#Eden Lit - Lessons: Proofreading Common Mistakes part 2

Airen Wolf Airen Wolf
Proofreading Common Mistakes part 2

Here are some more common mistakes when writing that proofreading should pick up. So far we have looked at beginning the proofreading process, slowing down, changing up the way you read the piece, looking for common spelling and punctuation errors, looking for errors in comma and apostrophe placement, and errors in verb tense. In this post we’ll look at pronoun errors, sentence fragments, and misplaced or dangling modifiers.

Pronoun Bugaboos
Pronouns are words used to replace the proper name of a noun: I, you, him, her, themselves, itself, it, who, which, and so on. It is a devise we use so that we don’t have to keep repeating the proper name of the person, place, or thing. The tricky part comes in when you have to check for agreement in gender or number.
Remember that words such as each, either, neither, and one are singular and take singular pronouns.

Wrong Every one of the Eden reviewers thinks their reviews are stellar.
Correct Every one of the Eden reviewers thinks his or her reviews are stellar.

If an antecedent is made up of two or more parts joined by “or” or “nor” the pronoun must agree with the closest antecedent.

Wrong Neither Sarah nor Jane felt their reviews had been rated fairly.
Correct Neither Sarah nor Jane felt her reviews had been rated fairly.

When you are talking about a group of items or people it’s called a collective-noun antecedent. These groups can be singular or plural depending on whether you are talking about a single unit or a group of individuals.

Wrong The Staff often changed its seating to gain a different perspective.
Correct The staff often changed their seating to gain a different perspective.

Wrong As a whole the staff worked on their projects.
Correct As a whole the staff worked on its projects.

To quickly identify proper antecedent/pronoun agreement, circle each pronoun and then identify the antecedent and decide if they agree in gender and number.

Now it gets a touch more tricky: most indefinite pronouns are singular and take singular verbs. A relative pronoun (who, which, that) takes a verb that agrees in number with the pronoun’s antecedent.

Wrong Each of the items in my review work well together.
Correct Each of the items in my review works well together.

Wrong She is one of the community members who spends a lot of time on the forums.
Correct She is one of the community members who spend a lot of time on the forums.
*In this example she is part of a whole and, presumably, not the only person spending time on the forums so the verb should be plural.

Another problem with pronoun and verb agreement occurs when the reader cannot be sure which noun or pronoun is being referred to. If the sentence could be referring to either/or noun you need to revise the sentence for clarity.

Wrong When Sarah attacked Jane on the forums we realized that she was just an aggressive person.
Correct When Sarah attacked Jane on the forums we realized that Jane was just an aggressive woman. (Ahhhhh you thought Sarah was the aggressive one, didn't you?)

You have to be particularly careful when telling a story that you don’t muddle who is being referred to with pronouns. If it could be either participant then you need to clarify, for your reader, exactly which noun is being talked about…or performing the action!

Sentence Fragments

This is a particularly troublesome issue with most writers. A fragment is a sentence that is lacking a subject, verb and at least one clause that doesn't not begin with a subordinating word: as, although, if, when, that, since or who. To make a complete sentence, join the fragment to the main clause or rewrite the sentence.

Wrong She is a great person. A reviewer I trust.
Correct She is a great person, and a reviewer I trust.
Correct She is a great person. She is also a reviewer I trust.

Wrong In the mentor program we learned how to choose a product. Also how to review it.
Correct In the mentor program we learned how to choose a product, and how to review it.
Correct In the mentor program we learned how to choose a product. We also learned how to review the product we had chosen.

Some of the most confusing and amusing mistakes we can make as writers are misplaced or dangling modifiers. Remember that a modifier should be as close to the word it is modifying as possible to avoid confusion! Here are some examples I have pulled from the internet to illustrate the phenomenon:

*As a young boy, his grandmother told stories of her years as a country schoolteacher. (Grandma was a young boy?)
*They could see the eagles swooping and diving with binoculars. (Eagles and binoculars….interestin g!)
*”Lost: A watch by a lady with a cracked face.” (Poor lady?)
*While driving around town a tree fell on my car. (I hate it when trees drive!)
*At the beginning of the novel, Tom Joad comes across a turtle on his way home from spending four years in prison. (This comes from an actual college essay and shows how easy it is to fall prey to a misplaced modifier and also how confusing they can be. The turtle COULD have been in prison for four years if it was just released back into the wild. )

We speak in misplaced modifiers but use body language and expression to correct the misinterpretation errors. Think back on some of the arguments you and your partner have had. How many of them began as a simple misunderstanding of a modifier? I’m betting quite a few!
Misplaced modifiers are the reason we suggest you read your work out loud or to an audience. It is also helpful to let some time pass or ask a friend to proofread your work. WE know what we meant to say so the misplaced modifier looks perfectly understandable to us, but to someone else it might jump off the page and leave them howling with laughter.
11/07/2012
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Kissy Kissy
Wow these are great! I do a lot of these wrong, very hard to fix!
11/07/2012
Cedarlooman Cedarlooman
Wow! Nice advanced lesson here. Thanks, Airen!
11/12/2012
Ace Ace
Just wanted to throw in my appreciation as well. This is seriously helpful.
11/16/2012
Airen Wolf Airen Wolf
We'll pick up a few more lessons about creating a character and setting the scene after the Holidays....unless I get a great up swelling of massive interest. LOL
I will, however, be doing some kinda fun things over the Holidays so stay tuned!
11/21/2012
Total posts: 5
Unique posters: 4