Common Errors: The Aught Decade

To my disappointment, and likely to some of yours, too, I saw many of the same errors (especially comma faults and compound adjectives), five factual errors (compared to one in your sports autobiographies), and some very poorly crafted sentences.

Whatever happened to CRAFT every sentence?

Whatever happened to reread, revise, rewrite and proofread (far too many typos)?

The average grade for this assignment dropped from 86 to 75 (thanks, in part, to three assignments that weren’t turned in compared to one).

That’s not good enough.

If you didn’t attach your sports autobiography as instructed, you lost one full grade.

Oh — there was one absolutely superb story. It got an A+/100. I’m keeping it. The story demonstrated critical thinking and taught me something. Thank you.

The common errors:

  • Once again, comma faults.
  • Once again, if you start a sentence with a dependent phrase, the dependent phrase must be followed by a comma.
  • Once again, if you use a non-essential phrase, like this, you must set it off from the rest of the sentence with commas.
  • Once again, compound adjectives, which describe nouns, must be hyphenated. The problem, I believe, is that many of you don’t understand parts of speech and don’t recognize adjectives and nouns. Sad, but true. Examples of compound adjectives: three-consecutive championships; drug-related story; first-ever Super Bowl; last-minute comebacks; all-time leader; single-game scoring; highest-paid player; 11th-seeded GMU; No. 1-seed Connecticut.
  • Misuse of “orphan quotes.” Don’t use them.
  • Overuse of sentence fragments. Don’t overdo it.
  • Wordiness. This results from a lack of rereading and revising your story.
  • Using the wrong word. If you don’t reread, you won’t eliminate wordiness.
  • Don’t write “needless to say.” It’s needless to say.
  • Don’t write “I think.” What you write is what you think.
  • If you don’t know how to punctuate, don’t write compound sentences.
  • Avoid long, run-on sentences. Learn the beauty of the simple declarative sentence: subject-verb-object.
  • Sports are an active pursuit. Good sports writing demands the active voice. Avoid the passive voice.
  • Far too many ambiguous pronouns. A pronoun is a euphemism. Unless the pronoun replaces the immediately preceding noun, it is ambiguous. You gotta know your parts of speech to fix this.
  • When did swimming, an Olympic sport, become a “fringe sport”?
  • If you quote someone, and you didn’t talk to the source yourself, you must credit the source of the quote (i.e., Phelps said to the Associated Press). If you don’t, it’s plagiarism.
  • Words like “netted” and “exploded” are euphemisms.
  • Pronouns stand in — poorly — for other words. Avoid prounouns (see: pronouns). Pronouns weaken your writing.
  • Missing words indicate a lack of proofreading.
  • Don’t start a sentence with a numeral or a year.
  • The phrase “never looked back” is a cliché.
  • A team can take a 3-0 lead in games, NOT an 0-3 lead.
  • Factual errors included confusing the writer Tim Donahue with the referee Tim Donaghy; stating the average Olympic medal performance per athlete is 1-to-2; misspelling Plaxico Burress; misspelling Shaquille O’Neal.

One Response to “Common Errors: The Aught Decade”

  1.   Sarah El-Hage Says:

    Hello everyone,

    I e-mailed Professor Klein about team rankings for our game stories and he asked me to share what he told me here. Basically, I asked since I hadn’t put any team rankings in my original game story, (I watched the Villanova-WVU game) I should put both the ESPN and USA Today rankings in parentheses after the first team mention. This is the correct AP Style. If you are confused how to do this, it is in pretty much every AP article.

    Also, Professor Klein also incorrectly titled his subject head when e-mailing the class about the rewrite. I kindly pointed that out to him and reminded him that this is Sports Writing and Reporting, not Introduction to Journalism. You’re welcome.

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