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Let's Write: Teacher's Correction resources

Common Mistakes by ESL Writers

The 10 Most Common ESL Mistakes

 

Examples

Incorrect: My sister is photographer.
Correct: My sister is a photographer.

Incorrect: It is more cold today.
Correct: It is colder today.

Incorrect: I have told you all what I know.
Correct: I have told you all (that) I know.

Incorrect: Which is the biggest city of the world?
Correct: Which is the biggest city in the world?

Incorrect: I have done a mistake.
Correct: I have made a mistake.

Incorrect: I have been here since three days.
Correct: I have been here for three days.

Incorrect: We waited one and a half hour.
Correct: We waited one and a half hours.

Incorrect: According to me, it’s a bad film.
Correct: In my opinion, it’s a bad film.

Incorrect: It’s getting winter.
Correct: It’s getting to be winter.

Incorrect: Except Angie, everybody was there.
Correct: Except for Angie, everybody was there.

Common Errors in English Usage

Common Writing Problems for Non-Native Speakers of English

 

 

From ELT - Correction procedures   http://www.eltforum.com/pdfs/topic3/correc_pt3_1.pdf

Article on Correcting and giving feedback

Providing Feedback on ESL Students' Written Assignments

Common Correction Symbols from https://wiki.geneseo.edu/display/writing/Common+Correction+Symbols

Symbol Meaning
agr subject-verb or pronoun agreement error
awk awkward
cap capitalize
case wrong pronoun case
comp faulty comparison
cs comma splice
dm dangling modifier
dq dropped quotation
frag sentence fragment
lc letter should be lower case
logic faulty logic
mc mixed construction
mm misplaced modifier
p punctuation error
pred faulty predication
red redundant
ref faulty pronoun reference
run-on run-on sentence
sp spelling error
tense verb tense incorrect or inconsistent
trans transition needed
vb wrong verb form (e.g., indicative where subjunctive or imperative required
wdy wordy
ww wrong word for what you mean
delete
// parallel construction faulty or non-existent
transpose
begin a new paragraph here
¶ unity paragraph lacks a controlling idea
¶ coh paragraph lacks coherence - may need internal transitions
¶ dev paragraph doesn't develop logically
Return to Online Writing Lab - (OWL)      
adapted from http://dsc.dixie.edu/owl/Punctuation%20and%20Usage/ListofCorrectionSymbols.htm

List of Correction Symbols  (Click on the appropriate symbol for explanations and examples. 

1fdtpp  --  Aim for 1 fully developed topic per paragraph

AA  --  Maintain audience awareness

Ab  --  Improper abbreviation or number. Spell out.

Agr  --  Error in agreement of pronoun and antecedent or of subject           and verb

Ap  -- Omission or misuse of apostrophe

Awk  --  Awkward expression--affects clarity and ease of reading

Cap  --  Use a capital letter

Coh  --  Lack of Coherence

CS  --  Comma Splice--Two main clauses are joined with a comma; however, a semicolon or period is needed

Dang  --  Dangling Modifier

Dev  --  Inadequate paragraph development

Frag  --  Sentence Fragment, i. e., incomplete thought

IE  --  An introductory element that should be set off with a comma.

L.T  --  Please drop by for a quick office visit--my verbal explanation will help more than anything I can write in the margin.

Log  --  Faulty logic

¶    --   Begin new paragraph

//  --  Faulty parallelism

POV  --  Point of view shift

Red  --Redundancy

RO  --  Run-on sentence--Two main clauses fused together without appropriate punctuation.

