Common errors, part II

I’m seeing many of the same missteps over and over again on the first assignments. To underscore and underline them so you can avoid them in the future, here they are:

Said vs. felt/believed: Use said. You’re not a mind-reader. Don’t worry about overusing “said.” Say it over and over again. The exception involves actual speculation, as in “Scientists believe the universe is expanding.” Or: “Police believe the suspect was left-handed.” Also, avoid explained, stated, averred and all their cousins. Stick with said.

Throughout the month of February: Just say “in February.”

10: Uses the numeral, not spelled out. That is, EXCEPT at the start of the sentence. Numbers are always spelled out at the start of the sentence UNLESS that number happens to be a year (and you probably shouldn’t be starting a sentence with a year anyway).

Second reference: Use the person’s first and last name on first reference and last name only on second reference. There’s an exception for children (well under 18 years old). You use their first name on second reference.

One-sentence ledes: Two = too many.

Student Government Association: Call it that on first reference. Some of you just said “SGA,” but we can’t assume readers will know what that means. On second reference, you can shorten to SGA, student lawmakers or just “the association.”

Quotes start their own paragraphs: Many of you tried to go with something like: Michael Hernandez, an SGA senator, said, “Blah, blah, blah.” Nope. That’s got to go: “Blah, blah, blah,” said Michael Hernandez, an SGA senator.

Complete sentences: We use them. Always. (Don’t point out the irony there.) Some of you are giving me these TV-style ledes that are just sentence fragments. Like: “Big trouble on campus as multiple break-ins force the student government to up security around dorms.” That’s not how normal people talk, so that’s not how we’re going to write, OK?

Don’t forget you get a chance to improve your grade. Fix all the grammar/AP style errors I marked in pink highlighter and turn it back to me by the beginning of class Tuesday, April 4, to receive up to a full reimbursement of all points lost in that category. For some of you, this the difference of two letter grades. So don’t let this opportunity pass you by.

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About jbcox

I am an assistant professor in the Communication Arts Department at Salisbury University. I teach classes in journalism and public relations, and my research area is online journalism.
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