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Common Errors in Proofreading

I was looking at my college class in the high school's final papers, the ones that are supposed to be an example of their finest work, and I found myself marking the same kind of proofreading errors constantly.

Here's the list:
  • Comma placement (none where there should be and some where there shouldn't)
  • Run on sentences
  • Sentence fragments
  • Pronoun/antecedent agreement
  • Verb tense inconsistency
  • Possessive apostrophes missing where needed or used on plurals
  • Wrong word spelled correctly
  • Homonyms
The "wrong word spelled correctly" belongs to the computer age of proofreading errors. These are cases where kids trusted their computers to highlight misspelled words and then to autocorrect them. My favorite, because I see it all the time, is the replacement of "definitely" with "defiantly," which produces interesting sentences, like "Shakespeare defiantly created a moving love story in Romeo and Juliet," or "Obama is defiantly wrong on health care."

Other word processor-related errors include accidentally centering the text, and leaving fossil words or parts of sentences in the text after making changes.

I used to believe proofreading errors were a sign of ignorance, laziness, disrespect or a lack of pride. Since I'm a terrible proofreader myself, though, I know that some people just aren't good at catching errors. They lack a proofreading gene. As a teacher, my job is to correct the ignorance, motivate the lazy, earn the respect of the disrespecters, and build our student's sense of pride.

Just in case you didn't think English teachers had anything to do in the spell-checked, grammar-checked, word processor world.

You with the proof reading gene are welcome to savage whatever I missed before posting this.  I . . . sob . . . am prepared.



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 17th, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)
Well, I think that perhaps "finist " may be "finest". Other than that I have to admit relying on the computer checks, myself. Usually take a few edit passes to catch most of the stuff.
Dec. 17th, 2009 07:22 pm (UTC)
Sheesh. Now it is correct.
Dec. 17th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
Well, since you asked...

In the first paragraph: "finist"

Dec. 17th, 2009 07:22 pm (UTC)
Proving my point (about myself). Corrected now.
Dec. 17th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
Your spell-checker hates you and wants to make you look like an idiot.

Your grammar-checker is worse.
Dec. 17th, 2009 09:59 pm (UTC)
Great post!

Thanks for sharing :)
Dec. 17th, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
Hi, Jon. Thanks! Tbis the kind of post that happens while I'm grading papers and a class full of students takes a finsl.
Dec. 18th, 2009 01:06 pm (UTC)
It's a useful list. I cut & pasted it onto a word file and printed it out in big letters to use when self-editing.

My worst sin is comma placement, though if I knew what a homonym was, I'd probably be guilty of that one too :)
Dec. 21st, 2009 06:12 pm (UTC)

I am guessing that the meaning here was not the literal meaning of Homonym but the looser "sounds the same but is spelled different". I had to google the word, too!

typo fixed

Edited at 2009-12-21 06:13 pm (UTC)
Dec. 18th, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
I can totally relate as I only have a passing aquaintance with verb tenses and all the other things you mentioned above.

While I don't really have a proof reading gene, I do have a gene for creative spelling.
Dec. 19th, 2009 12:46 am (UTC)
I am the queen of a homonym error. The word I use the most is the word I type. And when I read it, it sounds right. Typically my beta readers ding it with a ? and a wise-crack smile. Of course I meant "They're going to the store." not "Their going to the store." Don't be a smarty pants. We all do it . . . or at least that is what I tell myself after I kick myself for making the mistake.

Edited at 2009-12-19 12:47 am (UTC)
Dec. 20th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
Great post. I just linked to it -- please let me know if I shouldn't :-)
Dec. 21st, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)
(added to memories)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )