List of Common Writing Errors and How to Fix Them

I am studying, The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing, by Bonnie Trenga.  This are my notes from her “Top Ten Writing Misdemeanors.”

it’s vs. its
The only time it’s should be used is if you can substitute the words “it has” or “it is” in the sentence.

who’s vs. whose
who’s means “who is” or “who has”
whose is possessive:  Whose book?  Whose car?

Cliches:  Here’s a list of cliches to avoid like the plague (see what I did there)

Similar Sounding Words
similar words-2.jpg

Hyphenated Compounds
A hyphenated compound come before what it is describing.  It doesn’t need to be hyphenated if it comes after what it describes.
1.  Example: The red-haired children jumped on the trampoline.
2. Example:  The children who jumped on the trampoline were red haired.

Fewer vs. Less

  1. Fewer is used when an item is countable.
    1. Example:  There were fewer pencils in the drawer than before the party.
  2. Less is used when and item is uncountable.
    1. Example:  There were less stars visible in the city sky than the country sky.

Generic Vocabulary & Phrases the Bore Readers

Generic Phrases:
is able to
there is
it is
this is

Generic Vocabulary
people
man
thing
good
interesting
different

More Writing Resources

Microsoft Word - VagueWordsList.doc

Wordy Writing

I am studying The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing by Bonnie Trenga.  These are my notes from her chapter on Wordy Writing.

How to Tighten Up Wordy Writing

Take the wordy phrase and convert it using the formula below.

More Writing Resources

Wordy Writing Subs-2

Super Duper, Extremely Lengthy Sentences

I am studying the book, The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing, by Bonnie Trenga.  These are my notes on long sentences and how to correct them.

Long Sentences and How to Correct Them

  1. Instead of using and or but, create a new sentence by substituting the following words:
    1. And: “in addition,” or “also,” (also should be added within the sentence)
      1. Incorrect:  The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together, and he dusted off the twigs.
      2. Correct:
        1. “in addition”- The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together.  In addition, he dusted off the twigs.
        2. “also”- The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together.  He also dusted off the twigs.
    2. But:  “however
      1. Incorrect: The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together, but he forgot to pick up some more twigs.
      2. Correct: The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together.  However, he forgot to pick up some more twigs.
    3. What out for use of these words often:
      1. Incorrect:  The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine which was so big he had a hard time flying because he was a small bird, when realized after he began stitching together his nest that he forgot to pick up some more twigs.
      2. Correct: The small bird had a hard time flying to his nest with his mouth full of heavy twine.  After he began mending his nest he realized he forgot to pick up some more twigs

Long Sentences

  1. Find the MAIN IDEA and make it your 1st sentence.
  2. An em dash announces a break in thought.
  3. Keep the subject next to the verb, separated by no more than one extra thought.
    1. Incorrect:  The bird, with a mouth full of twine, who was small, had a hard time flying to his nest.
    2. Correct:  The small bird, with a mouth full of twine, had a hard time flying to his nest.
  4. Place no more than three ideas in a sentence.
    1. One Idea:  The small bird flew to his nest.
    2. Two Ideas:  The small bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of heavy twine.
    3. Three Ideas:  The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of heavy twine and he barely made it to his nest.

More Writing Resources

Modifier Placement-Help Please!

Did you know modifiers can be misplaced, dangle, and squint?  Writing is hard.

In the book, The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier:How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing, Bonnie Trenga provides a lesson on how to make sure our modifiers are utilized correctly.  Here are my notes from that chapter.

Modifier Placement

Beginning of a Sentence:  Keep the noun next to the modifier.

