1. Comma splices
used incorrectly between two complete sentences or main clauses, as in I just
love those commas, they’re so much fun; instead use periods, semicolons,
dashes, or conjunctions between complete sentences); especially with
(as in I know what I know, however, I don’t
know what you know)
(as in She knows the rules, therefore,
she makes few errors)
“Then, however, thus, hence, indeed,
and therefore are adverbs rather than conjunctions and should be
preceded by a semicolon [or a period] when used as a transition between the
clauses of a compound sentence.”
2. Missing commas
(as in Thomas Carter, Account Executive_has provided
exemplary leadership): “Use commas to set off a title following a name.”
(as in Minneapolis, Minnesota_is a nice place to
live): “Use commas to set off individual parts of addresses and names of
geographical places and political divisions.”
after the year in dates
(as in On April 7, 1999_we began testing
for Y2K compliance; but note: We began testing in April 1999): “Use
commas around the year when it follows a specific date; do not use commas
around the year when it is used with the month or season alone.”
modifying words or phrases
(as in Her boss, a superb
writer_is a meticulous editor): “Use commas to set off a word, phrase, or
clause that is in apposition to a noun unless it is necessary to complete the
meaning of the sentence.”
e. after etc.
when the sentence continues (as in I dressed,
ate breakfast, fed the dog, brushed my teeth, etc._ before leaving for work).
subordinate or dependent clauses
(as in When she returned
from Japan_she had to work hard to catch up on her schoolwork): “Use a
comma after a dependent clause that precedes the main clause.”
g. with forms of direct address
(as in Hi_John and
Thanks_Susan_for meeting with us).
3. Missing nonrestrictive commas
(commas setting off nonessential
elements, as in He distributed the quarterly report_ which indicated record
earnings; but note that no comma is used with restrictive or essential
elements, as in He distributed the report that emphasized positive trends,
and he withheld the report that revealed potential problems): “If [an
adjectival] phrase or clause is . . . nonrestrictive, set it off with commas. .
. . If [the] phrase or clause is restrictive, do not set it off with commas.”
4. Unnecessary commas
a. between subjects and verbs
(often after restrictive or essential
elements, as in The report that emphasized positive trends, was distributed
to the board).
□ b. before restrictive elements
(as in You need to
tell me, when you are unhappy): “When a dependent clause following a main
clause is restrictive, do not set off the clause with a comma.”
□ c. after conjunctions such
as although, yet,
and, but, or, and after such as (as in Although, there
were two relevant reports, only one was distributed, and as in Your
credibility will be undermined by common errors such as, unnecessary commas).
5. Inconsistent use of serial commas.
(The serial comma – the comma
before the conjunction in a series of three or more items – may be used or
omitted. Both practices are correct as long as one or the other is followed
6. Missing hyphens in unit modifiers
(as in five year option for
five-year option and long term project for long-term project):
“In most cases, use a hyphen between words or between abbreviations and words
combined to form a unit modifier that precedes the word modified.”
7. Hyphens for dashes
(as in Her resignation - a shock to everyone
else - came as a relief to him, for Her resignation – a shock to everyone
else – came as a relief to him): “In typewriting, use two hyphens . . . to
indicate the em dash.”
8. Missing apostrophes with possessive forms
(as in my childrens toys
for my children’s toys and two weeks vacation for two weeks’
9. Unnecessary apostrophes in plural words
(as in We have three
Harley’s for sale).
10. Incorrect placement of apostrophes with singular and plural possessive
(as in one students’ work for one student’s
work and three student’s work for three students’
11. Unnecessary colons
between verbs and their complements, and between
prepositions and their objects (as in My three favorite vegetables are:
broccoli, spinach, and radishes, and as in They bought three loads of:
hay, wheat, and oats).
12. Semicolons for colons
(as in Dear John; and We have three
13. Semicolons between main clauses and subordinate clauses (as in
There were four errors in my copy; although I proofread it carefully).
14. Single quotation marks
a. for double quotation marks (as in He described the process as
‘inherently unfair’ for He described the process as “inherently unfair”).
b. for apostrophes in abbreviated years
(as in ‘99 for ’99
– Note: Apostrophes bend to the left; single open quotation
marks bend to the right.).
15. Periods and commas outside – rather than inside – closing
quotation marks –
as in He described the process as “inherently unfair”.
“Place a comma or period following a quotation or part of a quotation inside the
16. Periods inside – rather than outside – closing parentheses
when the sentence is only partly enclosed by parentheses, as in Here are more
than 70 common errors (relating mainly to punctuation.); but when the
sentence is completely enclosed by parentheses, as in (This is a very long
list.), the period does go inside the closing parenthesis.
17. Missing periods
□ a. between sentences,
(as in She ran her best race ever he ran his worst).
□ b. after abbreviations
(as in 8 am for 8 a.m.,
10:45 pm for 10:45 p.m., and US for U.S.; but note
inconsistency in standard usage: M.A., Ph.D., but MBA).
18. Subject-verb nonagreement
(as in The network of systems
are not working).
19. Nonparallel structure
(as in She was healthy, wealthy, and an
20. Sentence fragments
(as in She was angry. Although she wouldn’t
21. Shifts in modified subject
as in Working 12-hour days, the project was
completed on time. In the second example, the implied subject fails to
appear, which leaves the modifying phrase, working 12-hour days,
22. Shifts in person
(as in If writers proofread carefully,
you will find your errors).
23. Incorrect pronoun case
(as in Please send the memo to John and
I or Please send the memo to John and myself rather than
Please send the memo to John and me).
24. Pronoun-antecedent nonagreement
(as in A secretary who
finishes their work early should be permitted to go home).
25. Their for its
in reference to an organization or
company (as in The University of Minnesota and their students
rather than The University of Minnesota and its students).
26. Unclear or ambiguous pronoun antecedent
(as in Susan told Georgia
that her proposal had been accepted by the board).
27. Shifts in verb tense
(as in The team members worked on the
project for three months, and they do a first-rate job), and
incorrect verb tense.
□ 28. affect, effect
29. alot for a lot
30. alright for all right
32. assure for ensure
33. insure for ensure
34. as for because
35. bring for take
36. comprised of
for composed of
37. convince, persuade
38. i.e. for e.g.
□ 39. missing comma
40. missing periods
after i.e. or e.g.
with i.e. or e.g.
41. etc. after e.g.
or for example
42. farther, further
43. it’s for its
44. less, fewer
45. towards for toward
46. whether or not
49. flout, flaunt
Additional word pairs
53. choose, chose
□ 54. lead, led
55. loose, lose
56. they’re, their, there
57. to, too
58. you’re, your
62. Spaced words spelled as solid words
(as in Did you setup
the room for the presentation?)
(as in web for Web and internet
Words or figures:
writing, spell out exact numbers of less than 10; use figures for numbers of 10
In a series: “Treat consistently throughout
a sentence or paragraph all numbers referring to the same category.”
At sentence beginnings:
“When it is the first word of a sentence,
spell out a number that would normally be written as a figure. If possible,
rephrase a sentence to avoid beginning with a number.”
“Do not use st, nd, rd, and th after dates to
indicate ordinals” (as in We will meet again on April 15th).
Money: “Do not use ciphers (zeros) with even dollar amounts, except
for consistency within a series.”
“Do not repeat a spelled-out number in figures” – as in
You have three (3) days to return these four (4) forms.
71. Missing page numbers
(on pages after the first page in a
72. Missing page identification lines
(on pages after the first page in a
73. Page number on first page
(page numbering should be suppressed on
page 1; page numbering first appears on page 2).
74. Full justification