List of Style Errors

Last updated 8/16/17 6:10am

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List of Style Errors

Contents
A. Ten Most Common Style Errors
B. Complete List of Style Errors

Ten Most Common Style Errors

1. got, get
avoid; use synonyms: received, bought, became, etc.
avoid: I got home and got into the shower.
preferable: I arrived home and jumped into the shower.

2. you
avoid 2nd-person “you” and “your” constructs; instead, use 1st-person “I”; see point-of-view error; OK to use in quotes
avoid: You see the sun rising over the mountain.
preferable: The sun rises over the mountain or I see the sun rising over the mountain.

3. it
avoid beginning sentences with “it” when the referent is to follow (the “empty it”)
avoid: It is a nice tree.
preferable: The tree is nice.

4. thing (also something)
don’t use in place of a more substantial word
avoid: The thing is that I’m bored.
preferable: The reason is that I’m bored.

5. rhetorical question (RQ)
avoid when a statement is more effective
avoid: Should we allow the terrorists to go free?
Preferable: We should not allow the terrorists to go free.

6. so
don’t use in place of “thus,” “therefore,” or “very”)
avoid: I was tired, so I went to bed.
preferable: I was tired; thus, I went to bed.
avoid: The campus was so nice.
preferable: The campus was very nice.

7. there
avoid beginning sentences with “there” when the referent is to follow (the “empty there”); also, don’t confuse “there” with “they’re” or “their”
avoid: There were four students in the room.
preferable: Four students were in the room.
avoid: Their nice people.
preferable: They’re nice people.

8. that vs. which
Distinguish between that and which
THAT: use with restrictive clauses; do not set off with commas; don’t use in place of “which”
avoid: The house, that is on the corner, is haunted.
preferable: The house that is on the corner is haunted.

WHICH: use with non-restrictive clauses; set off with commas
avoid: The house which is haunted is famous.
preferable: The house, which is haunted, is famous.

9. my fellow classmate (also classmate of mine)
redundant
avoid: I interviewed my fellow classmate.
preferable: I interviewed my classmate.

10. “society today,” “today’s society,” “today’s world,” “in our society today,” “in this day and age”
wordy — use “today” instead; this phrase and the word “today” are often filler words, similar to “you know” and “like”; omit them altogether when the time frame is the present.
avoid: In today’s society, a college education is vital.
preferable: Today, a college education is vital. Better: A college education is vital.

To confirm that you’ve read this list, email the keyword “style” to me at jamess@hawaii.edu by the deadline for the FD1. The keyword should appear in the subject header.

Complete List of Style Errors

The following is a list of style errors. Avoid these forms as much as possible. However, they are fine in quoted dialogue when the intent is to capture a person’s speech patterns. Also, for some of the forms, use your judgment: if logic and sentence sense makes it necessary, use them.

across: include “from” (across from) when necessary
avoid: My home is across John’s.
preferable: My home is across from John’s.

alot: two words: “a lot”
avoid: I make alot of errors.
preferable: I make a lot of errors.

alright: two words: “all right”
avoid: It’s alright to leave your shoes on.
preferable: It’s all right to leave your shoes on.

all caps: avoid using ALL UPPER-CASE to emphasize a point. Instead, use words to express your meaning.

and then: use “and” or “then,” but not both
avoid: I ate, and then I slept.
preferable: I ate, and I slept.

another one: wordy; “another” is usually sufficient
avoid: I wanted another one soon after the first.
preferable: I wanted another soon after the first.

as: avoid when “because” or “since” is appropriate; also, avoid overuse as a device to dramatize a narrative
avoid: I’m tired as I studied all night.
preferable: I’m tired because I studied all night.

ashamed: not the same as “embarrassed”
avoid: He was ashamed that he forgot her name.
preferable: He was embarrassed that he forgot her name.

aunty: use “aunt” instead

began to: (also started to, tried to) avoid when the simple past tense will do
avoid: I began to walk down the aisle.
preferable: I walked down the aisle.

