Writing  Tips
back to Dr. Whatley's Homepage
The grammar and style errors listed below can mean the difference between an “A” and a “C” or a “B” and a “D” or worse.  You should take the time to reacquaint yourself with some rules of writing.  Specifically, The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.

Writing Tips Poor Writing Examples "The Spelling Chequer" Web Resources: Writing

General Writing-Related Errors

  • Abrupt transitions
  • Spelling
  • Agreement of pronouns and antecedents
  • Splitting infinitives (e.g., to laboriously run)
  • Contradictions
  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Failure to provide adequate support for a position or decision
  • Transitions between paragraphs
  • Faulty parallelism
  • Transitions within paragraphs
  • Lack of citation
  • Telegraphic sentences
  • Logic/conceptual/theoretical errors
  • Tense shifting
  • Misplaced or dangling modifiers
  • Unclear pronoun reference (e.g., beginning a sentence with “It,” or “This”)
  • Misuse of apostrophes
  • Underdeveloped paragraphs
  • Misspellings
    (spelling errors indicate the writer’s shoddy attitude toward the whole paper)
  • Use of contractions or hyphenation
  • Misuse of words
    (e.g., it’s-its, from-form, thus-therefore, affect-effect, that-which, i.e.-e.g.)
  • Use of informal words (e.g., get, you know, etc.)
  • Omitted commas
    (e.g., you must signal nonrestrictive or nonessential material)
  • Use of sexist or biased language
  • Over paragraphing
  • Vague, unclear, or awkward wording
  • Run-on paragraphs
  • Wordiness
  • Run-on sentences
  • Wrong Tense
  • Sentence Fragments
  • Capitalization Errors (e.g., "white" when referring to race)

Writing Tips

1.    Do not get side-tracked.  If onions are the most consumed vegetable in the world, why are fire engines red? 

2.    Avoid starting sentences with a non-specific pronoun.  It is not a good way to begin. 

3.    Prepositions are words you should not end sentences with. (click here for a list of common prepositions)

4.    Avoid clichés like the plague.  Now ain't that the pot calling the kettle black. 

5.    Keep away from ampersands & abbreviations, etc. within the body of the text. 

6.    Parenthetical remarks are unnecessary (and should be avoided). 

7.    It is wrong to ever split an infinitive. 

8.    Contractions shouldn't appear in your paper. 

9.    Foreign words and phrases are not apropos or chic. 

10.  Like most people, one should never generalize. 

11.  Eliminate quotations.  As Mark Twain once said: ''Quoting the witticisms of others only shows the lack of quotable wit.” 

12.  Comparisons are as bad as clichés. 

13.  Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it is very excessive. 

14.  Profanity sucks. 

15.  Be more or less specific. 

16.  Understatement is always best. 

17.  Exaggeration is a million times worse than understatement. 

18.  Can I use one-word sentences?  No. 

19.  Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake. 

20.  The passive voice is to be avoided. 

21.  Go around the barn at high noon to avoid jargon or gibberish. 

22  Who needs rhetorical questions? 

23  Be careful to use apostrophe's correctly. 

24.  Do not use them pronouns as modifiers. 

25.  And never start a sentence with a conjunction.  And, but, and or will not get you very far. 

Poor Writing Examples

1.  The participants were 8 predominantly women undergraduate students at Valdosta State University.

2.  This inferiority is due to the societal expectations and the negative stereotypes used towards the elderly.

3.  All of these past findings helps relate to the purpose of this study being conducted.

4.  Their experiment is a good example of the cultural has about the elderly.

5.  When we do see the elderly being active citizen, we categorizing them as falling outside the norming.

6.  One description was a description of a 75 year old man and the other description was of elderly women.

7.  This insignificance may be due to the fact that the ideologies pertaining to older persons is changing.

8.  Clothes are getting more outrageous and health clubs are popping up on every corner.

9.  So was true in this study.

10. It is also common knowledge among those of us within the field of psychology that the use of deceit in psychological research is widespread.

