1) Incorrectly constructed parrallel structure (emphasis on the infinitive).
One of the more unusual aspects of English grammar is that we express infinitives using two words, to + conjugated verb. Commonly, the "to" part of the infinitive is ignored in parallel structure. Here are a couple example sentences incorporating this easily fixable grammatical error:
A. WRONG: I like to run and play. RIGHT: I like to run and to play.
B. WRONG: She said she's going to call us soon, ask us what time the movie is, and meet us there.
RIGHT: She said she's going to call us soon, to ask us what time the movie is, and to meet us there.
2) Split infinitive
This error is both widespread and easy to fix. Basically, just avoid inserting words between the "to" and the conjugated verb when expressing an infinitive. Here is an example:
WRONG: I want to quickly run.
3) Misuse of the limiting adjectival modifiers, "only" and "just"
The error is the misplacement of only before a verb rather than after it. Doing so changes the meaning of the sentence entirely, often confusing the sharp reader. The words "only" and "just" are similar in meaning, and you can use them interchangeably. Consider the following example sentence:
A. WRONG: I only want to go to the movies. RIGHT: I want only to go to the movies.
In the WRONG sentence, the speaker states that (s)he "only wants to go to the movies." This sentence DOES imply that (s)he wants to do NOTHING ELSE, such as buy a bucket of popcorn, buy a ticket, sit down to watch the show, or even breathe. The usage of only before the verb is, in this sense, a disaster because now the speaker is speaking suicidally! Now, because the error is so widespread, it is often easy to say the WRONG sentence and convey the RIGHT meaning. But, the RIGHT sentence also conveys the RIGHT meaning, not only to those ignorant of this fixable error, but to those who understand it. So, pick the RIGHT sentence!
Special Notes: This error just drives me nuts, becasue it is widespread yet fixable.
4) Pronounce antecedent agreement error: IT!
I will explain the error through an example:
WRONG: It is nice. RIGHT: Ice is nice.
Look at the WRONG sentence and ask yourself, back to what does "It" refer? Nothing, the reader or listener becomes confused.
Special Notes: This error perhaps is the most widespread of the four. It is also the most difficult to fix because usually people have this error ingrained by habit and don't even realize the need to fix it.
5) Misuse of this, that, these, those, one
Basically, the misusage of these words occurs when a person omits a noun that should follow immediately after these indicator adjectives. Here are a couple examples:
A. WRONG: I don't like this. RIGHT: I don't like this (feeling, basketball, etc.).
In the WRONG sentence, "this" leaves a reader confused. In speech, the listener may be confused if you don't obviously identify what "this" is using body language.
B. WRONG: What is this? RIGHT: What is this (sensation, feeling, crap, etc.)
Here, you leave the reader or listener hanging by omitting identifying what you don't know.
Special Notes: CAREFUL! You would be entirely correct in speech to say, "What is this?" if, in some obvious way, you directed the listener's attention to exactly what you wanted "this" to identify using body language. One such way, provided that the unknown is a thing (as opposed to a sensation, feeling, etc.), would simply be to point at the object in question.
6) End of the sentence prepositions
This error occurs when you place a preposition at the end of a sentence. The error is widespread, especially in speech. Here are a couple example sentences:
A. WRONG: Who are you going with? RIGHT: With whom are you going?
(If you're sharp, then you noticed that I changed who to whom. I did so because in the WRONG sentence, we use the word that indicates the unknown person in the nominative case. In the correct sentence, we use this word in the objective case.
B. RIGHT: Shut up.
I wrote this example to indicate that "up" here is not a preposition, but an adjective. Make sure that you pay attention!
Special Notes: This error is hard to fix during speech but not in written work (proofread!). With practice, you should be able to fix it in both speech and writing. In speech, the error is often acceptable. Some people actually think the error is unecessarily identified. As one man president once said (I neither remember his name nor his exact sentence), "This is the sort of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put."
7) Passive voice
Passive voice means of, relating to, or being a verb form or voice used to indicate that the grammatical subject is the object of the action or the effect of the verb. Strictly speaking, this error is not grammatical in nature but rather is stylisitc. Here are examples:
A. WRONG: The rag was washed by Joe. RIGHT: Joe washed the rag.
By making the subject of the sentence an object on which an action was performed, the WRONG sentence is passive voice. You can avoid passive voice, so do so.
B. WRONG: The reader is confused by the writer. RIGHT: The reader is confused.
This example demonstrates another way of rewording a passive sentence. In this manner, you avoid passive voice by omitting the doer of the action. This way of rewording a sentence is useful to create mystery in writing, but for the most part, and especially in speech, you should indicate what performs the action and do so by rewording the sentence into active voice (see example A).
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I would disagree with most of these points in any case.
1) There's nothing wrong with "I like to run and play." It's perfectly comprehensible.
2) Splitting the infinitive can change the meaning.
"to go boldly where no man has gone before" or "boldly to go where no man has gone before." However, these two rephrasings do not have identical meanings — the former attaches the boldness to the manner of going, while the latter attaches the boldness to the complete act of going "where no man has gone before."
3) This is silly. If I say "I only want to go to the movies" I'm implying that I don't want to breathe?
4) Sure, it in "it is nice" refers to nothing out of context, but how often does that happen in conversation? Also "it" can be used as a dummy subject, because English always requires a subject, as in "It is nice to see you today."
5) This is wrong for the same reason as 4: context is your friend.
6) This prescription was created in the 18th century by analogy with Latin. People had been ending sentences with prepositions long before then.
7) You haven't given any evidence as to why the passive voice, a normal grammatical formation in English, is wrong or unacceptable.
Cool BreezeExcellent British humour. I have enjoyed it ever since I saw The Ladykillers in the fifties.Whose post are you reacting at?
Nona The BritCan you let us know if this is your original essay please? Otherwise please credit the source.This post is original. Of course, the ideas are not original; I learned them in like 11th grade. I think the title has been used before by another author.
PastsimpleThe humorous one, of course. The very first one.Cool BreezeExcellent British humour. I have enjoyed it ever since I saw The Ladykillers in the fifties.Whose post are you reacting at?
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