Happy National Grammar Day
On National Grammar Day I would like to list the top five grammar mistakes that I see as a teacher of English. I have seen many mistakes over the years but the following five are the most common.
1. Comma Faults – This error not only includes the comma splice which consists of two complete sentences crammed together with a comma in the middle, it is also sentences which use commas in unnecessary over-abundance. If the comma is removed and it creates a run-on sentence then the sentence needs to be broken up into two sentences. Sometimes students will use commas along with every conjunction or conjunctive adverb. This can create comma-laden sentences that do not flow well or that make too many pauses. Remember: a comma represents a pause or a breath.
2. Run-Ons/Fragments – I lump these two errors together because they are simply the result of poor editing skills. Most students, when reading their papers aloud, will catch these errors immediately. Careful editing can eliminate these errors easily. If the sentence does not form a complete thought it is a fragment and if it is two thoughts crammed together without a proper conjunction or semicolon, it is a run-on sentence.
3. Slang – Students sometimes are confused about what is formal writing and casual writing. Slang is the result of a student’s misunderstanding of this formality. Certain words are forbidden in my classroom, namely “stuff”, “thing/things”, abbreviations of words that are not meant to be abbreviated and contractions. This also includes “gonna” and any other simplification of common words. If students can learn to remove these words from their written vocabulary, they will become better writers.
4. Second Person – This is one of the worst usage issues plaguing student writing today. Whoever allowed students to use “you” or any other form of the word in their formal essays should be thrown under the bus. This informal point of view forces a reader to be a part of whatever the writer is trying to express without considering the reader’s right to be an individual. This may work for a “choose-your-own-adventure” book or for Fight Club but not for a formal essay.
5. Pronoun-Antecedent Errors – One of the most disastrous grammar problems for most of my students is when they mention the name of an author or public figure or celebrity in the first paragraph of their paper and then refer to them as “he” or “she” throughout the rest of the paper without specifying. Most of the time they will refer to someone else and then confuse the reader by not linking their pronouns with the antecedents. Careful editing can remove this error.