Ten Common Problems in Our First Draft

Updated 1/30/19  6:57 PM

Avoid these ten problems and take your writing to a whole new level. In your own drafts and in your evaluations of classmates’ RDs, keep an eye out for these issues.

1. Assignment label error. Review Drafts (RDs) are numbered 1-4, and the number refers to the order of the papers. We’re writing five papers this semester, but only the first four require an RD. The label “RD3” refers to the review draft written for our third paper. Final Drafts (FDs) are numbered 1-5. The label “FD4” refers to the final draft written for our fourth paper. Your classmates and I rely on you to use the correct label on your drafts. We don’t want to waste our time reviewing the wrong draft or searching for the correct draft. At the end of the semester, your blog should contain a minimum of four RDs and five FDs, each numbered correctly. See http://tinyurl.com/lld949t/#4

2. Thesis: (A) Labeling more than one sentence as the thesis. The thesis should be one sentence in length. (B) Failure to bracket the thesis: [THESIS] This is the thesis sentence.[THESIS] (C) Thesis is too broad. For more on thesis sentences, go to http://tinyurl.com/og2st9q

3. Case error in the title or your essay and in the titles of your sources. In general, capitalize all words in the title of your essay and titles of publications and documents, except a, an, the, at, by, for, in, of, on, to, up, and, as, but, or, and nor. Generally, these parts of speech are capitalized in titles: nouns (man, bus, book), adjectives (angry, lovely, small), verbs (run, eat, sleep), adverbs (slowly, quickly, quietly), pronouns (he, she, it), and subordinating conjunctions (as, because, that). Do not capitalize — unless they are the first or last words in a title — articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor, etc.), or prepositions fewer than five letters in length (on, at, to, from, by, etc.). For more on case error, go to http://tinyurl.com/l2d5296

4. Run-ons and Fragments:

  • Run-on sentence. A run-on is not necessarily a long sentence. For example, I sat and I rested. is a run-on. I sat I rested. and I sat, I rested. are also run-ons. A run-on occurs when two sentences (independent clauses) are incorrectly joined. To correct the problem, add a comma before the conjunction (I sat, and I rested.), add a period and omit the conjunction (I sat. I rested.), or convert the sentence to a single independent clause (I sat and rested.). For more on run-on errors, go to http://tinyurl.com/m7hmxf7
  • Fragment error. A sentence is fragmented when it is missing a subject or a predicate, for example, The student in the blue shirt. or Which is on the corner, next to the store. As you can see, the thought is incomplete. Corrections: The student in the blue shirt fell asleep. and I’ll meet you at the house, which is on the corner, next to the store. Keep in mind that, in English, a sentence is a complete thought, and a complete thought requires a subject and a predicate. For more on sentence fragments, go to http://tinyurl.com/nyn7mfv

5. Tense shift: (A) Within a sentence: I walked into the room and sit on the couch. (B) Between two sentences: I walk into the room. I was sitting on the couch. (C) Within or between paragraphs. For more on tense shift, go to http://tinyurl.com/mbqjl6r

6. Pronoun agreement: Error: The player sat on the bench and listened to their coach. Correction: The player sat on the bench and listened to her coach. For more on pronoun agreement, go to http://tinyurl.com/ngsnyu5

7. Which/that error: Failure to set off nonrestrictive clauses with commas, especially those beginning with which. Error: The house which is on the corner is for sale. Correction: The house, which is on the corner, is for sale. Clauses that begin with that are restrictive, so they don’t require commas, for example, The house that is on the corner is for sale. For more on that and which, go to http://tinyurl.com/nft8ygz

8. Punctuation errors: (A) Comma — https://tinyurl.com/y92hn59q  (B) Semicolonhttps://tinyurl.com/yc38748n (C) Possessive apostrophe — https://tinyurl.com/y9wna5wz

9. Date errors: Error: September 24th. Correction: September 24 or 24th of September. Error: 1970’s, Correction: 1970s. Error: 70’s. Correction: ’70s.

10. Style Errors:

  • Overuse of filler words such as thing or something. Filler words provide little if any information, so they should be avoided in favor of words that provide more information. Error: I found the thing and knew something had to be done. Correction: I found the carburetor  and knew we had to fix it.
  • Overuse of get and got. Error: I get a lot of email. Correction: I receive a lot of email. Error: I got home early. Correction: I arrived home early.
  • Beginning sentences with the empty it or empty there. Error: It was a beautiful flower. Correction: The flower was beautiful. To confirm that you’ve read this list of problems, email me at jamess@hawaii.edu by the deadline for submitting the FD1. The subject header must include the word “problems.” This test is for our first paper only. Error: There were three students in the library. Correction: Three students were in the library.
  • Overused phrases such as In today’s society, homelessness is a major problem or In our society today, homelessness is a major problem. Correction: Today, homelessness is a major problem.
  • For more on style errors, go to http://tinyurl.com/opozcxj
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