Sp  --  Spelling error

T   --   Wrong tense of verb

Trans  --  Faulty transition

Var  --  Lack of sentence variety

WW  --  Wrong word

Wdy  --  Wordy

Writing Composition Correction Codes 

adapted from http://robertdesenior.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/80/

SP         spelling                  //          HW                           handwriting

G         grammar error         //         WO                            word order

A          article                           //         Prep                            preposition

WF          word form                  //         V                            vocabulary error

T          wrong tense                  //         S/V                            subject verb agreement

MW          missing word                  //         POS                           Position

!!!          low level error         //         ?                            I don’t understand

P          punctuation error         //         NP                            new paragraph

AWK          awkward phrasing         //         R         repetition

WW         wrong word                  //         REG                           register

LW          linking word or expression

SC          sentence construction is faulty

IL          illogical development of the argument

( )          word or phrase not needed (delete it)

NS          Non sequitur: a given proposition does NOT logically follow from the previous proposition, hence your use of a given linking word such as ‘therefore’ or ‘thus’ is inappropriate

 

 

Key to Correction Marks
 

There are three kinds of abbreviated or symbolic notation that teachers of composition commonly use in marking student papers: (1) abbreviations of grammatical terms; (2) abbreviations of terms for common compositional faults; and (3) proofreading symbols indicating corrections to be made. As I will be using all three kinds of mark on your papers, I have produced this page so that you have a source of reference in interpreting them.

 
 

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1. Grammatical Terms

 
The links in the list below are connected to Charles Darling’s Guide to Grammar and Writing.

 
adj.  adjective
adv.  adverb
ant.  antecedent
clause
conj.  conjunction
gerund
intr.  intransitive (verb)
obj.  object or objective (case)
part.  participle
pl.  plural
      
 
poss.  possessive (case)
pred.  predicate
prep.  preposition
pres.  present (tense)
pron.  pronoun
sing.  singular
subj.  subject or subjective (case)
tr.  transitive (verb)
vb.  verb

 
I will sometimes use these abbreviations to indicate the kind of expression with respect to which an error has been made. Thus, for example, “poss.” means that you have made an error in the use or expression of the possessive case (e.g., by writing “Platos argument” instead of “Plato’s argument”); “tr./intr.” means that you have confused a transitive with an intransitive verb (e.g., by writing “The problem lays in the first premise” instead of “The problem lies in the first premise”). I will prefix the abbreviation “G” (for “grammar”) to these comments, so that you will understand that it is a point of grammar that I am talking about.

 
 

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2. Common Compositional Faults
 

The terms and abbreviations listed below are commonly used to mark the most frequently committed faults of composition. 

 
agr.  agreement
case
  error in pronoun case
CS  comma splice
dict.  fault in diction
DM  dangling modifier
FP  faulty predication 
frag.  sentence fragment
FS  fused sentence
G  fault in grammar (generic heading)
MM  misplaced modifier
 
      
 
mood  error in verb mood
P  fault in punctuation (generic heading)
quot.  error in quotation
ref.  faulty or unclear reference
sp.  spelling error or spell out
tense  error in verb tense
wordy  wordiness
WW  wrong word: see dict.
¶ coh  paragraph coherence problem
//str  faulty parallel structure

In the table that follows, I offer examples (many of them taken from actual student papers) of each kind of fault, as well as explanations and corrections of those examples, but few general explanations of the concepts used. Instead, I have included, in the headings of the entries, links to web pages that do offer such explanations. You should look up those pages in any case in which you do not have a secure grasp of the terms used here.

Among the illustrations, I have included some utterances of George W. Bush, even though they are samples of speech, not of writing (and consequently are not cited to illustrate any of the faults of punctuation). I have not, however, offered any corrections of them, as it seems a shame to spoil their character, nor have I explained how they instantiate the fault under which they are classified, as they usually exhibit more serious faults at the same time. 

 
agr.  failure of agreement between subject and verb (in number or person) or between pronoun and antecedent (in gender, number, or person)
EXAMPLE OF ERROR
 
WHAT IS WRONG
 
CORRECTED VERSION
 
The relation between the two claims are not clear. Subject and verb fail to agree in number: the subject (“relation,” not “claims”) is singular, the verb plural. The relation between the two claims is not clear.
Hylas is saying that one sees colors in your imagination. 
 
Pronoun and antecedent fail to agree in person. (Because in this case the antecedent is itself a pronoun, this is also an example of what is called apronoun shift.)
 
Hylas is saying that one sees colors in one’s imagination. 

To write “Hylas is saying that you see colors in your imagination” would be grammatically correct, but not appropriate to formal prose.
Then you wake up at the high school level and find out that the illiteracy level of our children are appalling. (George W. Bush)
 

 

 
Here are links to pages explaining the grammatical terms “gender,” “number,” and “person.”
 
