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Page history last edited by Chris Werry 13 years, 2 months ago

How to Identify & Fix the Most Common Grammar/Mechanics Problems


The Twelve Most Frequent Errors in Grammar and Punctuation - Weinstein

From Weinstein, Larry (2001). Writing at the Threshold (56 ways to prepare high school and college students to think and write at the college level). Urbana, IL: NCTE, p. 78. The author suggests that students be given this handout with the relevant pages of their handbook cited in each case. As students make errors, they correct their own sentences after consulting the handbook.  However you can also connect these to online links - see below.


  1. Sentence Fragment - definition and examples, exercises (and answers) from OWL; definition, examples and exercises from Penguin,
  2. Comma splice - definition and exercises (OWL); identifying splices, and fixing them (UToronto)
  3. Comma missing between independent clauses (divided by and, but, or, or nor) - examples and exercises from the OWL
  4. Misuse of the semi-colon or colon: how to correctly use a semicolon, colons, and question marks (OWL)
  5. Comma missing to set off an interrupter (e.g., between subject and verb)
  6. Comma missing with a non-restrictive clause—or comma inserted with a restrictive clause: OWL guidelines
  7. Word choice
  8. Apostrophe error - rules for using apostrophes, exercises
  9. Quotation error
  10. Lack of parallel structure: identifying and fixing, plus exercises (Penguin). See also OWL materials on parallelism
  11. Lack of agreement between subject/verb, or noun and pronoun/verb that follows: subject verb agreement, and pronoun agreement (OWL), plus exercises. Also, advice from Bedfords
  12. Misplaced modifier - OWL resources


To find explanations/definitions of each of these errors, and advice on how to fix them, see the following 3 sites (you can enter the name of the error from the list above in the search field on the site). All 3 sites are extremely useful for grammar and mechanics, as well as for many other aspects of writing.


  1. Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) Resources http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/4/ 
  2. Bedford St. Martins Writing Resources http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/easywriter3e/default.asp?uid=0&rau=0
  3. University of Toronto Writing Resources http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/about-this-site/pdf-links 
  4. Richard Nordquist's grammar and composition advice on about.com: http://grammar.about.com/ 



Bedford St. Martin's List of Common Errors with Links to Help

      1. Missing comma after an introductory element

      2. Vague pronoun reference

      3. Missing comma in a compound sentence

      4. Wrong word

      5. Missing comma(s) with a nonrestrictive element

      6. Wrong or missing verb ending

      7. Wrong or missing preposition

      8. Comma splice

      9. Missing or misplaced possessive apostrophe

      10. Unnecessary shift in tense

      11. Unnecessary shift in pronoun

      12. Sentence fragment

      13. Wrong tense or verb form

      14. Lack of subject-verb agreement

      15. Missing comma in a series

      16. Lack of agreement between pronoun and antecedent

      17. Unnecessary comma(s) with a restrictive element

      18. Fused sentence

      19. Misplaced or dangling modifier





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