Below is a list of the categories under which each entry in the Writing Guide falls. If you were curious about what the categories mean, this is the place to go:
- Capitalization: These errors have to do with words that are either improperly capitalized, or improperly not capitalized.
- Fluency: If you are a non-native speaker of English, you might want to check these out. As a professor, I’ve seen a lot of non-native errors, and as a linguist, I have an idea, given a writer’s L1, why certain errors are made and others are not. In the entries in the Fluency category, I try to explain as best I can why I think a given error is made. It is my hope that non-native speakers will find these helpful.
- Prepositions: English is prepositions. For whatever silly reason, you simply can’t speak or write English without knowing which preposition matches up with which verb. Prepositional errors of this type are made by both native and non-native speakers. Perhaps one day the system will be simplified, but for information on how it works now, this category is where to go.
- Pronouns: I, you, we, he, she, they: they’re all here. “But pronouns are boring!” says Skipper. Oh really? Check this entry out, and then you tell me they’re boring, Skip!
- Punctuation: Punctuation is my favorite. It’s a broken, degenerate system, English’s is, but that doesn’t mean we should berate it. It’s trying to help, and for that, we should honor it.
- Regional: Entries in this category probably aren’t errors, per se, but one ought to know that “chips” means “french fries” in Britain (or that “french fries” means “chips” in the US).
- Spelling: English has the worst spelling system in the world. Unfortunately, it’s still around. Learning it is just stupid. No one likes to do it, but once we’ve done it, we want everyone after us to go through the same thing. The English spelling system is the English-speaking world’s version of hazing. Feel free to quote me on that one.
- Structure: Usually this has to do with syntactic structure. For example, there’s something wrong with, “I read a book good”, if one intended to say, “I read a good book”. Go here for things like that.
- Style: You like opinions? This is where to go. Style is just that: an opinion about how one “ought” to write. Lots of people have lots of different ideas, and I think I’ve got a good sense of how not to offend (or, if you prefer, how to offend) the largest number of people possible.
- Tense: Tense refers to the grammatical time at or during which an action occurs. In English, this means -ed, vs. -s, vs. -ing (and occasionally -en). Like all languages, English does some bizarre things when it comes to tense. This is where to check up on them.
- Typos: Listen and listen well: we ALL make typos! They are absolutely, 100% unavoidable by all people. (For example, I, at the time of writing, just finished reading Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. I found three typos. And not only is that a published book, it’s a Norton Critical Edition!) They’re absolutely nothing to be ashamed of; they just happen. For common ones that you’ll want to look out for when proofreading, check out the list of entries here.
- Usage: This is kind of a catch-all category that houses errors that don’t really fit anywhere else. If I feel something is being used in some way that might displease someone somewhere, I will write about it here.