he placed a comma there.He placed a comma there even though he knew it was wrong.
24Food for ThoughtSubordinate Clauses are connected to essential clauses because the sentences are essentially connected by the subordinating term. As such, the audience needs both aspects to comprehend the author’s full intent.Can you see the point as it’s been stated?Now, can you reverse the structure of the underlined sentence with the correct punctuation?
25(also known as “the big No-No”) Error #6:The comma splice(also known as “the big No-No”)
26DefinitionA comma splice is the joining of two sentences with only a comma and no conjunction, subordinate clause, or transitional phrase. In this case, a semi-colon or period would be an appropriate form of punctuation.
27Examples of Error #6: The comma splice X There was a bend in the road, the driver hit the brakes. There was a bend in the road; the driver hit the brakes.X The cat jumped, the dog barked. The cat jumped. The dog barked.X The professor handed out the exam, the students took out their pencils. The professor handed out the exam, and the students took out their pencils.
29DefinitionA pronoun* is vague when it does not clearly refer to a person or object preceding it.*Example: he, she, it, they, them, her, him, etc.
30Examples of Error #7: Vague pronoun reference X Hal and Jacob camped out in his backyard. Hal and Jacob camped out in the backyard.X They announced that their time was up. The teachers announced that the students’ time was up.X As the plane landed on the aircraft carrier, its crew cheered. As the plane landed on the aircraft carrier, the flight crew cheered.
32DefinitionThis error occurs when a pronoun does not agree in case and/or number with the noun to which it refers.
33Examples of Error #8: Pronoun agreement error X The traveler sunbathed near the ocean while their friends surfed nearby. The traveler sunbathed near the ocean while his friends surfed nearby.X While people should avoid speeding, you sometimes have to in order to make it to work on time. While people should avoid speeding, they sometimes have to in order to make it to work on time.X When dealing with depression, one should seek counseling even though they may feel awkward at first. When dealing with depression, one should seek counseling even though he or she may feel awkward at first.
35DefinitionBe careful to use the correct word. Its shows possession, whereas It’s is a contraction for it is. Contractions should not be used in academic writing.
36Examples of Error #9: Its/It’s error X The dog, uncertain of how to behave in front of an audience, started to howl and chase it’s tail. The dog, uncertain of how to behave in front of an audience, started to howl and chase its tail.X Its cruising past my window right now. It’s/It is cruising past my window right now.
38DefinitionAn apostrophe can be used to show possession and to indicate a missing letter in a contraction.
39Examples of Error #10: Possessive apostrophe error X A sea turtles’ speed on land is nothing compared to a cheetah. A sea turtle’s speed on land is nothing compared to a cheetah.X Jame’s car collided with Tess minivan. James’ car collided with Tess’ minivan.X The tourists itinerary included an evening at the opera. The tourists’ itinerary included an evening at the opera.
42DefinitionThis occurs when writers use a word that closely resembles another word in spelling or pronunciation.
43Examples of Error #11: Incorrect word choice X Grandma was strongly effected by the movie. Grandma was strongly affected by the movie.X The war film dealt with a soldier’s loss of innocents. The war film dealt with a soldier’s loss of innocence.
45DefinitionAn inflected ending consists of a letter or letters added to the end of a word to show various characteristics. The most common examples are –s endings on nouns, which make them plural, and –ed and –ing endings on verbs.
46Examples of Error #12: Wrong/missing inflected ending X I was suppose to write an to my mother. I was supposed to write an to my mother.X I am use to long trips. I am used to long trips.X I go run twice per week. I go running twice per week.
48DefinitionUsing the wrong preposition* changes the meaning of the sentence or the relationship between the subject and object of the sentence.*A preposition is a word that identifies direction, placement, or the relationship between the subject and object of the sentence. Some examples of prepositions include on, in, under, through, around, with, for, to, from, by, etc.
49Examples of Error #13: Wrong/missing preposition X We should not take credit from other people’s work. We should not take credit for other people’s work.X The students decided to live at the dorms on campus. The students decided to live in the dorms on campus.
50Wrong tense or verb form Error #14:Wrong tense or verb form
51DefinitionThere are three basic tenses: past, present, and future. The tenses within a sentence should agree.