  1. The noun should come right after the comma
    1. Dressed in a purple gown, the elephant walked onto the stage.
      1. Noun:  elephant
      2. Modifier:  dressed in a purple gown
    2. Clues that a misplaced modifier begins a sentence:
      1. a past participle (past tense verb) begins the sentence
        1. Incorrect:  Dressed in a purple gown, the stage was bright that the elephant walked onto.
        2. CorrectDressed in a purple gown, the elephant walked onto the bright stage.
      2. as, like, or unlike begin the sentence
        1. Incorrect:  Unlike the ring master, the elephant walked onto the bright stage, who waited in the shadows.
        2. Correct:  The elephant walked onto the bright stage, unlike the ring master who waited in the shadows.
      3. if, it, or there occur after the comma
        1. Incorrect:  The ring master raised his arms, it was quiet.
        2. Correct:  The ring master raised his arms, the room became quiet.
        3. Better:  The room quieted as the ring master raised his arms.
      4. an -ing word begins a sentence or is the 2nd or 3rd word following a word in the chart below:
        1. Incorrect: After snapping his whip, the elephant bowed.
        2. Correct:  After snapping his whip, the ring master got the elephants attention and she bowed.
        3. Better:  The elephant bowed when the ring master snapped his whip.
          Words that Often Precede a Misplaced Modifier that Ends In

Middle/End of a Sentence

  1. Clues that a modifier has been misplaced within a sentence:
    1. a phrase begins with that or who
      1. who: describes people
        1. Incorrect: The ring master directed the elephant, who was wearing a top hat.
        2. Correct:  The ring master who was wearing a top hat, directed the elephant.
        3. Even Better:  The ring master, wearing a top hat, directed the elephant.
      2. that: describes things and animals
        1. Incorrect:  The elephant followed the ring master’s directions, that was wearing a purple gown.
        2. Correct:  The elephant that was wearing a purple gown, followed the ring master’s directions.
        3. Even Better:  The elephant, wearing a purple gown, followed the ring master’s directions.
    2. a phrase that could start with that or who, but doesn’t
      1. Incorrect: The ring master the elephant followed was tall and handsome.
      2. Correct:  The ring master who the elephant followed was tall and handsome.

Other Resources

More Writing Resources
Grammar Girl:  Misplaced Modifiers
Grammar Bytes:  Rules for Finding and Fixing Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers

Lay, Lie, Laid, Lain ???


I’m almost 40 years old and I still haven’t figured this one out so I sought out The Grammar Girl.  Here is what I found:

Present Tense

The Grammar Girl starts by differentiating the present tense (happening now):
-Lie does not require a direct object

-Lay requires a direct object

What the heck is direct object?  I majored in Kinesiology, ask me origin, insertion and action of any muscle and I’ll tell you (or I’ll at least pretend that I know), but start talking all grammarish (yep, I made that word up), and you’ll lose me every time.

OK, let’s just call a direct object, a recipient of an action (something’s happenin’ to it).  Here’s Grammar Girl’s examples:

You lie down on the sofa.  (It’s just you, no other thing is goin’ down)

You lay down a book.  (The book’s got a little somethin’ somethin’ goin’ on, somebody’s setting  it down.  The book is the direct object.  Sometimes my kids make me feel like a direct object.

Past Tense

OK, past tense, as in it already happened-we still have in mind the need for a direct object.

-Lie turns into Lay

“Shelly lies down on the sofa” turns into “Shelly lay down on the sofa” (my kids just jump all over my sofa)

-Lay turn into Laid

“Bobby lay down a book on the table” turns into “Bobby laid down a book on the table.”  (It was probably Diary of a Wimpy Kid-seriously, those books are hilarious.  #cheesetouch

Past Participle

What the heck does that mean?  Dr. Google says its “something that happened in the past and is still happening now,” like dirty politicians.

-Lie-turned into Lay-now it turns into Lain

Now, “Shelly has lain on the sofa for days”

-Lay-turned into Laid-and it stays Laid (I have no idea why English is so hard to learn)

Now, “Bobby has laid a book on the table.”

Clear as mud, right.  From what I can tell, we still have to look at the direct object (there’s that grammarish word again) and now have and has enter the picture, just chillin’ out with lain and laid.

If nothing I’ve said here makes sense, head over to Grammar Girl for her “Quick and Dirty Grammar Tricks” and download a copy of the chart I attached here Grammar Girl.

I wanted to make some Hawaii/lei joke here, but I figure one probably already ran through your head, so I’ll let that count.

Now I’m going to go lie down in bed.  Good night.  (No direct object)