Bristol Community College

Bristol Community College
http://bristolcc.edu/

Editing Skills

Some common editing errors:

Commas

Why should you use a comma?

  • to set off introductory words
    1. For instance, low fat frozen yogurt can have as many calories as ice cream.
    2. Yesterday, my car got stuck in the middle of President Ave.
    3. After hours of procrastination, I began my essay.
    4. While Ross and Rachel were chatting, Monica drank her coffee.
  • to separate three or more words, phrases or clauses used in a series
    1. I need two notebooks, three textbooks and a computer disk for the fall semester.
    2. In the house, on the kitchen table, behind the centerpiece, you will find my car keys.
    3. Have you ever had a day when you woke up late, you got caught in the rain, and you missed the bus?
  • to separate two independent clauses that have a connecting word between them (fix a run-on)
    1. I am late for class, and I have not finished my homework.
  • to separate descriptive phrases that interrupt the flow of the sentence
    1. Kelley, a hard-working and dedicated student, always completes her assignments.
    2. Thursday night, when I would rather be home watching Friends, I have to take an exam.
  • to separate transitional words and phrases from the rest of the sentence
    1. When the semester was over, however, those students were proud of their accomplishments.
    2. Meanwhile, Megan worked diligently on her essay.
  • to separate the day and the month from the year.              
    1. September 7, 1999 will be the first day of the fall semester at BCC.
  • to separate the street address and the name of the city and to separate the name of the city from the name of the state
    1. BCC is located at 777 Elsbree St., Fall River, MA, 02720.
  • to set off dialogue or a direct quotation
    1. “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence,” claimed a famous poet.
    2. Mom always said, “Don’t play ball in the house.”
    3. “Ah ha,” she interjected, “the comma sets off what the person is saying.”
    4. Comma Splices

Comma splices are sentence errors in which 2 or more sentences are not separated by appropriate punctuation, like a period, question mark, semi-colon, or exclamation point, but rather, by a comma.

The most common way to correct a comma splice is to change the comma to a period (or the appropriate punctuation mark) and capitalize the first word of the second sentence.

Comma Splice Error:
After I took the exam, I jumped for joy, then I registered for my classes.

Correct Sentences:
After I took the exam, I jumped for joy. Then I registered for my classes.

Another way to correct comma splices is to add a coordinating conjunction after the comma.

Here is a list of coordinating conjunctions:

For
And
Nor
But
Or
Yet
So

Fragments

A fragment is a group of words that is posing as a sentence, but is not a complete sentence. Fragments are typically sentence errors. They will often begin with a capital letter and end with a period but will not satisfy the requirements of a complete sentence. A complete sentence must have a subject and a verb and consist of an independent clause. An independent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a predicate, and can stand alone.

Some fragments have a subject, but no predicate:

My mother’s birthday, February 28th.

Some fragments have a predicate, but no subject:

Running to catch the bus.

Some fragments lack both a subject and a predicate:

During our last class.

Some fragments are not independent clauses:

After I took the exam.

Some words that can signal this type of fragment include:

The most common way to correct a sentence fragment is to attach it to the sentence that comes before or after it.

Fragment:

After I took the exam. I jumped for joy.

Correct Sentence:

After I took the exam, I jumped for joy.

Homonyms

Homonyms are words that sound the same, but have different meaning and are spelled differently. 

Here are some homonyms that are commonly confused:

accept to receive   affect to influence
except excluding   effect result
         
it’s contraction for it is   dessert sweet course of a meal
its belonging to it   desert to abandon
         
you’re contraction for you are   course class; path; policy
your belonging to you   coarse rough; inferior
         
brake something that is stops movement   hole hollow place
break to split or smash   whole entire
         
whether indicating a choice of options   then adverb of time
weather state of the atmosphere   than used to compare
         
principal authority figure   whose belonging to whom
principle a general truth   who’s contraction for who is
         
cite to quote   their belonging to them
site location   they’re contraction for they are
sight vision   there that place or position
         
pare to trim   too also; very
pair set of two   to toward
pear a fruit   two  the number (2)

Run-on (Fused) Sentences

Run-ons are sentence errors in which 2 or more sentences are not separated by appropriate punctuation, like a period, question mark, semi-colon, or exclamation point.

The most common way to correct a run-on sentence is to separate the sentences with a period (or the appropriate punctuation mark).

Run-on Sentence Error:
After I took the exam, I jumped for joy then I registered for classes.