52Examples of Error #14: Wrong tense or verb form X She walk to school every day in all types of weather. She walked/walks to school every day in all types of weather.X Just yesterday, I sing to the Lord with a joyful heart. Just yesterday, I sang to the Lord with a joyful heart.X We might could get ice cream after class. We could get ice cream after class.
54DefinitionVerbs can be in past, present, or future tenses. A shift of verb tense in a sentence can leave the reader confused.
55Examples of Error #15: Tense shift X I am going to the store and bought a magazine. I went to the store and bought a magazine.X If I had a million dollars, I will be rich. If I had a million dollars, I would be rich.
56Unnecessary shift in person Error #16:Unnecessary shift in person
57DefinitionThe writing perspective can be in first (I, we), second (you), or third (he, she, it, they) person. When the perspective changes from one of these to another, it can confuse the reader.
58Examples of Error #16: Unnecessary shift in person X When you work as a lifeguard in the hot sun all day, one can see how tough it is to stay alert. When one works as a lifeguard in the hot sun all day, one can see how tough it is to stay alert.X When someone prepares hot chocolate, you should heat the water separately. When you prepare hot chocolate, you should heat the water separately.X He went snorkeling in the Caribbean where you have to watch out for sharks. He went snorkeling in the Caribbean where he had to watch out for sharks.
60DefinitionTo be a sentence, a word group must consist of at least one full independent clause. That independent clause must contain both a subject and a verb.
61Examples of Error #17: Sentence fragment X Because an independent clause is necessary and I do not want to receive a poor grade on my paper. Because an independent clause is necessary and I do not want to receive a poor grade on my paper, I write correctly.X A sentence without subject-verb coordination. A sentence without subject-verb coordination is incorrect.X When a word group does not contain both a subject and a verb. When a word group does not contain both a subject and a verb, it is a phrase.
63DefinitionA run-on sentence occurs when one sentence follows another without being separated by any punctuation.
64Examples of Error #18: Run-on sentence X The lobster tasted good they cooked it just the right amount of time. The lobster tasted good; they cooked it just the right amount of time.X Gummi bears are Holly’s favorite candy and Harry likes Hershey bars. Gummi bears are Holly’s favorite candy, and Harry likes Hershey bars.X Five Star Wars movies have been made the first three are considered by many to be classics of the science fiction genre. Five Star Wars movies have been made. The first three are considered by many to be classics of the science fiction genre.
66DefinitionVerbs must agree with the subject in both number and in person. Number deals with the singular or plural form of the subject. Agreement in person deals with the first, second, and third person distinctions.
67Examples of Error #19: Subject-verb disagreement X Writing academic papers are sometimes difficult. Writing academic papers is sometimes difficult.X Our coaches at the writing center is interested in the students’ concerns about their writing. Our coaches at the writing center are interested in the students’ concerns about their writing.
68Dangling or misplaced modifiers Error #20:Dangling or misplaced modifiers
69Definition A modifier is a word or phrase that defines a noun or verb. A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that is misplaced in the sentence, misleading the reader’s interpretation of the meaning of the sentence.
70Examples of Error #20: Dangling or misplaced modifiers X Because he has high cholesterol, Theo believes that Scott should stop eating hamburgers. Because Scott has high cholesterol, Theo believes that Scott should stop eating hamburgers.X I watched Theresa put the finishing touches on her cheesecake, who was wearing gloves. I watched Theresa, who was wearing gloves, put the finishing touches on her cheesecake.X The cake was upside-down, the best part of the meal. The upside-down cake was the best part of the meal.
72The information presented in this workshop can be found in the following helpful writing resources: A Writer’s Reference, 6th ed. by Diana HackerStyle: The Lessons in Clarity and Grace, 10th ed. by Joseph Williams and Gregory ColombThe Elements of Style, 4th ed. by William Strunk and E.B. White“Frequency of Formal Errors in Current College Writing, or Ma and Pa Kettle Do Research” by Robert J. Connors and Andrea A. LunsfordSt. Martin’s Handbook, 6th ed. by Andrea LunsfordAlso, be sure to check your style manual!