Humorous Reminders of Common Writing Mistakes
A selection of advice from generations of Teaching Fellows at Harvard University, edited by Gordon
Silverstein. Eric Rasmusen further edited to create this page and added correct sentences (January
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you write an essay:
- Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.
Avoid run-on sentences. They are hard to read.
- Never use no double negatives.
Never use double negatives.
- Use the semicolon properly, always where it is appropriate; and never where it is not.
Use the semicolon properly; always where it is appropriate, never where it is not.
- Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it where it is not needed.
Reserve the apostrophe for its proper use.
- Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
Even better: Verbs must agree with their subjects.
- No sentence fragments.
Don't use sentence fragments.
- Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
Proofread carefully to see if you left any words out.
- Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
Avoid commas that are not necessary.
Even better: Avoid unnecessary commas.
- When you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by
rereading and editing.
On rereading your work, you will find that much repetition can be avoided.
- A writer must not shift your point of view.
A writer must not shift his point of view.
- Do not overuse exclamation marks!!! (In fact, avoid them whenever possible!!!)
Do not overuse
exclamation marks. (In fact, avoid them whenever possible.)
- Place pronouns as closely as possible, especially in long sentences, as of ten or more words, to their
Put pronouns as close as possible to their
antecedents, especially in sentences that have ten or more words, such as this one.
- Write all adverbial forms correct.
Write adverbial forms correctly.
- Don't use contractions unless your style is purposely informal.
Do not use contractions unless your style is purposely informal.
- Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
Someone who writes carefully avoids dangling participles.
- Avoid modernisms that sound flaky.
Avoid slangy modernisms.
- Avoid barbarisms: they impact too forcefully.
Avoid barbarisms such as "to impact"; they signal that your education was second-rate.
- Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
Never be redundant.
- Any writer should be careful to use singular pronouns with singular nouns in their writing.
should be careful to use singular pronouns with singular nouns in his writing.
- If we've told you once, we've told you a thousand times: avoid hyperbole.
- Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.
Avoid distracting alliteration.
- Always pick on the correct idiom.
Always pick the correct idiom.
- "Avoid overuse of 'quotation' 'marks.'""
Avoid overuse of quotation marks.
- Never use more words than are necessary to get your point across: be concise.
Never use more words than
- Awayz check you're spelling. (Your spellchecker would only pick up one of the two errors here.)
Check your spelling.
- Always be avoided by the passive voice.
Avoid the passive voice.
- Every sentence a verb.
Every sentence needs a verb.
- Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague: seek viable alternatives.
cliches unless you want to sound like a half-wit. Find another way to add color if you think you need it.