The Editing Bad Boy List
1. A lot – This phrase is too vague; only use it in dialogue. Also, most of us spell it wrong (as one word), and spell
checker replaces it with “allot,” a verb with a completely different meaning.
(The Student Council will allot a lot of funds to the two most popular clubs.)
2. It’s = contraction for “it is” Its = possessive form of the pronoun “it” (It’s too bad the dog lost its collar.)
(It’s very important for a book to involve its readers.)
3. Their = belonging to them There = place (preposition) They’re = contraction for “they are”
(They’re supposed to put their bags over there.)
4. Too = also or more than needed Two = number between 1 & 3 To = direction or part of infinitive
(Two hundred dollars is too much to pay for that guitar.)
5. Should of, Would of, Could of—all incorrect. Replace the “of” with “have.” This is a confusion with the
sound of the contractions “should’ve,” “would’ve,” and “could’ve.”
(I would have done my homework if my parents could have told me I should have.)
6. “Suppose to” is incorrect. It is supposed to be “supposed to.” Same goes for “use to” vs. “used to.”
(You’re supposed to use the same password you used to.)
7. “Cuz” is non-standard version of cousin or because; use it only in dialogue.
Cause is a noun meaning catalyst; it is not short for because, a conjunction that explains why. If, for the sake of style,
you want to abbreviate because, you should spell it ‘cause.
(Because the police carefully investigated, speeding was found to be the cause of the accident.)
8. Then = time sequence. (I ate too much, then I burped.) Than = comparison. (Myron is smarter than Cletus.)
9. Your = belonging to you. You’re = contraction for “you are.” (You’re finding your true self.)
NOTE: U is a letter, not a word! Always spell out the word you, you!
10. “Suddenly” and “all of a sudden”—use these transitions sparingly. There are only so many “all of a sudden” moments in anyone’s life (unless you’re making a bad movie). And “all of the sudden” is just plain wrong!
(Unexpectedly, a cow landed on Jethro.)
11. Our = belonging to us. (Our team is undefeated.) Are = plural form of is.
(Our sisters, Sally and Edna, are always late.)
12. Affect = verb meaning to influence. Effect = noun meaning result of an action.
(Eating breakfast affects student performance leading to positive academic effects.)
13. Who’s = contraction for “who is.” Whose = belonging to whom. (Who’s going to figure out whose disk this is?)
14. Saw versus seen: I saw, I have seen—do not mix these up. Seen is only used with a helping verb.
(I saw a documentary about people who have seen flying cows.)
15. Gone versus went: I went, I had gone—do not mix these up. Gone follows a helping verb; went does not.
(I went home only after everyone else had gone.)
16. In fact, avoid using went, get or got at all! They are weak verbs; replace these and other weak verbs with more active and accurate alternatives.
17. Whether sets up cause & effect or conditional statements. Weather tells what it’s like outside.
(The weather report will determine whether I will wear pants today.)
18. Use apostrophes only to show possession (Clifford’s collar) or contraction (Clifford’s a big, red dog).
NEVER, EVER, EVER use apostrophes to form plurals. It is sofas, not sofa’s.
19. Through = preposition (Cletus carelessly drove his pickup through the meticulously planted cornfield.)
Threw = past tense of verb throw (With deadly accuracy, Maud threw a rolling pin at her slovenly husband.)
20. Were = plural form of linking verb was; past tense of are (Jeb and Moby were the last ones in there.)
Where = preposition (If I knew where I left it then it wouldn’t be lost.)
Wear = action verb (You should never wear bowling shoes to a job interview.)
We’re = contraction of pronoun we are (We’re late because the lunch lady made us clean up our linguini mural.)
21. Since = reflects passage of time (I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast.)
Sense = perception, feeling (The five senses are sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.) (He has a great
sense of humor.)
22. Lead = guide, direct. This is the present tense of the verb. (He leads the basketball team with the most points
per game). There is a noun spelled the same way - Lead is also a heavy metal. (That band will go over like a lead zeppelin).
Led = past tense of this verb ( The horses were led back into the stable.)
23. Accept = verb meaning to agree or to take
(Will Billy Bob accept Emma Mae’s nomination of him for president of the Society of Silly Walks?)