Return to list of terms
 

 

 
case  error in pronoun case
EXAMPLE OF ERROR WHAT IS WRONG CORRECTED VERSION
The experiment illustrates this for we readers. The subject pronoun “we” is used as an object (of the preposition “for”).
 
The experiment illustrates this for us readers.
Smythe attributes this distinction to Geonze, whom he believes originated it.
 
The object pronoun “whom” is used as a subject. (One says “Smythe believes he [Geonze] originated it,” not “Smythe believes him originated it.”)
 
Smythe attributes this distinction to Geonze, who he believes originated it. Or: Smythe attributes this distinction to Geonze, whom he believes to have originated it.
You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test. (George W. Bush)
 

 

 
Here are links to pages explaining the different kinds of pronoun (personal, impersonal, demonstrative, relative, etc.), the distinction between “who” and “whom”, and the distinction between “which” and “that.”Understanding the last distinction requires a grasp of the distinction between restrictive and non-restrictive modifying clauses.
 
Return to list of terms
 

 
CS  comma splice
EXAMPLE OF ERROR WHAT IS WRONG CORRECTED VERSION
One cannot truly conceive of something without end or beginning, one can only negate one’s idea of a finite thing.
 
Two independent clauses are joined together by a comma. One cannot truly conceive of something without end or beginning: one can only negate  one’s idea of a finite thing. Or:One cannot truly conceive of something without end or beginning, but can only negate  one’s idea of a finite thing.
Here is a link to a page explaining when a comma splice is justifiable. General explanations of comma use may be found here and here. The comma splice is one of two kinds of run-on sentence, the other being thefused sentence (listed below).
 
Return to list of terms
 

 
dict.  fault in diction (choice of words)
 
EXAMPLE OF ERROR WHAT IS WRONG CORRECTED VERSION
Rousseau was not what you would call a modest man.
 
The informal tone is not appropriate to formal writing. (The use of the superfluous phrase “what you would call” could also be censured as an instance of wordiness.)
 
Rousseau was not a modest man.
 
He has a crime on his conscious. The writer has confused the adjective “conscious” with the noun “conscience.” (This sort of diction error may also be marked “WW” for“wrong word.”) He has a crime on his conscience.
I’m against hard quotas, quotas that basically delineate based upon whatever. However they delineate, quotas, I think, vulcanize society. (George W. Bush)
 

 

 
Return to list of terms
 

 
DM  dangling modifier

 

EXAMPLE OF ERROR
 
WHAT IS WRONG
 
CORRECTED VERSION
 
In order to appreciate the argument, certain points must be understood.
 
The introductory modifying phrase has no subject within the sentence. (The sentence also makes needless use of the passive voice.)
 
In order to appreciate the argument, one must understand certain points.
By using the first person to express how he perceives God and nature, we see how Descartes’ mind perceives entities outside of himself. The introductory modifying phrase has no subject within the sentence. (We, the readers, do not use the first person—Descartes does; but the name “Descartes” does not occur as a subject anywhere in the sentence.)
 
By using the first person to express how he perceives God and nature, Descartes reveals to us how his mind perceives entities outside of himself.
If a person doesn’t have the capacity that we all want that person to have, I suspect hope is in the far distant future, if at all.(George W. Bush)
 

 

 
Return to list of terms
 

 
FP  faulty predication
EXAMPLE OF ERROR
 
WHAT IS WRONG
 
CORRECTED VERSION
 
The connection between one’s life and one’s philosophy is  inseparable. The predicate, “inseparable,” does not intelligibly apply to the subject, “the connection between one’s life and one’s philosophy.” One’s life and one’s philosophy are  inseparable. Or: One’s life and one’s philosophy are inseparably connected.
I think war is a dangerous place. (George W. Bush)
 

 

 
Return to list of terms
 

 
 

frag.  sentence fragment

EXAMPLE OF ERROR
 
WHAT IS WRONG
 
CORRECTED VERSION
 
Descartes declares himself to be “a thinking thing.” Which he explains as “a thing that doubts, understands,” and so on.
 
