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Your Guides to Excellent Writing

Take the proofreading, punctuation, and word choice challenges.

Take the grammar Challenge!

 

 

1. My collection of fall leaves are beautiful.


Correct


Incorrect

Which is it?  Click on your choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

1. My collection of fall leaves [is] beautiful.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

Clicking Why? will take you to an illustration of the error in a 75-point checklist of common errors.

To return to your place in the Challenge, use your back arrow.

Note: Examples on the checklist illustrate the error or the incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

1. My collection of fall leaves [is] beautiful.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Try again.     Next

 

Clicking Why? will take you to an illustration of the error in a 75-point checklist of common errors.

To return to your place in the Challenge, use your back arrow.

Note: Examples on the checklist illustrate the error or the incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

+1. The network of elms is connected by its roots.


Correct


Incorrect

Click on your choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

+1. The network of elms is connected by its roots.

It was
correct.


 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

+1. The network of elms is connected by its roots.

It was
correct.


 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

2. Three decades of leaf collections in my basement indicates my love of fall color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

2. Three decades of leaf collections in my basement [indicate] my love of fall color.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

2. Three decades of leaf collections in my basement [indicate] my love of fall color.

It was
incorrect.

Now it's
correct.

Why?     Try again.     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

+2. An audit of my collections reveals a preference for oranges and deep reds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

+2. An audit of my collections reveals a preference for oranges and deep reds.

It was
correct.

 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

+2. An audit of my collections reveals a preference for oranges and deep reds.

It was
correct.

 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

3. My leaves are colorful, interesting, and a representation of the trees in my neighborhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

3. My leaves are colorful, interesting, and [representative] of the trees in my neighborhood.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

3. My leaves are colorful, interesting, and [representative] of the trees in my neighborhood.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Try again.     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

+3. I especially like leaves, caramel apples, and big fat pumpkins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

+3. I especially like leaves, caramel apples, and big fat pumpkins.

It was
correct.


 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

+3. I especially like leaves, caramel apples, and big fat pumpkins.

It was
correct.

 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

4. I like to add new varieties, to identify new species, and organizing them by family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

4. I like to add new varieties, to identify new species, and [to organize] them by family.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Try again.     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

4. I like to add new varieties, to identify new species, and [to organize] them by family.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

+4. But I don’t like counting my leaves and to paste them onto separate pages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

+4. But I don’t like counting my leaves and [pasting] them onto separate pages.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

+4. But I don’t like counting my leaves and [pasting] them onto separate pages.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

5. Autumn fragrances evoke both regret over the end of summer and excitement for the new season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

5. Autumn fragrances evoke both regret over the end of summer and excitement for the new season.

It was
correct.


 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

5. Autumn fragrances evoke both regret over the end of summer and excitement for the new season.

It was
correct.


 

Why?     Try again.     Next

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

+5. The crunch of leaves makes me think of walking to school and to smell the crisp air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

+5. The crunch of leaves makes me think of walking to school and [smelling] the crisp air.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

+5. The crunch of leaves makes me think of walking to school and [smelling] the crisp air.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

6. I miss the smell of burning leaves. Although I understand the need to avoid polluting the air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

6. I miss the smell of burning leaves[, although] I understand the need to avoid polluting the air.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Try again.     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

6. I miss the smell of burning leaves[, although] I understand the need to avoid polluting the air.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

+6. I enjoy raking leaves – when I have the time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

+6. I enjoy raking leaves [–] when I have the time.

It was
correct.

 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

+6. I enjoy raking leaves [–] when I have the time.

It was
correct.

 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

7. Because our population is increasing, we need to take greater care to protect our environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

7. Because our population is increasing[,] we need to take greater care to protect our environment.

It was
correct.

 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

7. Because our population is increasing[,] we need to take greater care to protect our environment.

It was
correct.

 

Why?     Try again.     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

+7. Clean air is important. Because we all breathe it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

+7. Clean air is important [because] we all breathe it.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

+7. Clean air is important [because] we all breathe it.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

8. Walking down the street, the trees form a multicolored arch over my head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

8. [As I walk] down the street, the trees form a multicolored arch over my head.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Try again.     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

8. [As I walk] down the street, the trees form a multicolored arch over my head.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

+8. Actually, rooted to the ground, trees don’t walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

+8. Actually, rooted to the ground, trees don’t walk.

It was
correct.

 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

+8. Actually, rooted to the ground, trees don’t walk.

It was
correct.

 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

9. Cloaked in red and orange finery, I think the maples look like royal visitors from some magical realm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

9. Cloaked in red and orange finery, [the maples] look like royal visitors from some magical realm.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

9. Cloaked in red and orange finery, [the maples] look like royal visitors from some magical realm.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Try again.     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

+9. Illuminated by streetlights, the leaves are especially brilliant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

+9. Illuminated by streetlights, the leaves are especially brilliant.

It was
correct.

 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

+9. Illuminated by streetlights, the leaves are especially brilliant.

It was
correct.


 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

10. Their beauty overwhelms my wife, my two children, and myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

10. Their beauty overwhelms my wife, my two children, and [me].

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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No!

