With the following glossary, I make no claim to comprehensiveness. It has grown throughout my career, being added to whenever I found myself repeating a remark to a number of students or diminished whenever I realized either that I no longer agreed with advice I had once given or that the advice had simply outlived its purpose. The glossary will no doubt continue to fluctuate until the day I retire.
agr - Agreement Error: Subject and verb do not agree.
al – Though the phrase “a lot” is certainly common in speech, it is an informal usage best avoided in collegiate writing. Moreover, the phrase comprises two words, not one.
alpha – Alphabetize the entries of a works-cited page, arranging authors by last names. If an author is unknown, alphabetize the entry by the title.
amnt - Amount of is followed by singular nouns; number of, by plural nouns: “an amount ofmoney, light, work, or postage” [singular]; “a number of coins, lights, jobs, or stamps” [plural].
apos – Incorrect placement of apostrophe or apostrophe needed.
art – Incorrect indefinite article: “An” before vowel sound; “a” before consonantal sound.
awk – A rather awkward mouthful.
bc – “The reason is that. . . .” The grammarian would tell you that because, an adverbial subordinating conjunction, cannot introduce a noun clause, while the logician would simply point to the redundancy of linking because to reason.
btn – Between can take only two objects; for more than two, one needs among: “Between you and me, I believe the papers should be circulated among the triad members.”
c - Comma after introductory element: If your main clause begins with a subject, be sure to set off with a comma anything that comes before the subject: “When you go to the store [introductory adverb clause], be sure to pick up a box of diapers [main clause]. “Fortunately [introductory adverb], we have enough infant formula to last us through seven children [main clause].”
cap – Capitalize
captitle – In titles and subtitles of books, plays, student papers, and so on, capitalize the first and last words and all other words except articles, coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions.
ce – Case Error: remember that the object of a verb or preposition needs to be in theobjective case (They held a party for me and my friends), just as the subject of a sentence or clause needs to be in the subjective or nominative case (I know who is going to win [who, though following the main verb, is the subject of the noun clause who is going to win, which is actually the direct object of know]).
cite – You need to document your source.
col – Never divide a verb and its complement or object: Wrong “I read: Gone with the Windand The Wind in the Willows.” Omit the colon or supply a complement or object before it. Right “I readGone with the Wind and The Wind in the Willows” or “I read the following: Gone with the Wind and The Wind in the Willows.” Following here is now the direct object of read, and the two novel titles areappositives (renamers) of that object.
com – Comma punctuation is required throughout a coordinated sequence employing commas.
comdiv – The comma incorrectly separates subject and verb or verb and object.
comset – Comma punctuation needed.
contras – Indicate the transition of contrast between these two thoughts: but, however, on the other hand, etc.
coordin – I cannot see that these two thoughts are coordinate, their connection clear enough to be attached as an equal pair. To give you an exaggerated example of what I mean, I offer the following example: “Debbie speaks Spanish, and she found a dollar on the Diag yesterday.” Though the two facts may be interesting enough in themselves, they have no connection to each other that would justify their being joined by a coordinating conjunction. If the thoughts are truly coordinate in your mind, make their connection obvious in your revision.
cs – Comma splice—Two independent clauses joined solely with a comma.
ct – Avoid contractions for collegiate writing; this is hardly the type of informal topic that
would warrant such usage.
cwch – Without a comma, “which” refers to the element that directly precedes it.
dm – Dangling modifier: The element being modified is either not present in the sentence or not in a position that would allow you to shift the modifier to any successful end. A dangling modifier is generally an introductory participial phrase preceding a subject that it does not modify: Being only fifteen months old, my wife spends a great deal of time diapering our twins. The opening participial phrase should refer to diaper-needing twins, of course; but its placement suggests that my wife is but an infant herself. When you open with such a phrase, be sure that the first element following it is that to which it refers.
doc – You need both to cite correctly the volume from which you are quoting and to use the standard procedure for parenthetical documentation of sources.
dsh – Dashes comprise two hyphens. On the typewriter or computer keyboard, there is no actual dash, for “-” is merely a hyphen. When typing, then, one must use two hyphens for a dash: “—,” which some current word-processing programs automatically translate into an actual dash.
ellip – A few things you need to know about ellipsis: it can never begin a quotation; it ends only those quotations of which there is further text and which give the false appearance of being complete sentences; and the periods of it are spaced. When ellipsis concludes a sentence, you need an ending period, followed by the three spaced elliptical periods.
frag – While sentence fragments are occasionally effective when a writer clearly knows what he is doing, it appears here that you were simply unaware that you had not written a complete sentence.
fus – Fused sentence: Two independent clauses joined with neither comma nor coordinating conjunction. Some handbooks confuse this with a run-on sentence (defined below).]
fwr - Fewer is used to modify what can be counted; less to modify what cannot be: “fewermarbles, coins, people” [countable sets]; “less soup, happiness, misery” [uncountable sets].
h – Let us speak of the compound modifier, a thing far too often used in academic prose and almost never punctuated correctly. When you string adjectives and substantives as a single modifier before a noun, you change them into an adjective, all right; but you need to indicate the grammatical alteration by means of hyphenation. Take, for example, the commonly used “high school.” “Mike went to high school,” but “Mike enjoyed his high-school classes.” In the first example, the prepositional object “school” is modified by the adjective “high.” In the second, however, “high-school” has been fused into a single unit by being made the adjectival modifier of “classes.” Hence the hyphen. This rule applies, as well, with any number of possible combinations: “She gave me that who-the-hell-do-you-think-you-are look”; “I heard a fire-and-brimstone sermon”; “I went to my Principles-of-Nuclear-Powered-Mice-Building class” [a wretched but nonetheless common syntax which you could easily avoid by simply reversing words: “I went to my class entitled Principles of Nuclear-Powered-Mice Building”—note that even herebuilding is being modified by the compound modifier nuclear-powered-mice]; “He owns a three- or four-volume dictionary.” Note the last example: since “three” is separated from “volume” and since “or” merely connects the understood “three-volume” with “four-volume,” the hyphen after “three” is followed by a space, thus telling the reader that the compound modifier of which it is a part will follow.