bring: not the same as “take”
avoid: Bring this with you to the party.
preferable: Take this with you to the party.

came back: use “returned” instead
avoid: I came back from Los Angeles.
preferable: I returned from Los Angeles.

car drove: a car can’t drive
avoid: The car drove in the wrong lane.
preferable: The officer drove in the wrong lane.

classmate of mine: use “a classmate” or my classmate” instead

dad: use “father” instead

dates: When dates are written out, use the day-month-year format, e.g., 27 September 2002. Note that there are no commas in this construct.

dates in research papers: Abbreviate months in research papers, e.g., 27 Sep. 2002. All months should be abbreviated to three characters, except for May, June, and July, which should be written out.

days in dates: If the “th” as in “27th” is used, then the day must precede the month, e.g., 27th of September.
avoid: September 27th, 2002
preferable: 27th of September 2002.

dilemma: means to be torn between two equally strong choices; not the equivalent of “problem”
avoid: The dilemma was that she wasn’t hungry.
preferable: She faced a dilemma: eat and feel good right now, or starve and feel good later.

due to the fact that: (also the fact that) wordy; “because” is preferable
avoid: I’m tired due to the fact that I stayed up all night.
preferable: I’m tired because I stayed up all night.

each individual (also each and every one or each one): redundant; “each” is usually sufficient
avoid: She stared at each individual person.
preferable: She stared at each person.

ever so: don’t use in place of “very”
avoid: He was ever so slow.
preferable: He was very slow.

fellow classmate: (also classmate of mine) redundant
avoid: I interviewed my fellow classmate.
preferable: I interviewed my classmate.

first of all: wordy–”first” will do
avoid: First of all, I’m happy. Second of all, I’m proud.
preferable: First, I’m happy. Second, I’m proud.

firstly: use “first” instead

for: avoid when “because” or “since” is appropriate
avoid: I’m tired for I worked all day.
preferable: I’m tired because I worked all day.

for me (also I feel, to me, in my opinion, I think): In an essay, the writer’s views are assumed. Don’t qualify unnecessarily. However, use it when logic dictates.
avoid: For me, the governor was right.
preferable: The governor was right.

found out: wordy; “found” or “learned” is usually sufficient
avoid: I found out that the exam had been canceled.
preferable: I found that the exam had been canceled.

friend of mine: avoid when “friend” will suffice
avoid: I had lunch with a friend of mine.
preferable: I had lunch with a friend.

got, get: avoid; use synonyms: received, bought, became, etc.
avoid: I got home and got into the shower.
preferable: I arrived home and jumped into the shower.

grandma (also grandpa): use “grandmother” instead
avoid: My grandma visited me at home.
preferable: My grandmother visited me at home.

ground: not the same as “floor”
avoid: The room was so clean that I could eat off the ground.
preferable: The room was so clean that I could eat off the floor.

hard: use “difficult” when appropriate
avoid: The problem was hard.
preferable: The problem was difficult.

have to have: use “need” or “must have” instead
avoid: I have to have coffee in the morning.
preferable: I need coffee in the morning.

he/she (or he or she): after the first occurrence of the pronoun, use one or the other, but not both
avoid: I talked with him/her because he/she was sad.
preferable: I talked with him/her because he was sad.

humans: use “human beings” instead
avoid: Humans are the most intelligent creatures.
preferable: Human beings are the most intelligent creatures.

it: avoid beginning sentences with “it” when the referent is to follow (the “empty it”)
avoid: It is a nice tree.
preferable: The tree is nice.

it is said: vague; avoid this phrase

last but not least: trite; “finally” is usually sufficient
avoid: And last but not least, I’d like to thank my mother.
preferable: Finally, I’d like to thank my mother.

like: avoid when “for example,” “such as,” or “as though” is appropriate
avoid: I love sports like basketball and football.
preferable: I love sports such as basketball and football.