10. Their beauty overwhelms my wife, my two children, and [me].

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Try again.     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

+10. Please take a picture and send it to Kate and me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

+10. Please take a picture and send it to Kate and me.

It was
correct.

 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

+10. Please take a picture and send it to Kate and me.

It was
correct.

 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

11. The university takes excellent care of the splendid trees on their campus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

11. The university takes excellent care of the splendid trees on [its] campus.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

11. The university takes excellent care of the splendid trees on [its] campus.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Try again.     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

+11. A university should take care of its grounds and facilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

+11. A university should take care of its grounds and facilities.

It was
correct.


 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

+11. A university should take care of its grounds and facilities.

It was
correct.


 

Why?     Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

12. I suppose jumping into that pile of leaves would present the wrong image of the other faculty members and I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

12. I suppose jumping into that pile of leaves would present the wrong image of the other faculty members and [me].

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Try again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

12. I suppose jumping into that pile of leaves would present the wrong image of the other faculty members and [me].

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Congratulations!

Once more, from the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

 

 

+12. My colleagues and me must be professorial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

No!

+12. My colleagues and [I] must be professorial.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Once more, from the top.

 

 


 


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Take the Grammar Challenge!

 

Yes!

+12. My colleagues and [I] must be professorial.

Now it's
correct.

It was
incorrect.

Why?     Congratulations!

Once more, from the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Error Checklist

Note: Examples illustrate the error or the incorrect usage.

Apostrophes     Commas: Missing, Nonrestrictive, Unnecessary     Parentheses

Quotation Marks     Semicolons & Colons     Unit Modifiers

 

Punctuation
Grammar, Word Choice, Spelling, Numbers, Format
1. Comma splices (commas 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

a. however (as in I know what I know, however, I don’t know what you know)

b. therefore (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

a. after titles (as in Thomas Carter, Account Executive_has provided exemplary leadership): “Use commas to set off a title following a name.”

b. in addresses (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.”

c. 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.”

d. after 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).

f. after 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 consistently.)

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” (Note: Contrary to the U of M's recommendation to "close up the spaces before and after em and en dashes," I recommend that you leave a space before and after your dashes.).

8. Missing apostrophes with possessive forms (as in my childrens toys for my children’s toys and two weeks vacation for two weeks’ vacation).

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 forms (as in one students’ work for one student’s work and three student’s work for three students’ work).

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 concerns;).

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 quotation marks.”

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, creating run-on 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).

Grammar
(Punctuation, Word Choice, Spelling, Numbers, Format)

18. Subject-verb nonagreement (as in The network of systems are not working).

19. Nonparallel structure (as in She was healthy, wealthy, and an athlete)

20. Sentence fragments (as in She was angry. Although she wouldn’t admit it.).

21. Shifts in modified subject (also called misplaced modifiers, as in When pickled, I think herring tastes like caviar, and dangling modifiers, 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, dangling.).

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.

Word Choice
(Punctuation, Grammar, Spelling, Numbers, Format)

28. affect, effect

29. alot for a lot

30. alright for all right

31. and/or

32. assure for ensure
         
 or insure

33. insure for ensure

34. as for because
           
or since

35. bring for take

36. comprised of
          
for composed of

37. convince, persuade

38. i.e. for e.g.

39. missing comma
           
after i.e. or e.g.

40. missing periods
           
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
         for whether

Confusing word pairs
 

47. capital,
           capitol

48. complement,
           compliment

49. flout, flaunt

50. personal,
           personnel

51. principle,
           principal

52. stationary,
           stationery

Additional word pairs

53. choose, chose

54. lead, led

55. loose, lose

56. they’re, their, there

57. to, too

58. you’re, your

59. other:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spelling
(Punctuation, Grammar, Word Choice, Numbers, Format)

60. Names

61. Compound words

62. Spaced words spelled as solid words (as in Did you setup the room for the presentation?)

63. Capitalization (as in web for Web and internet for Internet).

64. Other:

Numbers
(Punctuation, Grammar, Word Choice, Spelling, Format)

65. Words or figures: “In nonscientific writing, spell out exact numbers of less than 10; use figures for numbers of 10 or more.”

66. In a series: “Treat consistently throughout a sentence or paragraph all numbers referring to the same category.”

67. 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.”

68. Dates: “Do not use st, nd, rd, and th after dates to indicate ordinals” (as in We will meet again on April 15th).

69. Money: “Do not use ciphers (zeros) with even dollar amounts, except for consistency within a series.”

70. Legalese: “Do not repeat a spelled-out number in figures” – as in You have three (3) days to return these four (4) forms.

Format
(Punctuation, Grammar, Word Choice, Spelling, Numbers)

71. Missing page numbers (on pages after the first page in a multiple-page document).

72. Missing page identification lines (on pages after the first page in a multiple-page document).

73. Page number on first page (page numbering should be suppressed on page 1; page numbering first appears on page 2).

74. Full justification rather than left justification.

Proofreading

75.

Once more, from the top
 

 


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