hvr - However must always be set off from a sentence with comma punctuation.
ic – Incomplete comparison: in relation to what?
incoh – I am afraid that this is grammatically incoherent, perhaps as a consequence of a typographical error or an inadvertently omitted word or phrase.
indt – Indent the first line of each paragraph five spaces (.5 inch).
infm – Far too informal for this type of essay.
interpol – This is known as an interpolated element: an independent sentence unit merely inserted parenthetically in the middle of a sentence. Set it off with either parentheses or dashes.
ital – Italicize (underline if you are using a typewriter or using longhand).
just – If you are using word processing to format your document, justified right margins look more professional and certainly “neater” than the jagged edges of a normal paragraph.
lc – Lower case for common noun.
lk – “As, “as if,” or “as though”: like cannot introduce an adverb clause.
lng – Syntactically speaking, this is a bit too much of a mouthful.
lngquot – Quotations of more than three typed lines must be offset from the margin one inch, double-spaced, with no quotation marks.
m – Misplaced modifier: Move modifier next to what it directly modifies.
mng – Something appears to be missing here.
n – Spell out numbers of two words or less; use Arabic numerals for any number that cannot be written so economically. There are, however, several exceptions to this rule. For example, under no circumstance should you ever begin a sentence with Arabic numerals, and numbers in a sequence must be kept consistent: in other words, don’t mix spelled numbers with Arabic. For the numerous other exceptions (such as Arabic with dates, time periods, book divisions, percentages, and the like), refer to a usage handbook.
nonstan - Nonstandard usage
org – This strikes me as an organizational flaw.
p – Problem with parallel structure—see me for details.
pag – Provide page numbers for each page after the first. If using word processing, use the automatic pagination of your program, specifying that the number be in one of the following places: the top right corner, the top center, or the bottom center.
paraspace – This space suggests that the paragraph is over, but the top of the next page shows that it is not. Until you have, indeed, reached the last line of a paragraph, leave no such misleading space.
pass – Weak use of passive voice—use it sparingly.
per – Remember to close your sentence with a period. (See quocom for a related question of the position of periods.)
perf – Perfect tense required for tense prior to that of the main verb.
plur – Pluralize
poss – Apostrophe needed for possessive case.
poss2 – Incorrect possessive form: The possessive forms of personal pronouns do not employ apostrophes, for they could otherwise be confused with contractions: “It’s” = “It is” or “It has.”
poss3 – Be careful not to confuse proper nouns with the rule concerning the possessive case of common nouns ending in s. If you pronounce an extra s in making the proper noun possessive, your spelling needs to reflect that pronunciation.
prep – Weak prepositional ending
q – The interrogative word order calls for a question mark.
qt – Quote used as a noun is an informal usage best avoided in writing. Unless speaking of the verb action of “to quote,” you need the noun “quotation.”
quo – Set off in quotation marks.
quocom – Commas and periods should always go inside the quotation marks.
quosing – American usage concerning quotation marks is the exact opposite of British usage. Double quotation marks envelop the entire quotation or quoted unit, while single quotation marks set off material quoted within quotations: Uriah remarked, “I’ve never much cared for the poem `The Oven Bird.’”
ref1 – Reference error: The antecedent to which this pronoun or pronominal adjective refers is not clear.
ref2 – Reference error—The pronoun or pronominal adjective does not agree with its antecedent.
rep – Awkward word repetition
run – Run-on Sentence: Two independent clauses joined solely with a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, for, nor, yet, so). The term is often confused with the related error of the fused sentence, defined above. The simplest correction is merely to place a comma before the conjunction.
samepro – You have used the same pronoun to refer to two different antecedents within the same sentence.
semico – Faulty semicolon placement creates fragment.
semico2 – The comma punctuation of the surrounding clauses obscures the independent-clause break. Get in the habit of joining independent clauses with semicolons when the clauses contain comma punctuation.
sing – Singularize
sm – Squinting modifier—the placement of the modifier squints grammatically, ambiguously looking in both directions at the same time. One cannot tell, as a consequence, whether it modifies what precedes it or what follows it.
sn – Shift in number—that is, from singular to plural or from plural to singular.
sp – Spelling error
sper – Shift in person—from first to third, second to first, etc.
split – Split infinitives only if absolutely necessary: no such necessity exists here.
st – Shift in tense
subord – Subordinate this sentence to that which precedes it.
sv – Shift in voice—active to passive or passive to active.
syllab – Do not divide a word that leaves fewer than three letters on the second line or fewer than two on the first.
thn – “Than” is used only for comparative structures: “more different than. . . .” By itself, the adjective “different” is accompanied by the preposition “from.”
tim – Indefinite time reference.
tl – Prepare your reader for the content of your article by giving it an appropriate title.
tran – My sense is that a transition in thought has occurred here. Either develop the transition to connect the sentence with the rest of the paragraph, or place the line in a new paragraph.
und – Underline
v – Error in verb form.
vg – Space before and after virgule (slash—/) separating lines of verse.
wk – Weak phrasing
wr - were—Subjunctive mode for the hypothetical.
ww – Wrong word: check the dictionary.