little, few: these are not interchangeable
avoid: She had only a little coins.
preferable: She had only a few coins.

mad: don’t confuse “mad” with “angry”; remember that mad means insane
avoid: I was so mad that I could scream.
preferable: I was so angry that I could scream.

mom: use “mother” instead
avoid: Mom drove the car.
preferable: My mother drove the car.

more happy: “happier” is preferable
avoid: She was more happy when she won the money.
preferable: She was happier when she won the money.

my: avoid the overuse of “my” when a neutral word (such as “the”) will suffice
avoid: I started my car and pulled out of my garage.
preferable: I started the car and pulled out of the garage.

myself: don’t use in place of “me”
avoid: If that is for myself, thank you.
preferable: If that is for me, thank you.

now: a possible time frame problem
avoid: I arrived on time. Now I felt relieved.
preferable: I arrived on time. I felt relieved.

often times: don’t use these in tandem; instead, use either “often” or “at times”
avoid: I am often times late for class.
preferable: I am often late for class.

on the one hand/on the other hand: be sure to use them in tandem
avoid: I’m happy. On the other hand, I’m sad.
preferable: On the one hand, I’m happy. On the other, I’m sad.

one: use “a” when appropriate
avoid: I would prefer one doughnut.
preferable: I would prefer a doughnut.

one time: use “once” instead, when possible
avoid: I went to Disneyland one time.
preferable: I went to Disneyland once.

onomatopoeia: avoid the transcription of sounds such as “ring” for the telephone or “plop” for a drip
avoid: The police officer pounded on the door, “Bang! Bang!”
preferable: The police officer pounded on the door.

opinion: see for me

over and over (also closer and closer, more and more, faster and faster, darker and darker, around and around, on and on): Once is enough.
avoid: I told her over and over that he is innocent.
preferable: I said repeatedly that he is innocent.
avoid: The night grew darker and darker.
preferable: The night grew increasingly darker.

plus: use “furthermore” if possible
avoid: I was tired; plus, I was hungry.
preferable: I was tired; furthermore, I was hungry.

pop, pa: use “father” instead

pondered over (also pondered on): omit “over” or “on”; “pondered” is sufficient
avoid: I pondered over her failure.
preferable: I pondered her failure.

prejudism: no such word; use “prejudice” instead
avoid: The case was clearly one of prejudism.
preferable: The case was clearly one of prejudice.

real: Don’t use when you mean “really”
avoid: The exam was real hard.
preferable: The exam was really hard.

reason why is because: Redundant. To avoid this problem, don’t begin a sentence with “The reason . . .”
avoid: The reason why I won is because I persisted.
preferable: I won because I persisted.

rhetorical question (RQ): avoid when a statement is more effective
avoid: Should we allow the terrorists to go free?
Preferable: We should not allow the terrorists to go free.

right hand side: Omit “hand” and/or “side” when “right” is sufficient
avoid: The house is on the right hand side.
preferable: The house is on the right.

scared: not the same as “afraid”
avoid: I was scared to enter the room.
preferable: I was afraid to enter the room.

schiz: avoid separating your self from a part of you
avoid: My mind began to think of all the possibilities.
preferable: I began to think of all the possibilities.

secondly: wordy; omit the “ly”; use “second” instead
avoid: Secondly, we should plan our next move.
preferable: Second, we should plan our next move.

society today, also in our society today: wordy; use today instead
avoid: In our society today, people are struggling to make ends meet.
preferable: Today, people are struggling to make ends meet.

started to: (also began to, tried to) avoid when the idea of starting isn’t critical
avoid: I started to walk down the aisle.
preferable: I walked down the aisle.

suppose to: Use “supposed to” instead
avoid: I was suppose to meet her at noon.
preferable: I was supposed to meet her at noon.

tried to: see began to

should of: Often a mistake for “should have” or “should’ve”
avoid: We should of won the game.
preferable: We should have won the game.