The string of words after the first period is not a gramatically complete sentence: it is a dependent (or subordinate) clause. Descartes declares himself to be “a thinking thing,” which he explains as “a thing that doubts, understands,” and so on.
Return to list of terms
 

 
FS   fused sentence
 
EXAMPLE OF ERROR
 
WHAT IS WRONG
 
CORRECTED VERSION
 
Hume doesn’t deny this why should he?
 
Two independent clauses are joined together without punctuation.
 
Hume doesn’t deny this. Why should he? Or: Hume doesn’t deny this; why should he?
 
The fused sentence is one of two varieties of run-on sentence, the other being the comma splice (listed above).
 
Return to list of terms
 

 
G  fault of grammar (generic heading)
 
This letter is used to indicate a grammatical fault that does not fall under any of the more specific terms given on this page. I will usually combine it with a more specific comment. For example, if you were to write: “This is real surprising,” I would circle the word “real” and write in the margin: “G: adj./adv.,” to indicate that you had made a confusion between adjective and adverb.
 
Return to list of terms
 

 
MM  misplaced modifier
EXAMPLE OF ERROR
 
WHAT IS WRONG
 
CORRECTED VERSION
 
She carefully studied the Picasso hanging in the art gallery with her friend. 
(Example from the University of Wisconsin Writing Center’s list of the best misplaced and dangling modifiers of all time.)
The adjectival phrase “with her friend” is so placed as to modify “hanging in the art gallery” rather than “she carefully studied the Picasso.” With her friend, she carefully studied the Picasso hanging in the art gallery. Or: She and her friend carefully studied the Picasso hanging in the art gallery.
Return to list of terms
 

 
mood  error in verb mood
 
EXAMPLE OF ERROR
 
WHAT IS WRONG
 
CORRECTED VERSION
 
If she read the book, she would not have made such a mistake.
 
The writer has used the past indicative (“read”) rather than the past perfect (“had read”) in a past contrary-to-fact conditional clause.
 
If she had read the book, she would not have made such a mistake.
 
Suppose that the earth was flat.
 
The writer has used the past indicative (“was”) rather than the past subjunctive (“were”) in a present contrary-to-fact clause.
 
Suppose that the earth were flat.
 
Iran would be dangerous if they have a nuclear weapon. (George W. Bush)
 

 

 
Here is a link to a page explaining the uses of mood and tense in conditional statements (i.e., statements containing an “if” clause).
Return to list of terms
 

 
P  fault of punctuation (generic heading)
 
This letter is used to indicate a fault of punctuation that does not fall under any of the more specific terms given on this page. I will usually combine it with a more specific comment. For example, if you were to write, “Singer makes this claim, although, he offers no argument for it,” I would circle the comma after “although” and write in the margin: “P: comma,” to indicate that you had misused that mark of punctuation.
 
Return to list of terms
 

 
quot.  error in form, content, or use of quotation
 
EXAMPLE OF ERROR
 
WHAT IS WRONG
 
CORRECTED VERSION
 
This is proven by Descartes when he says “certainly none of the aspects that I reached by means of the senses.”
 
The quoted words are not intelligible out of their original context and fail to fit the grammatical context in which they are quoted. (This is also an instance of a sentence fragment.)
 
(Correction impossible: one cannot tell what the writer was trying to say.)
 
There’s an old saying in Tennessee—I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again. (George W. Bush)
 

 

 
A comprehensive account of how and when to use quotation may be found here. Guidance in the use of quotation marks may be found here.
 
Return to list of terms
 

 
ref.   faulty or unclear reference of pronoun or other expression
EXAMPLE OF ERROR
 
WHAT IS WRONG
 
CORRECTED VERSION
 
Some concepts allow for the introduction of new criteria. Weitz calls this an “open concept.”
 
The pronoun “this” has no clear antecedent.
 
