7 Deadly Sins of Student Writers

One simply cannot ignore the language component of GP; this dormant weakness will always rear its ugly head in one’s writing (especially under exam conditions). Making mistakes in writing is a perfectly normal act  (i.e. due to social-cultural background, carelessness or other influences) but what a good student, regardless of ability, should do is to recognize his or her mistakes and attempt to slowly rectify them through practice.

To help all of you to be a little more conscious of the biggest kinds of mistakes evidenced in your writing, I highly suggest you read this article and draft out some Chinese New Year resolutions on how to improve your writing. Here’s an excerpt of the most irritating mistake by far:

Gratuitous commas. Let me count the ways. Students seem to reach for a comma whenever they feel any anxiety about a sentence’s syntax, when they find themselves using an unfamiliar word, or when they take a breath: “Approximately, fifteen percent of the class are minority group members.” “Smith described the concert as, ‘a blast.’” “He shares a house with three, senior, pre-med students.” “Class president, Joe Rockwell, presented the award.” All the commas in those sentences need to go. A fairly new but very powerful trend is the insertion of a comma after “And,” “But,” or “Yet” when one of those is the first word in the sentence: “But, the president presented a different viewpoint.”

Fifteen years ago, at the start of my full-time teaching career, I was most struck by the error of the comma splice —that is, the linking of clauses with a comma instead of a period, semicolon, or conjunction. For example: “He was not always this extreme, in fact he started out as a moderate.” These are going stronger than ever; consistently, about a quarter of my students are habitual comma-splicers. Currently quite popular is the incorrect use of “however” as a conjunction roughly synonymous with “but”: “The majority of students go away on spring break, however some stay at home.”

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