San Jose City College
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A Writing and Grammar Guide for Error Correction

Error Type Code Brief Explanations Lessons

Rhetorical Problems: Thesis, Topic Sentence, and Coherence

Focus FOC The topic sentence is too broad or too limited.

The thesis lacks focus or does not clearly suggest how the essay will be developed. Or the details of a body paragraph are irrelevant to the topic sentence. The support is unconvincing and unfocused.

The subject (topic) or the controlling idea is too general or lacks focus. In other words, the sentence is vague.

People need exercise.
Narrow your topic by asking which people - school children? the elderly?
Then ask why they need exercise.

School children need exercise to maintain good health.
Then you can explain how exercise contributes to children's health.

PS The subtopics or angles of the thesis are not parallel in form.
CI The controlling idea of a paragraph is neither clearly stated nor strongly implied.
The controlling idea does just what it says it does: it controls the development of the paragraph. It is the main point or main idea the writer wishes to explain about the subject of the paragraph. When clearly stated, it lets the reader know what the writer wants to show or prove about the subject (topic) of the paragraph.
Coherence COH
or ??
Connections between sentences or paragraphs are unclear or illogical, or the sentences as written don't make sense.
Topic Top? The essay does not address the topic in the essay prompt or in the assignment. Read the prompt carefully for key words and phrases that introduce the topic and indicate an angle of development.
An example of an essay prompt:

Climate change due to global warming presents serious risks to California. Unless the use of fossil fuels is curbed considerably, the state of California will suffer dire consequences.

In a five paragraph essay, describe the inevitable effects of global warming on the state of California and its inhabitants over the next several decades if measures aren't taken to solve this global problem.

This prompt asks the writer to discuss the effects of global warming on California over the next several decades. If, instead, the writer writes about the causes of global warming, or only about the steps we should take to prevent it, the essay will be off topic.

Most likely, the writer will gather information from three or more articles before tackling the essay. One such reading that could steer a proper response to the topic would be this report from
Problems with Sentence Boundaries and Punctuation
Fragment Frag There are two types of fragments: (1) sentences with a missing subject, verb or entire predicate (verb + rest of sentence) and (2) word strings that express incomplete thoughts, such as dependent clauses or phrases that are detached from a sentence but punctuated as a full sentence.
Run-on RO    A run-on sentence occurs when two independent clauses have no punctuation between them, making it difficult for the reader to tell where one thought ends and another begins.
Comma Splice CS    A comma splice incorrectly joins two complete sentences with only a comma, omitting a necessary coordinating conjunction (cc). A comma can never function as end-of-sentence punctuation.
Punctuation P    Punctuation errors--other than fragments, run-ons, and comma splices--include problems with commas, semicolons, colons, dashes, hyphens, apostrophes, and quotation marks.
Problems with Grammar, Syntax, and Connecting Clauses
SS Sentence structure errors include incorrect sentence order, problems with joining clauses, misplaced phrasal or clausal modifiers, omission of essential sentence elements, and use of unnecessary or confusing words and foreign-sounding syntax.
Word Form  WF Word form errors involve incorrect use of the parts of speech and include any incorrect choice of a lexical category that affects sentence grammar. This includes verbals (infinitives, participles, gerunds) when their use is the wrong grammatical choice.
Word Order  WO Errors in sentence order are classified as word order errors when they involve misplacement of adverbs, adjectives, and words in common verb and prepositional phrases.
Verb Tense  VT Tense errors occur when writers omit a tense marker (finite verb ending or auxiliary verb) or use a verb tense that does not correspond to an implied or specified time frame. The error is evident with inappropriate shifts in verb tense, a failure to shift when necessary, and inconsistency between the verb tense used and an adverbial time marker.
Verb Form VF Verb form errors involve incorrect formation of verb phrases by failing to correctly combine finite and nonfinite forms of verbs, resulting in faulty formation of modal verb phrases, passives, conditionals, and subjunctive forms. This category also includes incorrect verbal forms after causative verbs and verbs of perception, and incorrect formation of infinitives and gerunds.
Subject-Verb Agreement  SVA Subject-Verb agreement errors occur when the subject noun or pronoun does not agree in number with the verb.
Noun Endings  N Noun-ending errors include missing or unnecessary plural markers and incorrectly formed plural and possessive markers.
Problems with Lexical Choice
Word Choice  WC Word choice errors include the use of wrong words; wrong auxiliary verb, verb particle, preposition, or relative pronoun; nonspecific or imprecise words; empty phrases, unnecessary repetition, and wordiness; cliches, slang, and informal word use.
Pronoun  Pro Pronoun errors include the use of pronouns that do not agree in case, gender, or number with their noun referents; the use of a pronoun where there is no clear antecedent; failure to use a pronoun to replace a noun when necessary; and incorrect forms of relexive and reciprocal pronouns.
Art/Det Article or determiner errors include unnecessary or missing articles or determiners (demonstrative and possessive adjectives, quantifiers, etc.), use of the wrong article or determiner, or use of a determiner that does not agree in number with a noun.
Idiom  ID Errors in idiomatic language use occur when a fixed idiomatic expression is incorrectly written or when language use is very unnatural and strangely different from native-sounding discourse. This includes mistakes in collocations, words that freqently co-occur in combination like common verb phrases.
Spelling  SP Spelling errors are often tied to unfamiliarity with the phonetic system of English, with various sound-vowel combinations, with rules related to word-stress patterns, and with morphological changes to various inflected forms.
Caret and strikethrough ^ The caret signals the omission of a necessary word or phrase; the strikethrough crosses out unnecessary or incorrect words.

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