Avoiding the Five Most Common Grammatical Errors Study Guide (page 2)

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Updated on Sep 30, 2011

Common Error 3: Incorrect Prounoun-Antecedent Agreeement

Right now, before you do anything else, go back and reread the material in Lesson 3, which was all about correct pronoun use. Doing so will familiarize you with the types of pronouns that exist and refresh your memory about how to use them correctly.

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

The three most common errors in the use of pronouns are the following:

1. You fail to have the pronoun agree in number with its antecedent (the noun it is replacing or referring to).
One boy ate his lunch alone. (correct agreement of singular subject and singular pronoun)
Two boys ate their lunch alone. (correct agreement of plural subject and plural pronoun)
2. You fail to have the pronoun agree in person with its antecedent.
Each boy had his lunch stuffed in his backpack. (correct agreement)
Each boy had their lunch stuffed in their backpack. (incorrect agreement)
3. You fail to have the pronoun agree in grammatical function with its antecedent.
We students sometimes skip lunch in order to study. (correct subjective usage)
Him and me sometimes dash to Subway for lunch. (incorrect agreement: objective pronouns being used here as subjects)

Making sure that your pronouns agree with your nouns will accomplish two important goals:

1. You will help your readers keep better track of who is doing what to whom.
2. You will impress your readers as an educated, accomplished writer, instead of looking like someone who doesn't know the basics of good writing.

Common Error 4: Comma Splices

As you learned in Lesson 4, no error is more common than the comma splice, and learning how to correct it is probably the single most important lesson you will learn in this review

Here is an excerpt from Lesson 4, in which you reviewed the comma splice:

Beware the Comma Splice

You may have seen the term comma splice written by your teacher in the margins of your papers. Comma splice is the term used to describe the incorrect use of a comma; it is called a splice because the most common error is to splice (or slice) a sentence, dividing two independent clauses with only a comma. Beware the comma splice. It is the most common comma error, and it results from a writer's uncertainty, ignorance about comma rules, or just plain negligence.

Common Error 5: Ten Common Spelling Mistakes and Word Confusions

There are a lot of words that sound or look similar but that have very different meanings. The only way to be sure you are using these words correctly is to memorize their proper meanings.

Here is a list of ten of the most commonly misused words, with sample sentences to show you how they are used correctly.

1. Accept: verb, to take something
Except: preposition, but, or other than
The teacher accepted most of Tim's excuse, except the part about how the dog ate his homework.
2. Advice: noun, describes help you give someone
Advise: verb, describes the act of giving someone verbal help
The teacher advised the students to take her good advice and study hard for the examination.
3. Affect: verb, to modify or make a difference
Effect: noun, a result
The effect of bad study habits is often seen in a student's school failures, which may affect future opportunities.
4. Bad: adjective, used with linking verbs as well as to modify nouns
Badly: adverb, in an inferior way
The teacher feels bad when her students perform badly on their tests.
The bad result of skipping class is the failure to learn the day's lessons.
It is too bad that some students fail to like school.
5. Can: verb, being able to do something
May: verb, having been given permission to do something
The students can study harder, but the chances that they will do so often seem slim.
If the students do well early in the week, the teacher may give them permission to goof off one hour on Friday.
6. Farther: adverb, describes distance
Further: adjective, describes quantity
Runners who want to run farther than a mini-marathon need to invest time in further practice.
7. Lend: verb, to provide temporary use of
Loan: noun, what you give someone temporary use of
Your best friend may lend you her copy of the textbook, but the loan is temporary until you find your own copy.
8. Like: preposition, introduces the idea of similarity
As: adverb, suggests similarity, or in the same manner
A clap of thunder is like an alarm clock; it startles and surprises you.
Do as I say, not as I do. (correct usage)
Do like I say. (incorrect usage)
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