Here are the Top 23 grammar usage, mechanics, and punctuation items that are most commonly in error on high school papers.
Self-check your writing before submitting. Papers with more than three errors that may be self-corrected may be returned without credit until correction is made.
MLA STYLE MLA: Margins, Line Spacing, Pagination, Header, NO Justification, Documentation, NO boldface type, FOR Italics Use Underline OR Italic Face (not both or switching between the two!)
Spelling: Use American spelling, except in direct quotations, where British spelling is acceptable.
Capitalization: Use at the beginning of sentences and direct quotations, beginning lines of traditional poetry, in initials, in proper names, in significant historical events (World War I), and in titles.
Period: Use at the end of sentences, after initials, as a decimal; three periods show omission of quoted material (ellipsis); place inside quotation marks, except when MLA documentation is at the end of the sentence.
Comma: Use with series, with dependent phrases and clauses, with interjections, and with conjunctions; place inside quotation marks, except when MLA documentation is at the end of the sentence.
Colon: Use to introduce formally a word, a list, examples, a statement, or long quotation, after a salutation, or between the parts of a number denoting time (6:15); place outside quotation marks.
Semi-colon: Use between to independent clauses of a sentence when they are not joined by a conjunction; place outside quotation marks.
Quotation: Use to enclose a direct quotation, nicknames or phrases used ironically.
Apostrophe: Use the apostrophe to indicate the omission of letters from words, to denote plurals of letters, figures, and symbols (a's, b's, and c's), to form the possessive of nouns and indefinite pronouns (bird's, everyone's).
Possessive of personal pronouns DO NOT use the apostrophe (its, his, hers, ours, yours, theirs, BUT indefinite pronouns DO (either's, one's, other's).
Plurals of nouns or dates DO NOT use the apostrophe (trees, 1960s).
Dash: Made with two hyphens (--) and used to mark a sudden break in a sentence, to set off a parenthetic group, and to set off a summarizing statement.
Numerals: Dates, street numbers, page numbers, decimals, and percents should be written in figures.
The general rule for writing numbers is to SPELL OUT a number if it may be done in one or two words; otherwise it should be written in figures. When several numbers are used mentioned in a series, use figures for all. A number that represents a person's age or denoting the hour of the day is usually spelled out.
NEVER BEGIN A SENTENCE WITH A FIGURE; spell out the number.
Completeness: A sentences must express a thought.
Therefore, it must have a SUBJECT and a PREDICATE. (Use this test to spot and AVOID FRAGMENTS.)
It may also have other parts, such as objects, complements, and modifiers.
Variety: As to form, a sentence may be simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Good writing uses a VARIETY of sentence forms.
Confusing references: A sentence may be faulty because a pronoun is placed where it may refer to more than one word; there should be no uncertainty as to what word is the antecedent of a pronoun.
Unrelated ideas: Do not place in the same sentence (Fred won the race, and he likes chocolate candy.)
Comma fault: Two independent sentences should not be separated by a comma alone; they should be separated by a comma and conjunction, or a semicolon, or a period.
Omission of subject of a dependent clause:
Incorrect: When in Chicago, my father sent me a watch.
Correct: When I was in Chicago, my father sent me a watch.)
Primer sentences: Avoid the habit of writing monotonous short sentences like those in a first-grade primer:
Childish: We went to town, We stayed all day. We came home. We were tired. Polished: After we had spent the day in town, we came home tired.
Parallel Structure: Parallel thoughts should be expressed in terms that are grammatically parallel, i.e. with the same parts of speech appearing parallel sections.
Faulty: Swimming is more enjoyable to row.
Parallel: Swimming is more enjoyable than rowing. OR To swim is more enjoyable than to row.
Watch for parallelism in series.
Faulty: I like to take vitamins, to exercise,and stay fit.
Parallel: I like to take vitamins, to exercise and to stay fit.)
When using "not only," use "but also," and be sure that what is between "only" and "but" is parallel to what follows "also": (The stars not only shined, but also blinked. --two verbs; I said that I not only wanted to leave, but also wanted to take my bags with me. --two verb phases)
Dangling Modifier: DO NOT leave modifiers dangling--with nothing to modify.
Faulty: Walking down the street, the beautiful building was admired.
Clear: Walking down the street, we admired the building.
Misplaced Modifier: Place modifiers--whether they are words, phrases, or clauses--so that their meaning is immediately clear to the reader.
Confusing: We saw a man on a horse with a wooden leg.
Clear: We saw a man with a wooden leg on a horse.
Shifts in Structure: Avoid needless shifts in person.
One must work if one (not you) would succeed.
Avoid needless shifts in number. (One should do one's (not their) duty. Avoid needless shifts in voice.
As we went up the path, we saw a snake (not a snake was seen.)
Avoid needless shifts in tense.
The hunter entered the woods and he saw (not he sees)) a deer.
Avoid needless shifts in subject.
Ted's letters are interesting, because they are cleverly written
(not he is a clever boy.)
Redundancy and repetition: Avoid unnecessary, repeated words and ideas.
Passive voice: Use active voice whenever possible.
Passive: The flowers were grown by the girls.
Active: The girls grew the flowers. Watch out for passive voice sentences beginning "There are...."
To help avoid passive voice, you can avoid using "There is" or "There are" when starting a sentence.
For example instead of: There are many types of writing. Recast the sentence: Many types of writing exist. Or better yet: Writing is robust with many types. Or: Many types of writing create variety.