Errors commonly found in student papers


Jamal Munshi, Sonoma State University
All rights reserved

gear and gears
gears: machine parts that transmit motion. if you want to refer to equipment say 'gear'.
anyway and anywhere
these words do not have a plural form so please do not say 'anyways' or 'anywheres'.
first come first served
it's "first come first served" not "first come first serve" unless you want the person arriving to do the serving.
drowned: past tense of "drown", drownded: no such word
tenet: a fundamental principle, tenant: one who pays rent, tenent: no such word
review and revise
review: look it over, "re- view". revise: make changes
"everyday" means ordinary or commonplace. if you are referring to a daily occurrence say "every day"
"maybe" is not a verb. say "this may be due to a strong economy", or "maybe this is due to a strong economy" but not "this maybe due to a strong economy".
the person who committed the crime is the perpetrator or the criminal or murderer or thief but not a suspect.
relative time references
exercise caution when borrowing phrases such as "next year" or "last quarter" from old publications. they may not apply to the present. to be safe make all relative time references absolute.
high rate of speed
'speed' is the rate at which you increase distance. 'rate of speed' is acceleration. it is the rate at which you increase speed. so don't say 'high rate of speed' unless you mean acceleration. and even then the word 'acceleration' would be a better choice.
issues taking place
issues arise, they exist, and maybe they go away but they don't take place. so say "issues are" instead of "issues taking place are"
lead and led
'lead' pronounced 'leed' is the present tense of a verb whose past tense is 'led'; but 'lead' pronounced 'led' is a metal.
peek and peak
peek = take a look, peak = top of a mountain
in and into
put it into the box. now it's in the box. "in" is a location while "into" is the direction of an action.
whose and who's
who's = who is, whose = the possessive form of who
further and farther
for geographical distance say farther otherwise say further.
'criteria' is the plural form. if there is only one, say 'criterion'.
'phenomena' is the plural form. the singular form is 'phenomenon'.
an excessive use of parenthetical statements is obfuscating. if it doesn't belong in this sentence give it a sentence of its own whenever possible.
if x then y
if-then statements imply that y is conditional on x. if it is not then give y its own sentence. see if you can fix this one: "if you want to go to the movies, the petaluma cinema has a late show."
x but y
use of the word 'but' implies that one would not expect y when x is true. if this logical relationship does not hold do not use the word 'but'.
when a verb follows the word 'this' please ensure that the reference is unambiguous. if not then make the reference explicit.
fair and fare
if you mean impartial say 'fair'. 'fare' is what you pay for a ticket to ride.
tract homes
those boring look-alike houses in suburban development tracts are "tract" homes not "track" homes.
all together and altogether
'all together' means we are all doing something in unison. if you mean to say 'entirely' say 'altogether'.
if it is hot then the temperature is 'high' not 'hot' and if it is expensive then the price is 'high' not 'expensive'.
principle and principal
principle = an ethical code or standard: principal = foremost in importance.
he is 'bigger than me' or 'bigger than i'?
to figure it out speak the unspoken part of the sentence. if you mean that 'he is bigger than i am big' then say 'bigger than i'. if you mean that 'he is bigger than he is me' then say 'bigger than me'; or if you want to say 'he likes joe more than he likes me' then say 'more than me'; and if you mean to say that 'he like joe more than i like joe' then say 'more than i'. contrary to popular belief just saying 'i' every time does not fix it.
of and have
must have, might have, could have, should have, would have. do not use 'of' in these phrases sil vous plait.
this is a correct use of although, 'although it was cold jamal played tennis'. this is an incorrect use of although, 'although it was cold.' when you start a sentence with although you must have two things to say where the second statement is true in spite of the first.
corroborate and collaborate
when you provide supporting evidence you corroborate.
forward and foreword
the sometimes little introductory piece to a book is the foreword
later and latter
later = after a point in time, latter = the last portion of a time interval or list: 'the latter half of 1995' not the later half.
found and founded
found = recovered what was lost, founded = started. 'mary founded the women's movement' not 'found'
noun = what makes you laugh, verb = pretend to agree
compliment and complement
compliment = praise, complement = add to and improve
suppose to be
supposed to = expected, suppose to = no such phrase in the english language. say 'it was supposed to be funny' not 'it was suppose to be funny'
used to
used to = did in the past or familiar with, use to = ???. i used to smoke. not, 'i use to smoke' or 'i am used to bad music' but not 'i am use to....'
a lot = many, allot = allocate, alot: no such word
a few=some, few=a small number.
companies and company's
companies = plural of company, company's = the possessive form of company
beware and be aware
beware = to use caution, be aware= to know of something
wary and weary
wary = cautious, weary = tired
quote endquote
it's 'quote endquote' not 'quote unquote'
cite, site, and sight
cite=to refer to, sight= vision or view, site= a location. use web site not web sight or web cite
beside and besides
beside=next to, besides=also
anxious and eager
anxious means worried. if you mean to indicate 'impatiently expecting' say 'eager'
amount and number
if there are discrete entities that can be counted use 'number' otherwise use amount. for example 'the number of people' not 'the amount of people'
affect and effect
verb: affect=to influence, effect=to bring about
noun: affect=an affectation (pretense), effect=the result
if this is confusing to you always use the verb form of affect and the noun form of effect. "the earnings announcement did not affect stock prices" or "the earnings announcement had no effect on stock prices
if i 'were' a carpenter; not if i 'was' a carpenter
avoid this word please.
loan and lend
lend is the verb. you can lend me money or give me a loan.
'maria and i' or 'maria and me'
first say it without maria. eg. if you would say 'help me' then say 'help maria and me' and if you would say 'i am going to the movies' then say 'maria and i are going to the movies'. contrary to popular belief just saying 'i' every time does not fix it.
advise, advice
you advise but you give advice. advice is the noun form of the verb advise.
your, you're
you're in trouble if your dog poops in my yard
there, their, they're
there is bozo the dog. he is their dog. they're away for the weekend.
its, it's
hey look, it's a dog and its tail is wagging
insure, ensure, assure
ensure: make certain, insure: take out insurance, assure: remove all doubt
reason is because
say 'because' or 'reason is that' but not 'reason is because'
price is expensive
it is expensive or price is high but not price is expensive
new innovation
say innovation or new idea or new technology but not new innovation
very unique
say unique or very unusual but not very unique
words frequently used by students as window dressing
consequently, furthermore, indeed, ultimately, basically, the decade of the ... , global marketplace, imperative