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10 common grammar or formatting mistakes I’ve seen (or made myself!)

January 21, 2011

Detours copy editing weekends begins THIS WEEKEND! This semester we lost a great copy editor, darn graduation. So I decided to beef up my journalistic grammar, AP style etc. So I enlisted the help of ‘Watch Your Words’ by Roman & Littlefield. While the book was an amazing help, I felt grammatical humbled. So here are some common mistakes I’ve seen while working the copy desk at the Index or things I learned by reading the book!

1) NO Oxford comma in AP style. Don’t put a comma in the second to last item in a list before the and.

  • We bought apples, oranges and kiwis.

2) However, use an Oxford comma when the last item in the list contains an and.

  • The food included cupcakes, ice cream, and cheese and crackers.

If the item containing and isn’t last, there isn’t an Oxford comma.

  • The food included cheese and crackers, ice cream and cupcakes.

3) The word plethora is often used in a plethora of wrong situations. Plethora means overabundance, not just abundance.

4) Use the term more than when you’re referring to an amount you can count.

  • More than 100 people went to the marching band event.

5) Don’t use that after said unless it is before a time reference.

  • Jessica said he would write the cat story.
  • -Jessica said Sunday that he would write the cat story.

6) How to use lay, lie etc. Sorry, I have no fun memory cue for this one!

To Lay (to place)    To Lie (to recline)

Present tense:                    Lay/Lays                               lie/lies

Past Tense:                          Laid                                        Lay

Present participle:           am/is/are laying               am/is/are lying

Past participle:                  have/had laid                    have/had lain

7)  If you’re ever quoting someone, here is an example of how to format the quote.

  • “Stephanie is writing a blog,” Hall said. “The blog is about grammar and formatting mistakes.”

8 ) Hyphenate any compound adjective beginning with well

  • well-dressed

9) The difference between ‘Because of’ and ‘Due to’

  • Use because of to modify a verb. – The game was postponed because of the snow
  • Use due to modify a noun. – The postponement was due to snow.

10) When using a colon to introduce a concept or idea, capitalize the first word.

  • Here’s what I think: Better days are sure to come.
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