Some concepts allow for the introduction of new criteria. Weitz calls these “open concepts.” Or: . . . Weitz calls such concepts“open concepts.”
In David Hume’s essay “Of the Standard of Taste,” he presents a theory of art that includes universal rules. Or: In “Of the Standard of Taste” by David Hume, he presents a theory of art that includes universal rules. The introductory modifying phrase fails to establish a clear antecedent for the pronoun “he” in the main clause, because its subject is the title of Hume’s essay rather than the name of the author. In his essay “Of the Standard of Taste,” David Hume presents a theory of art that includes universal rules. Or: David Hume, in his essay “Of the Standard of Taste,” presents (etc.). Or (simplest and best): In “Of the Standard of Taste,” David Hume presents (etc.).
 
I understand small business growth. I was one. (George W. Bush)
 

 

 
Return to list of terms
 

 
sp.  spelling error or spell out
 
EXAMPLE OF ERROR
 
WHAT IS WRONG
 
CORRECTED VERSION
 
John Stewart Mills was a preponent of utilarianism.
 
Several words are misspelled.
 
John Stuart Mill was a proponent of utilitarianism.
 
He says this in 2 places.
 
A numeral is used where the number name should be spelled out.
 
He says this in two places.
 
When should a number term be spelled out? Guidance may be found here.
 
Return to list of terms
 

 
tense  error in verb tense
EXAMPLE OF ERROR
 
WHAT IS WRONG
 
CORRECTED VERSION
 
In the second meditation, Descartes argued that he could doubt everything but his own existence.
 
Inappropriate use of tense: the writer uses the past tense to describe what is in a text.
 
In the second meditation, Descartes argues that he can doubt everything but his own existence.
Bumwhacker raises this question, but then did not answer it.
 
Inconsistent use of tense, or tense shift.
 
Bumwhacker raises this question, but then does not answer it.
One year ago today, the time for excuse-making has come to an end. (George W. Bush)
 

 

 
Here are links to pages explaining the sequence of tenses in English and the use of tenses in academic writing, including the use of the so-called literary or historical present.
 
Return to list of terms
 

 
wordy  wordiness
 
EXAMPLE OF ERROR
 
WHAT IS WRONG
 
CORRECTED VERSION
 
Socrates basically argues that his accusers have no serious concern with the youth of Athens.
 
The word “basically” does no respectable work in the sentence: it merely adds vagueness.
 
Socrates argues that his accusers have no serious concern withthe youth of Athens.
He says that even if he should be acquitted, that he would still follow his mission. The second “that” is redundant: the first one governs both clauses that follow.
 
He says that even if he should be acquitted, he would still follow his mission.
Return to list of terms
 

 
¶ coh  paragraph coherence problem
This fault cannot conveniently be illustrated within this space. Pages providing guidance on how to make paragraphs coherent may be found here and here.
Return to list of terms
 

 
//str  faulty parallel structure (a.k.a. faulty parallelism)
 
EXAMPLE OF ERROR
 
WHAT IS WRONG
 
CORRECTED VERSION
 
Many people consider it impossible for us to comprehend these things and that they are unimportant anyway.
 
Two items of incongruent grammatical structure (“consider it impossible for us to understand these things” and “[consider] that they are unimportant anyway”) are conjoined.
 
Many people consider these things to be impossible for us to comprehend, and unimportant anyway. Or: Many people believe that it is impossible for us to comprehend these things and that they are unimportant anyway.
People say, how can I help on this war against terror? How can I fight evil? You can do so by mentoring a child; by going into a shut-in’s house and say I love you. (George W. Bush)
 

 

 
Return to list of terms
 

 

 
 

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3. Proofreading Symbols
 

 
Table of symbols
 

 
 

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4. Web Resources on Grammar and Composition
 

Sites indicated by bold type are particularly recommended.

 
Grammar and Usage for the Non-expert (Tina Blue)
Grammar Handbook of the Writers’ Workshop (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Grammar Slammer (English Plus)
Guide to Grammar and Writing (Charles Darling) and more...
The Horn-Book (Nipissing University)
Interactive Grammar Rules and Quizzes (Cape Fear Community College)
The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing (Michael Harvey)
 
The Online English Grammar (Anthony Hughes)
Online Writing Lab (Purdue University)
Writing Center Handouts (Troy State University)
The Writer’s Handbook (The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison)
Writing with Sources (Gordon Harvey, Harvard University)

 

 


 

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