Common Writing Mistakes.

Common Writing Mistakes.
Generally speaking, please read this.

This is the FB status of my friend who works for the US State Department. Practice correct grammar now so that your cover letter and resume/CV do not end up in the trash bin.

1. Comma usage: You don’t need a comma before a conjunction (and, but, or, so, etc.) unless the words that follow form a complete sentence by themselves, meaning they contain both a subject and verb. I would use a comma in a sentence like, “I like to listen to music in the car, but I prefer to listen to music in my room.” I would not use a comma in a sentence like, “I like to music in my room but not in the car.”

You also do not need commas if your sentence starts with a single prepositional phrase. Technically, if your sentence starts with “In my opinion…,” you don’t need a comma after “opinion.” Please use commas if your sentence has two or more prepositional phrases (e.g., “On the night of the Yule Ball, Hermione and Viktor Krum…”).

For further tips, see this: (PS – If you don’t know what a conjunction is, please watch this:

2. Semicolons: These are not glorified commas. I will take off points for every instance of incorrect semicolon use. See the three uses here:

3. I have allergic reactions to fragments. Please read your sentence carefully, and make sure that it has a main clause with a subject and a verb. Two conditional clauses does not a sentence make.

4. While we’re discussing sentence structure, let’s also mention run-on sentences. These and fragments will find their way into your writing more often than you think. Please see this: Also, as in the top example, note that punctuation matters. See this ( for a laugh.

5. Avoid empty modifiers like “really,” “very,” “a lot,” “a little,” “extremely,” “just,” and “pretty.” See and

6. Its ? It’s. See

7. Keep all the verb tenses the same in a single sentence. As much as possible, keep all verbs in a single paragraph in the same tense as well. Sometimes, the narrative requires you to change tense, but on the whole, avoid changing tense. See

8. Passive voice: This is where the sciences and humanities diverge in writing styles. Science papers love passive voice. Humanities papers hate it. (It’s a tricky world.) Therefore, in papers for my class (and other art, English, history, yadda, yadda, yadda papers), please avoid using verbs that use a tense of “to be” as a linking verb. I found this helpful:

9. Dangling prepositions. Note that this is a rule for writing (term) papers and other more official writing samples. People use dangling prepositions ALL THE TIME in everyday speak. However, for my peace of mind, please do not dangle those prepositions in writing for my class. See how to fix here: If you want to read an argument about how dangling prepositions are a grammatical myth, see this:

10. For my class and all your classes here at Hunter, ending punctuation goes inside of the ending quotation mark. If you move to the UK, the rules change. See here:

11. Oxford commas. Please use them.

12. Make sure your pronouns agree with your antecedents (the word to which the pronoun is referring). If you use “one” or “a person” in a clause, the correct pronoun is “his/her” rather than “their.” For example: “…where one can experience his/her life through song…” rather than “…where one can experience their life through song.” The latter feels more natural; however, it is incorrect. (N.B. the correct use of the semicolon in the last sentence)

MUSHL10100, Sections 1 and 2

Prompt: Almost every music history textbook includes a chant by Hildegard von Bingen. Yet, in our perusal of the Western music history canon, she will be one of the few (perhaps, the only) female composers whom we study. Does this strike you as problematic? Why or why not? Answer in a 150-250 word essay.

Hint: As you consider the question, take five seconds to google “women composers.”)

Reminder: This assignment is worth 50 points. Please use correct grammar and spelling and follow the paper format guidelines listed in the syllabus. Every instance of incorrect grammar or spelling will cost you 2 points. Late paper policy applies.

Checklist (please check these off before handing your assignment in):
o Format
o Is my work in Times New Roman font, size 12? (Did it print as such?)
o Did I fix the margins, so that they are all equal to 1-inch?
o Is my work double-spaced?
o Content: Did I answer all parts of the prompt question? Have I adequately thought about the answer before I wrote a response?
o Flow/Clarity: Have I read my assignment out loud?
o Fragments: Does every sentence have a subject and a verb?
o Run-ons: Do any sentences have more than 3 ideas? Have I put any commas (,) where periods (.) ought to be?
o Empty modifiers (aka adjectives and adverbs): Have I used any of the following adverbs? Have I removed them and put in other, more exciting adjectives or verbs instead? (Hint: Use “Control + F” on PC or “command + F” on Mac
o Very
o Really
o A lot
o Pretty (adverb; for example, “pretty quiet”)
o Quite
o A bit
o Extremely
o Just
o Semi-colons: Do I have any semi-colons? Have I used them correctly?
o Have I used “they’re, their, or there” or “It’s or its?” Do I know the difference? Have I used the correct form?

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