sis: use “sister” instead

slowed down (also sit down): omit “down” if possible
avoid: The train slowed down before the crossing.
preferable: The train slowed before the crossing.

so: don’t use in place of “thus” or “therefore”
avoid: I was tired, so I went to bed.
preferable: I was tired; thus, I went to bed.
avoid: The campus was so nice.
preferable: The campus was very nice.

some more: omit “some” when not necessary
avoid: Buy some more.
preferable: Buy more.

something: see thing

started to (also began to, tried to): avoid when the simple past tense will do
avoid: I started to dress.
preferable: I dressed.

still yet but: redundant; avoid in combinations of two or more
avoid: I studied, still yet I failed.
preferable: I studied, yet I failed.

suddenly (also all of a sudden): avoid overuse as a device to dramatize a narrative
avoid: Suddenly, she turned to me and smiled.
preferable: She turned to me and smiled.

suppose to: use “supposed to” instead
avoid: He was suppose to arrive early.
preferable: He was supposed to arrive early.

t-shirt: use an upper-case “T” for T-shirt
avoid: He wore a t-shirt to work.
preferable: He wore a T-shirt to work.

talked to (also spoke to): use “talked with” when referring to a conversation
avoid: John talked to Mary.
preferable: John talked with Mary.

that: use with restrictive clauses; do not set off with commas; don’t use in place of “which”
avoid: The house, that is on the corner, is haunted.
preferable: The house that is on the corner is haunted.

then: avoid overusing as a transition in narratives
avoid: Then we knocked. Then we entered.
preferable: We knocked and entered.

there: avoid beginning sentences with “there” when the referent is to follow (the “Empty There”); also, don’t confuse with “they’re” or “their”
avoid: There were four students in the room.
preferable: Four students were in the room.
avoid: Their nice people.
preferable: They’re nice people.

they say: (also it is said) avoid vague references
avoid: They say that Bill is a liar.
preferable: John and Mary say that Bill is a liar.

thing: (also something) don’t use in place of a more substantial word
avoid: The thing is that I’m bored.
preferable: The reason is that I’m bored.

thirdly: see secondly

till: use “until” instead, or “’til” in a quote
avoid: Wait till midnight.
preferable: Wait until midnight.

told her/told him/told me: use “said” or “asked” instead
avoid: I told her to wait.
preferable: I asked her to wait.

tone of voice: often “voice” is sufficient
avoid: Her tone of voice was mellow.
preferable: Her voice was mellow.

towards: “toward” without the “s” is preferable (“towards” is usually British)
avoid: He walked towards the barn.
preferable: He walked toward the barn.

tried to (also started to, began to): Avoid when the simple past tense will do
avoid: I tried to walk down the aisle.
preferable: I walked down the aisle.

two times: use “twice” if possible
avoid: I called her two times.
preferable: I called her twice.

very unique: “very” in this case is meaningless since “unique” means one of a kind
avoid: She had a very unique voice.
preferable: She had a unique voice.

very very: once is enough
avoid: He had a very very nice car.
preferable: He had a very nice car.

which: use with non-restrictive clauses; set off with commas
avoid: The house which is haunted is famous.
preferable: The house, which is haunted, is famous.

worse/worst: distinguish between the two
avoid: He is the worse general in the army.
preferable: He is the worst general in the army.
avoid: His voice is worst than mine.
preferable: His voice is worse than mine.

would: if possible, avoid the would-trap: structures that require the awkward, frequent repetition of “would”
avoid: I would sit, and I would watch.
preferable: I sat, and I watched.

years of age: often “of age” can be omitted; “old” in “years old” can also be omitted
avoid: John is eighteen years of age.
preferable: John is eighteen.

you: avoid 2nd-person “you” and “your” constructs; instead, use 1st-person “I”; see “9″ point-of-view error
avoid: You see the sun rising over the mountain.
preferable: I see the sun rising over the mountain.

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