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Twelve Common Errors: A Self-Editing Checklist for Students - page 2 / 3

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5.

Unclear Pronoun Reference. Pronouns must clearly refer to definite referents [nouns]. Use it, they, that, these, those, and which carefully to prevent confusion.

Incorrect:

Revised:

Einstein was a brilliant mathematician. This is how he was able to explain the workings of the universe. Einstein, who was a brilliant mathematician, used his quantitative ability to explain the workings of universe.

Incorrect:

Revised:

Because Senator Martin is less interested in the environment than in economic development, she sometimes neglects it. Because of her interest in economic development, Senator Martin sometimes neglects the environment.

6.

Pronoun Agreement. Be sure that each pronoun agrees in number (singular or plural) with the noun to which it refers (its antecedent or referent).

Incorrect:

Revised:

When a candidate runs for office, they must expect to have their personal life scrutinized. When candidates run for office, they must expect to have their personal lives scrutinized.

Incorrect:

Revised:

According to tenets of the “new urbanism,” everyone needs to consider the relationship of their house to the surrounding community. According to tenets of the “new urbanism,” everyone needs to consider the relationship of his or her house to the surrounding community.

7.

Incorrect Pronoun Case. Determine whether the pronoun is being used as a subject, object, or possessive in the sentence, and select the pronoun form to match.

Incorrect:

Revised:

Castro’s communist principles inevitably led to an ideological conflict between he and President Kennedy. Castro’s communist principles inevitably led to an ideological conflict between him and President Kennedy.

Incorrect:

Revised:

Because strict constructionists recommend fidelity to the Constitution as written, no one objects more than them to judicial reinterpretation. Because strict constructionists recommend fidelity to the Constitution as written, no one objects more than they [object] to judicial reinterpretation.

Omitted Commas. Use commas to signal nonrestrictive or nonessential material to prevent confusion, and to indicate relationships among ideas and sentence parts.

Incorrect: Revised:

When it comes to eating people differ in their tastes. When it comes to eating, people differ in their tastes.

Incorrect: Revised:

The Huns who were Mongolian invaded Gaul in 451. The Huns, who were Mongolian, invaded Gaul in 451. [“Who were Mongolian” adds information but does not change the core meaning of the sentence because Huns were a Mongolian people; it is therefore nonrestrictive or nonessential and should be set apart with commas.]

Superfluous Commas. Unnecessary commas make sentences difficult to read.

Incorrect: Revised:

Field trips are required, in several courses, such as, botany and geology. Field trips are required in several courses, such as botany and geology.

8.

9.

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