Dr. Mark Jordan ~ ENGL 1301: Composition & Rhetoric
Error Log Instructions
What follows is the section of this website which can help you deal with grammatical problems. It is no cure-all. But coupled with the use of your handbook, some hard work, and the willingness to ask me specific grammatical questions, this section can be the key to coping with even long-standing grammatical problems. It consists of three sections:
The way I prefer to teach grammar is not with tests, but by having students correct errors within the context of their writing. In general, the way this works is that I mark errors in two ways, first by placing the abbreviation for the particular error near the error itself (example: F for fragment); and second, by numbering each sentence which contains one or more major errors.
When the paper is returned, the student will complete an error log for that paper by re-writing each numbered sentence, the point being, of course, to correct all errors within it, while not introducing any new errors. This error log then receives a grade completely separate from the paper's original grade. Students are encouraged to first research their own errors and attempt to correct them on their own, but if that doesn't work I encourage students to ask me for help. I find that most errors are not the result of true ignorance of proper grammar, but instead merely due to poor attention to proofreading.
By handling grammar in this way, I hope to accomplish at least these three purposes:
As the greatest incentive of all, note that if your paper contains no major errors, that means you have just scored a 100 on your error log, without even having to do one.
Specific Error Log Steps for Electronic Corrections
Follow these steps in order to submit your error logs electronically.
Normally, I mark sentences with errors by placing the error abbreviation as close to the error as possible, in the open space between lines; and I number the sentence in the margin, right or left, wherever there's most room. In marking attached files, I can't do either of these things because I can't type into the space between lines, and I can't type in the margin. With that in mind, what I will do is place the error abbreviation within the sentence, right after the error, and the number at the end of the sentence, like this:
I went to the store ==R==it was closed. ==1==
Note how I will emphasize my marking; still, you should read carefully to avoid missing my markings.
Note also that you will find other marking within the text as well: comments on non-grammatical issues. You should be able to distinguish the two types simply because non-grammatical comments will not utilize error abbreviations or numbers. Non-grammatical comments do not have to be responded to or corrected.
So for Web students doing the corrections electronically, do this:
(1) Correct all the sentences at the end of the document, within the same file, one after another. Please SKIP A LINE BETWEEN EACH SENTENCE. Please notice that you cannot send the corrections separately from the essay, because I have no way of easily comparing your corrections with the errors. I must be able to make sure you are correcting all errors. This is a common mistake! Also, your corrections must be in the file that contains my error markings, so I can easily compare my marking to your correction.
(2) Number them just as I did, to save confusion.
(3) Do them as complete sentences. The purpose of this is so that you can deal with each error in the context in which it occurred. Give each one some thought; students often rush through their error logs and accomplish nothing, which is reflected in the grade.
(4) Give the file a new name in order to re-attach it with your corrections. Use the filename pattern EL1yourinitials, and so forth; you will in other words simply add the letter L to the pre-existing filename, so that now instead of E signifying 'essay,' EL signifies 'error log.' For example, if you are Joe Don Black, your error log for the first essay would be EL1jdb, for the second essay it would be EL2jdb, and so forth. If your system will not readily let you rename a file, you can simply copy the graded essay and paste it into a new file, then do the corrections at the bottom according to instructions, then name the new file as above. Also save the new file as RTF, just as you did the original essay file.
(5) Lastly, send the file to me as an attachment, just as you did with the original essay, but with the revised file name. Also, please include in your email message a one-sentence description of what attachment you are sending. This is simply a further safeguard against confusion.
Some additional notes: The fewer your numbered sentences, the more they count. If you have 20 numbered sentences, they count 5 points each; if ten, then 10 points each; if five, 20 points each; if 1, then it counts 100 points. Clearly, if you have only I or 2 sentences to correct, it's in your best interest to be certain they are indeed done correctly. If you aren't certain, simply ask me before you turn it in.
In the case of multiple errors in one sentence, I simply divide the worth of the sentence by the number of errors: a sentence worth 10 points with 2 errors means each error is worth 5 points.
In the case of new errors introduced in your supposedly correct rewritten sentences, they usually count as much each as a single error already counts in that sentence; in the preceding example, for instance, a new error committed in copying the sentence would probably count 5 points. Sometimes if they are not major errors, I count off less.
As a general rule, I expect to receive error logs approximately one week after the paper is returned to you with errors marked.
Major Error Abbreviations
What follows is a list of abbreviations for major errors that I mark on your papers, coupled with a brief description of each error.
F = SENTENCE FRAGMENT; an incomplete thought. Usually, something is missing (subject, verb, predicate). Example: "I to the store." Or a second type is that the fragment may begin with a connecting word (when, although, if, because, since, while, etc.) that, by its very presence, requires that the thought be connected to something else to be complete--usually the sentence before or after the fragment. Example: "When I went to the store. I had a flat."
R = RUNON; two or more complete thoughts joined together as one sentence, with no punctuation or connecting words to provide a transition between the thoughts. Example: "I studied for hours the test was too hard." These can be fixed by dividing them into separate sentences; by using a semicolon between them; or by using a comma plus a conjunction (and, but, so, etc.) You do not fix a runon by simply adding a comma.
C SPL = COMMA SPLICE; the same as a runon, but with a comma separating the two thoughts. Example: "I studied for hours, the test was too hard." A comma is simply not strong enough to separate two complete thoughts. You need a semicolon or a period, or the comma plus a conjunction. Thus, you fix a comma splice in exactly the same ways that you do a runon.
VT = VERB TENSE ERROR; where the context of the sentence indicates one tense (present, past, present perfect, etc.) while the verb itself is in another tense. Example: "Last week I run every day."
