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. Another page has these sentences plus correct one next to them (January 24, 2009).

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you write an essay:

  1. Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.
  2. Never use no double negatives.
  3. Use the semicolon properly, always where it is appropriate; and never where it is not.
  4. Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it where it is not needed.
  5. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
  6. No sentence fragments.
  7. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  8. Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
  9. When you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
  10. A writer must not shift your point of view.
  11. Do not overuse exclamation marks!!! (In fact, avoid them whenever possible!!!)
  12. Place pronouns as closely as possible, especially in long sentences, as of ten or more words, to their antecedents.
  13. Write all adverbial forms correct.
  14. Don't use contractions unless your style is purposely informal.
  15. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
  16. Avoid modernisms that sound flaky.
  17. Avoid barbarisms: they impact too forcefully.
  18. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
  19. Any writer should be careful to use singular pronouns with singular nouns in their writing.
  20. If we've told you once, we've told you a thousand times: avoid hyperbole.
  21. Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.
  22. Always pick on the correct idiom.
  23. "Avoid overuse of 'quotation' 'marks.'""
  24. Never use more words than are necessary to get your point across: be concise.
  25. Awayz check you're spelling. (Your spellchecker would only pick up one of the two errors here.)
  26. Always be avoided by the passive voice.
  27. Every sentence a verb.
  28. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague: seek viable alternatives.