Except = preposition meaning not including (Millie misspelled every word except her name.)
24. Feel = perceive through senses or believe/think. The past tense is felt. (I feel this is a good day to feel my face.)
Fell = past tense of fall or to knock over something. (The lumberjack fell an oak, which fell on my date.)
25. Now = at the present time. (I want my headcheese and tripe pizza delivered now!)
New = not used before or unfamiliar. (Breathing through his nose is a new experience.)
Know = to understand/ be familiar with. The past tense is knew. (I know Sam knew not to put beans in his ears.)
26. I = first person pronoun used as subject of verb (doer of action) – usually in beginning of sentence
(I told Jeb, “Daisy and I are going to the square dance together.”)
Me = first person pronoun used as object of verb or preposition (receiver of action) – usually at end of sentence
(Jeb told me , “Just between you and me, Daisy has two left flippers.”)
Myself = first person reflexive pronoun used as object of I only – usually in middle of sentence or directly after I
(I, myself, decided to go anyway because I have never before gotten myself a date.)
27. Definitely = adverb meaning certain or positive. (I am definitely up the creek without a paddle.)
Defiantly = adverb meaning openly resisting. (Lydia scowled defiantly as her mother criticized her clothes.)
28. Barely = adverb meaning only just enough. (Vernon barely avoided the stalled honey dipper.)
Barley = a type of grain. (Lenny tossed around hundred-pound barley sacks like they were beanbags.)
29. Which = pronoun or adjective meaning what one or ones.
Witch = noun meaning warty woman wielding a broomstick.
(Which students knew the characters were not really witches?)
30. Loose = adjective meaning not tight. Lose = verb meaning to suffer loss.
(The loose lug nuts caused me to lose control of my car.)
31. Lie = to recline
Lay = to put in place; to deposit
These are two distinct verbs. Do not confuse the forms of these verbs. Lie is always an intransitive verb. That means that it never takes a direct object (you do not do this to something, rather it is something that the subject of the sentence does). – “You shouldn’t lie in the grass on top of an ant hill.” “We lie in the sun on the beach every day.”
Lay is transitive - it always requires a direct object (something that the action is being done to). – “Lay the pistol down, and step away.” “Lay your pencils down when you are finished.”
NOTE: One area of confusion is this - the past tense of lie is lay. (Yesterday I was tired after school, so I lay [past tense of lie] on the couch and took a nap.) The past tense of lay (the verb that means to put in place) is laid. (I laid [past tense of lay] the paper on the desk.)
32. Set = to place something
Sit = to be seated
As with lay and lie, one of these usually requires a direct object (something the action is done to) and one usually refers to something that the subject does.
set = usually done to something “I set the book on the counter.” “Set the tapes on the stereo.”
sit = usually the subject does this “I sit in my tree-house a lot.” “To catch a glimpse of a shooting star, we sit for hours under the night sky.” “He sits on the chair.”
NOTE: The past tense of sit is sat
The past tense of set is set
33. Advice = noun meaning guidance you give or receive.
Advise = verb meaning the act of giving guidance or advice to another.
(On Sunday, thousands of fans will advise Trent Edwards to throw downfield, but he will ignore their advice,
choosing instead to check down to his tight end at the line of scrimmage.)
34. Verb Consistency
Tense —general rule: keep everything in the same tense. Stories are written in the past tense when you are writing about something that already happened. (I was minding my own business when this really creepy guy slithered by.)
Number – Verb must agree with its subject.
Singular subjects need singular verbs. (Joe was jumping.)
Plural subject need plural verbs. (Sam and Ollie were snoring.)
35. Subordinate clauses = sentence fragments. A subordinate clause is structured like a sentence, but it begins with a word
or phrase that makes the sentence unable to stand alone. (If he is elected president.) If you see a sentence like this in your paper, try to connect it, with a comma, to another sentence nearby. (If he is elected president, he promises to cut taxes.) If you cannot do this, then you may need to rewrite the sentence. Sentence fragments are unacceptable in your paper!
The following words commonly introduce subordinate clauses:
after how that which
although if though while
as in order that unless who
as if rather than until whom
because since when whose
before so that where why
even though than whether