Correct Sentences:
After I took the exam, I jumped for joy. Then I registered for my classes.

Editing Practice
Print this page and edit the following paragraphs for fragments (3), run-ons (3), comma splices (4), and homonyms (3). When you think you’ve corrected them all, go to the action menu above and click “next.” Compare your version to the corrected version. (Remember, there is more than one way to edit for some of these issues, so don’t assume that your choice is wrong if it is different.)

Hey, do you want to make a difference in your community? Why not try volunteer work? It gives you the opportunity to make a change for the better. Not only in someone else’s life, but also in you're own. If you’re saying to yourself, “Well, I don’t have any time, I won’t get paid for it,” that’s nonsense. Actually, it doesn’t take that much time, believe me, cash is not the only reward out there.

The first time I volunteered was when I was in third grade at John J. Doran Elementary School the principal announced that there was going to be a huge clothing drive for the needy people in the community. My mom heard about this, she insisted the whole family clean out there closets and donate as many clothes as possible. I gave away a black and fuscia colored shirt. At the time, I thought, “Yeah, right, who would even think about wearing this ugly shirt with a funny looking kitten on it.” I gladly donated it. My mom and I went to the school and helped out with organizing this successful event. The next day when I went to school. I noticed a girl with a bright smile on her face. She was wearing a black and fuscia colored shirt with a funny looking kitten on it. It was then that I realized, “Wow!” It doesn’t take much work or sacrifice to make a difference.”

Another volunteer experience I will never forget was at St. Anne’s Hospital. I was a junior volunteer for too years doing simple tasks such as making beds, picking up trays and changing the patients’ water. There was one patient that truly had an impact on me. The other girls and I would try to avoid going into her room because he odor made our stomachs turn. It was the Saturday before Christmas I couldn’t wait to go home and finish wrapping up the rest of my Christmas gifts. As I held my breath while walking by the room, I heard her call out, “Miss, miss, can you come in here please?” I could have gone home and let the nurse worry about her, but a little voice inside me said, “Liz, where’s your Christmas spirit?” When I entered her room. She had a huge smile on her face, all I had to do was sit there and listen to her talk about how much she loves Christmas trees and how she wished she was home decorating her own tree. I enjoyed taking a few minutes out of my” busy” schedule to listen to her she felt better and that made me feel better.

The passage above was adapted from an essay by Elizabeth Soares.

Editing Practice (Corrected Version)

The fragments (3) have been corrected in green, run-ons (3) in purple, comma splices (4) in blue, and homonyms (3) in red.

Hey, do you want to make a difference in your community? Why not try volunteer work? It gives you the opportunity to make a change for the better, not only in someone else’s life, but also in your own. If you’re saying to yourself, “Well, I don’t have any time. I won’t get paid for it,” that’s nonsense. Actually, it doesn’t take that much time. Believe me, cash is not the only reward out there.

The first time I volunteered was when I was in third grade at John J. Doran Elementary School. The principal announced that there was going to be a huge clothing drive for the needy people in the community. My mom heard about this. She insisted the whole family clean out their closets and donate as many clothes as possible. I gave away a black and fuscia colored shirt. At the time, I thought, “Yeah, right, who would even think about wearing this ugly shirt with a funny looking kitten on it.” I gladly donated it. My mom and I went to the school and helped out with organizing this successful event. The next day when I went to school, I noticed a girl with a bright smile on her face. She was wearing a black and fuscia colored shirt with a funny looking kitten on it. It was then that I realized, “Wow!” It doesn’t take much work or sacrifice to make a difference.”

Another volunteer experience I will never forget was at St. Anne’s Hospital. I was a junior volunteer for two years doing simple tasks such as making beds, picking up trays and changing the patients’ water. There was one patient that truly had an impact on me.  The other girls and I would try to avoid going into her room because he odor made our stomachs turn. It was the Saturday before Christmas . I couldn’t wait to go home and finish wrapping up the rest of my Christmas gifts. As I held my breath while walking by the room, I heard her call out, “Miss, miss, can you come in here please?” I could have gone home and let the nurse worry about her, but a little voice inside me said, “Liz, where’s your Christmas spirit?” When I entered her room, she had a huge smile on her face. All I had to do was sit there and listen to her talk about how much she loves Christmas trees and how she wished she was home decorating her own tree. I enjoyed taking a few minutes out of my” busy” schedule to listen to her. She felt better and that made me feel better.