11. Researchers Timothy C. Brock and Lee Alan Becker of Ohio State University were the first to address this issue in 1966 in their article titled Debriefing and
      Susceptibility to Subsequent Experimental
Manipulations.  (Note: One of the reasons that articles have reference sections is so that such information is not
      conveyed within the text.)

12.  It did have an effect if the experimenters were similar in nature.

13. This idea that performance-contingent rewards are being more effective than suggests that basing pay on performance will produce more motivation to

14. Approximately 85 per cent...

15. Theses researchers...

16. Also, the study including finding out if males were more attracted to tall attractive females or short attractive females.

17. A growing idea of research is on physical attractiveness and unattractiveness and the effects it has on jobs and living.

18. This could possibly indicate that society generally views attractive individuals as credible people, and unattractive individuals as incredible people.

19. Psychology often deals with the psychology of why people are the way they are due to the psychology of nature and nurture.

20. After the first day, the teacher came back to the classroom and taught all of the students in an equal manor.

21. In example, greater intimacy can lead to greater passion, and greater passion can lead to a greater commitment.

22. Participants ranged from 18 to 32 with a mean of 14 and a standard deviation of 2.87.

23. The results from the present study did not support the predications that participants would rate natural hair as being more attractive and approachable then

24.  If the student refused to participant, they were thanked and not bother again.

25.  The survey proved to be more validate than reliable.

26.  The Effects of Dressed Victims Caused by Rape

27.  Students ranged in age from 18 to 47 with a mean age of 20.95 and a slandered deviation of 3.583.

28.  All the students who I ask were told . . .

29.  I then told the student to read instructions at the top of each page and complete what it said.

30.  The dependent variable of likeliness to help was measure on a 7 point scale from . . .

31.  . . . the student studying for the test tomorrow, does not want to wast their time helping some else do their homework when they should have started it earlier
       regardless of whether they were to social or have too much other school work.

32.  In other words, neither gender nor race plays a factor on who is more prop ne to odors.  It all depends on the person and how the interpret the odor.

33.  For example, a woman's scent of smell is suppose to smell florist and sweet, whereas men's scents of smell are supposed to smell like sweat and whisky
       (Low, 2006).

34.  After the participant study for five minutes, I will spray the fragrant (vanilla or lavender) over he or she head and then pass out the memory test for he or she to

35.  After spraying the fragrant, participants completed a memory test.

36.  In other words, a certain race or gender is not propone to a certain odor.

37.  After the participant takes the test, I put their results in a folder.

38.  . . . a new scale was created given a cursor search yielded no results.

39.  All the participants were over the age of 18.  The ages ranged in age from 18 to 58 . . .

40.  The participants were 140 male (n = 140) and 139 female (n = 139) students conveniently selected from Valdosta State Univeristy.


"The Spelling Chequer"

Most word processing programs come standard with a spell checker, which is a wonderful tool for writing.  However, a downside of the spell checker is it encourages laziness in the writer.  For example, you finish typing a term paper and run spell check to look for mistakes.  When there are no spelling errors, you figure that the paper is fine and you turn it in without proof-reading it.  Proof reading is just as important as checking the spelling but takes much longer which is why most students do not proof-read their papers.  Can you decipher the poem below? 

The Spelling Chequer (or poet tree without mist takes) 

Eye have a spelling chequer 
It came with my pea sea 
It plainly marks four my revue 
Miss steaks eye cannot see 

Each thyme when I have struct the quays 
Eye weight four it two say 
If watt eye rote is wrong or rite 
It shows me strait a weigh 

As soon as a mist ache is maid 
It nose bee fore too late 
And eye  can put the error rite 
Eye really fined it grate 

I've run this poem threw it 
I'm sure your policed to no 
It's letter perfect in its weigh 
My chequer tolled me sew 

            - Author Unknown 

Web Resources

Writer’s Handbook – 12 Common Errors

SoYouWanna Avoid Common Writing Errors

Serendipity – Common Errors

Common Errors in English

The Elements of Style: William Strunk, Jr.