Lesson 6

Common Writing Mistakes #1

Writer s Prompt 
Listen to the following selection of music  While listening, write your reaction to the

music describe what you see in your mind s eye, how it makes you feel, what if any meaning it has for you

Assignment 
Read Chapter 31 Quotation Marks in Little,

Brown Handbook  Do Handout Exercise 31.2 Quoting Titles  Read Snow Toward Evening, page 54 in GW
Answer Language, Form, Structure #1 and #2

Assignment Review 
Chapter 28, The Comma in Little, Brown

Handbook  Handout 28.1 Punctuating linked main clauses  GW, page 52, Ode to Autumn by John Keats
Meaning and Idea #3 and Language, Form, Structure #3

28.1 Punctuating Linked Main Clauses 
How did you do?

John Keats (1795

1821) 

Romantic poet  Natural not cynical  Studied medicine  Death at age 26

Ode to Autumn 
Meaning and Idea #3 and Language, Form, Structure

#3

COMMON WRITING MISTAKES

Top Ten Grammar Myths

Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Writing Mistakes to Avoid 
Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.  Never use no double negatives.  Use the semicolon properly, always where it

is appropriate; and never where it is not.  Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it where it is not needed.

Writing Mistakes to Avoid 
Verbs has to agree with their subjects.  No sentence fragments.  Proofread carefully to see if you any words

out.

Writing Mistakes to Avoid 
Avoid commas, that are not necessary.  When you reread your work, you will find on

rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.  A writer must not shift your point of view.

COMMON WRITING MISTAKE #1
Using the comma with introductory elements

It is highly important to put (commas) in place as you go along. If you try to come back after doing a paragraph and stick them in the various spots that tempt you you will discover that they tend to swarm like minnows into all sorts of crevices whose existence you hadn t realized and before you know it the whole long sentence becomes immobilized and lashed up squirming in commas. Better to use them sparingly, and with affection, precisely when the need for one arises, nicely, by itself. Lewis Thomas, Notes on Punctuation

Principal uses of the comma
Separate main clauses linked by a coordinating conjunction
The building is finished but it has no tenants.

,

l Set off most introductory elements
l Unfortunately

, the only tenant pulled out.

Principal uses of the comma
l Set off nonessential elements
l The empty building symbolizes a weak local

economy, which hurts everyone.

l Separate items in a series
l The city needs healthier businesses new schools

,

,

and improved housing.

Principal uses of the comma 
Separate coordinate adjectives
A tall, sleek skyscraper is not needed.

Using the comma after the introductory element

Missing comma, after an introductory element 
Check your sentences to see which ones open

with an introductory word, phrase, or clause.  Readers usually need a small pause between the introductory element and the main part of the sentence, a pause most often signaled by a comma.

Missing comma, after an introductory element 
Try to get into the habit of using a comma

after every introductory element, be it a word, a phrase, or a clause.  When the introductory element is very short, you don't always need a comma after it. But you're never wrong if you do use a comma.

Using the comma with an introductory element

EXAMPLES

Examples
1. 2.

To tell the truth I have never liked the Mets. Determined to get the job done we worked all weekend. Because of its isolation in a rural area surrounded by mountains, Tyler Pass doesn t get many visitors.

,

,

3.

Examples
4. Riding the Metro Link to the Cardinals baseball

game, is a great way to go to see them.
5. How many men must die, before we end war on

this planet?
6. When I order a pizza with all the meats, extra

cheese and mushrooms, I want it delivered hot and fresh.

You try it
o I took time to clean my glasses very carefully and then I made my way through the door. o I took time to clean my glasses very carefully

,

and then I made my way through the door.

You try it
o The music was so loud it rattled the inside of my ears as I entered the arena to hear the rock concert. 
The music was so loud it rattled the inside of

,

my ears as I entered the arena to hear the rock concert.

You try it 
Writing is a lot like thinking on paper

although there are no erasers for brain waves. 
Writing is a lot like thinking on paper

,

although there are no erasers for brain waves.

IN CLASS EXERCISES

Handout 1 phrases

Commas: Introductory

And now, time for something completely different

Examine the following:
Transmitting radio signals by satellite is a way of overcoming the problem of scarce airways and limiting how they are used. This task is one of the promises of the Obama administration.

Examine the following:
Before Mary Grace physically and verbally assaulted Mrs. Turpin, she was a judgmental woman who created her own ranking system of people and used it to justify her self proclaimed superiority. It was common knowledge that she had no clue as to the truth.

Examine the following:
The troopers burned a refugee camp as a result of the earlier attack. This was the cause of the war.

Questions 
What is right or wrong with these sentences?  What pattern, if any do you see taking place?  What are some things they have in common?  What are some things they don t have in

common?

Answer 1 
In the first slide, what is being limited? The

signals or the waves? What task? Transmitting radio signals by satellite is a way of overcoming the problem of scarce airways and limiting how they are used. This task is one of the promises of the Obama administration.

Rewrite
Transmitting radio signals by satellite is a way of overcoming the problem of scarce airways and limiting how the airwaves are used. This task of limiting how airwaves are used is one of the promises of the Obama administration.

Answer 2 
In the second slide, whom does she refer to

Mary Grace or Mrs. Turpin? Before Mary Grace physically and verbally assaulted Mrs. Turpin, she was a judgmental woman who created her own ranking system of people and used it to justify her self proclaimed superiority. It was common knowledge that she had no clue as to the truth.

Rewrite

Before Mary Grace physically and verbally assaulted Mrs. Turpin, the latter was a judgmental woman who created her own ranking system of people and used it to justify her self proclaimed superiority. It was common knowledge that she had no clue as to the truth.

Answer 3 
What does this refer to?

The troopers burned a refugee camp as a result of the earlier attack. This was the cause of the war.

Rewrite

The troopers burned a refugee camp as a result of the earlier attack. This destruction of the camp was the cause of the war.

Vague Pronoun References

Vague Pronoun References 
Every pronoun you write should refer clearly and

unmistakably to ONE PARTICULAR noun. We call this noun the antecedent.  There are two common kinds of vague pronoun references:  The first occurs when there is more than one word that the pronoun might refer to.
After putting the disk in the cabinet, Mary sold it.  What did Mary sell, the cabinet or the disk?

Vague Pronoun References 
The second, when the reference is to a word

that is implied but not explicitly stated.
After John cheated on the test by peeking at Jim s paper, he became very upset. 

Who is upset? John or Jim?

Vague Pronoun References 
Check your draft for clear backward reference

of pronouns, words such as he, she, it, they, this, that, which, and who that replace another word so that it does not have to be repeated.  Pronouns should refer clearly to a specific word or words (called the antecedent) elsewhere in the sentence or in a previous sentence, so that readers can be sure whom or what the pronoun refers to.

What about this? 
Company policy prohibited smoking, which

many employees resented.  What does which refer to the policy or smoking?  Company policy prohibited smoking, a policy which many employees resented.

Watch this 
Pronoun/Antecedent agreement  Antecedent = The noun or noun phrase that a

pronoun refers to.  Example:
Most people are unable to write because they are unable to think, and they are unable to think because they congenitally lack the equipment to do so, just as they congenitally lack the equipment to fly over the moon." (H. L. Mencken)

IN CLASS EXERCISE

Exercise 1

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