VE = VERB ENDING ERROR; actually a variety of verb tense error, the most common type where the -ed or -ing ending is left off a verb. Nine of ten involve the -ed ending. Example: "For ten years I work at Odessa College."
SV = SUBJECT/VERB AGREEMENT ERROR; basically where the verb is not singular when the subject is singular, or not plural when the subject is plural. These are easy to spot and fix when the subject is right next to the verb and is not a pronoun, but there are several common circumstances that complicate this rule.
Watch for the presence of prepositional phrases between the subject and its verb (a correct example: "One [of the windows] needs washing"); for compound subjects ("Mike and Joe work this shift"); either/or compound subjects ("Either Joe or his brothers go next" or "Either his brothers or Joe goes next"); third-person singular pronouns plus "to be" verbs, and other pronouns too (I am; you are; he is, she is, and it is. I was; you were; he was, and she was.)
UNC = UNCLEAR WORDING; my catch-all error marking. I use it when no specific other rule has been broken, yet the sentence makes no sense.
UW = UNNEEDED WORD; a type of UNC error, where I can pinpoint the loss of clarity to the presence of one or two words which simply should have been left out.
MW = MISSING WORD; simply poor proofing, where a word is missing. These may be marked also as fragments sometimes.
MA = MISSING ARTICLE; the articles are "a", "an," and "the." Like MW, these are simply poor proofing in most cases. Both MW and MA are serious errors if repeated because it makes your writing sound like babytalk--children just learning to speak regularly leave out words and articles.
DN = DOUBLE NEGATIVE; when a thought contains two "no" constructions; often used in slang, but not okay in formal English. Example: "I didn't do nothing." Should be either "I did nothing" or "I didn't do anything."
WP = WRONG PREPOSITION; words such as "to, for across, over, under, of, from"; etc. Sometimes they are interchangeable but more often not. The classic example is the difference between these two sentences: "I want to do something FOR you" and "I want to do something TO you.
W PRO = WRONG PRONOUN; most often, this error occurs as in this example: "Me and Joe both joined the team." Should be "Joe and I." Catch these by reading aloud while leaving out the non-pronoun part of the subject. Few people would write "Me joined the team." "Me and Joe" is just as wrong.
SC = SEMICOLON ERROR; sort of the opposite of a comma splice, in that the punctuation is too strong. You need a comma, or nothing at all. This error usually occurs between a complete thought and an incomplete thought. Example: "After the game; we went to a party." The semicolon should be a comma. "After the game" is an incomplete thought, whereas semicolons can only divide two complete thoughts, either of which could stand alone as a sentence.
C = COLON ERROR; normally this occurs just before a list of some sort. The rule is fairly simple. If your words preceding the listed items, by themselves, would form a complete sentence (without the list, in another words), then a colon is appropriate. If the list of items is needed (as a direct object, usually) to complete the thought, then normally no colon and in fact no punctuation at all is needed. Example of when to use a colon before a list: "There are three reasons why I hold this opinion: __________, _____________, and ____________." Example of when not to use a colon before a list: "Three reasons why I hold this opinion are ____________, __________, and ______________." Another way to think of this rule is that you normally do not use a colon following a verb.
NP = NEEDS TO BE PLURAL; where the context shows the need for a plural word; Example: "All the child went out for recess. "Child" need to be its plural, "children."
NS = NEEDS TO BE SINGULAR; simply the opposite of NP.
POSS = POSSESSIVE ERROR; where you need an apostrophe and an "s" to show possession: not "Mark class" but "Mark's class." If only the apostrophe is missing, that's just a minor error: "Marks class." I'll correct it, but I won't number the sentence because of it.
NO POSS = NO POSSESSIVE; where you are using an apostrophe to make a plural. This is incorrect, because is actually marks it as a possessive: "All the parking space's were taken." YOU SHOULD ALMOST NEVER USE AN APOSTROPHE TO MAKE A PLURAL. YOU SIMPLY ADD AN "S" OR "ES" unless the noun is irregular, like "men" or "children." This is one of my pet peeves, folks; be forewarned.
PR = PRONOUN REFERENCE; usually occurs when you are telling about an incident, as in a specific example, and the incident involves several people of the same gender. Constant pronoun usage results in confusion as to who did what to whom. Intersperse your pronouns with enough proper names or descriptive nouns ("my cousin") to let readers tell who's who.
WW = WRONG WORD ERROR; these are homonyms, words which sound like other words with different meanings. They are often confused with spelling errors, and indeed are sometimes caused by an inadvertent spelling error, but are more serious--and uncatchable with a spellchecker, because the word is correctly spelled; it's just not the correct word. These are very common errors among inexperienced writers, and another of my pet peeves; again, be forewarned. Here are some common sets of WWs:
Good proofreading techniques are simple to outline, as you will see below--but hard to practice. That's because most students are simply not used to applying the level of focused attention that good, meticulous proofreading calls for. What tends to happen is that students merely skim over a document and feel that they have "proofed" it, when in fact they've done nothing remotely resembling proofreading.
So use these techniques, but remember that if you use them halfheartedly, they won't help.
The same principle holds in proofing. By going from last sentence to first sentence, you are forcing yourself to deal with ONE SENTENCE AT A TIME, which is exactly what you must learn to do. (Of course, you don't read the sentence itself backwards; you read each sentence normally, but just start with the last sentence first, then the next-to-last, and so forth.)
Once you have proofed your essay systematically for this particular error, then you should go back through each sentence for your next most common error, for instance, subject/verb agreement <errors; then do it again for the third, and so forth.
Clearly, this is a very time-consuming way to proofread. But if you have a history of losing battles with formal English grammar, I'm afraid there is simply no shortcut. And the good news is that it does get easier. Gradually you learn to catch more than one error at a proofing, and even more gradually you learn to compose with fewer errors to begin with.
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