Dr. Abrahams' Writing Symbols: Print These Out for Later Use in Revising Your Papers
from Guide to Rapid Revision, Daniel D. Pearlman and Paula R. Pearlman
Symbol Full Name What it Means How to Fix It
ab Abbreviations Avoid abbreviation in formal writing such as &, gov't., U.S., U.S.A., thru, OK, MI
Exceptions: With proper names, abbreviated titles are preferred: Dr., Mr., Messrs., Ms., Mrs., Mmes., Jr., Sr., St. (Saint). Academic degrees are usually abbreviated: B.S., B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
Standard abbreviations such as a.m., p.m., A.D., B.C.E., and those of certain well-known commodities, organizations, and government agencies such as TV, VCR, EPA, FBI, NATO, NASA, are also acceptable.
 Spell out words in full: and, government, United States, United States of America, through, okay. U.S. may be used as an adjective (U.S. foreign policy), but neither U.S. or U.S.A. should be used in formal writing as a noun.
Especially avoid using etc., short for et cetera, meaning and so forth. If you want to say and so forth, write it out, but usually you'll do better to write out the specific ideas you have in mind rather than leave it to your readers to guess at what you mean.
abst Abstract Expressions Abstract words and phrases like beauty, evil, and progress have meanings that are somewhat different for each reader. You might mean economic progress, but your reader might think you mean moral progress. So explain yourself. Add a word to the abstract term to make it more specific. 
Replace the abstract term with a word or explatory passage that is more specific.
A concrete word refers to an actual object whose nature is generally known, such as tree. But you might need to make it more specific for your reader by saying what kind of tree it is (pine tree, Norway Maple).
adj Adjective Change the marked word to an adjective or change the marked adjective to the proper form.
Sometimes students place an adverb instead of an adjective after a linking verb: The peppers taste hotly. Her hair looks redly.
The most common linking verbs are all forms of to be, such as is, are, was, and the following verbs of the five senses: smell, sound, taste, look, feel. Use an adjective after these verbs.
An adjective describes (modifies) a noun or pronoun. Usually an adjective sits right next to the noun or pronoun it describes: hot peppers, red hair. Sometimes, though, the adjective is separated from the word it modifies by a verb called a linking verb: The peppers taste hot. Her hair looks red. Adjectives that come after a linking verb (in the examples above, the verbs are taste and hot), are called predicate adjectives.
adv Adverb Adverbs are words that describe (modify) verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Most adverbs are made up of adjectives with -ly endings. Adverbs limit the meanings of a word. They show how, when and where: sadly happy, died lately, far behind. 
Certain verbs like sing, dance, and write often mislead people into using an adjective instead of an adverb: He sang beautiful (should be beautifully).
Note: not all adverbs end in -ly. Some have unusual forms: well, rather, very, late, soon, seldom, often, now, later, today, tomorrow. Some prepositions double as adverbs: around, behind, up.
Change the marked word to an adverb, usually by adding -ly.
agr Agreement Subject-verb agreement: in the present tense, all verbs end the same in both the singular and plural, except the third-person singular, where an -s is added. Third person pronouns are he, she and it: He moves, she moves, it moves. Most of the time you'll be using words that can be replaced by he, she or it. 
All other pronouns agree with the verb without the -s: I sleep, you sleep, we sleep, they sleep. Plural words that can be replaced by the pronoun "they" also agre with the verb without the -s: The machines work.

Collective nouns like group, team, squad, family, crw, committee, couple--are singular nouns that stand for a collection of individuals. Normally they take a singualr verb.

Pronoun -antecedent agreement. When the antecedent (the word thata a pronoun refers to) is singular, use a singlular pronoun; when it is plural, use a plural pronoun.

Make the verb in this sentence agree in number with its subject. If the verb is in the singular, change it to the plural, and vice versa.

Make the pronoun in this sentence agree in number with its antecedent--the word the pronoun refers to.

amb Ambiguity Ambiguity means double meaning or vagueness of meaning.

Ambiguity: This morning our car was held up by two men at the drain ditch. (Were these two men criminals? Was this a criminal holdup?)
Clear: This morning our car was stopped by two men at the drain ditch.

Ambiguity: Sue asked Mary if she could quote her. (Who gets quoted--Mary or Sue?)
Clear: Sue asked Mary for permission to use Mary's quote.

Ambiguity: Visitors sometimes leave the Governor feeling angry and even scared. (Who is feeling angry and scared--the visitors or the Governor? As it stands, there are two possible answers, shown below.)

Clear: After leaving sessions with the Governor, visitors sometimes feel angry and even scared.
Clear: After visitors leave sessions with ghe Governor, he sometimes feels angry and even scared.

Revise the ambiguous passage to make it clearly mean one thing only.
ant Antecedent (see pro) See above under agreement  
ap, apos Apostrophe The apostrophe has three main uses:
1. It marks the possessive case of nouns.
  Examples: For nouns, both singular and plural, that do not end in an s, form the possessive by adding 's: The cat's toy.
The children's tree-house. The man's name. Today's date.
  For plural nouns that end in s, add the apostrophe only: the ladies' room; three months' time.
  For singular nouns that end in s, add 's. But if the last s would be awkward to pronounce, drop it and add only the appostrophe: the boss's daughter; Dr. Abrahams' class.

NOTE: Do not use an apostrophe in the personal pronouns its, hers, his, ours, theirs, whose.

2. It indicates a contraction.

Example: Always use the apostrophe to show the omission of a letter or letters in the contracted form of words: wasn't (was not), I've (I have), we'll (we will), let's (let us), you're (you are), it's (it is), don't (do not).
As a general rule, avoid contractions in formal writing.

3. It indicates plurals of letters, abbreviations, and numbers.
Examples:Use the apostrophe for plurals of lowercase letters: n's, a's, p's, q's. For capital letters, however, you can follow either of two styles: Qs or Q's--unless the s alone would be confusing, such as in As.

  Use the apostrophe for plurals of abbreviations containing periods: B.A.'s, R.N.'s, C.P.A.'s. But for abbreviations without periods you have a choice of two styles: VIPs or VIP's, VCRs, or VCR's.

NOTE: Except in professional and academic degrees, abbreviations tend to omit periods.
  You have a choice of two styles for the plurals of numbers: either 5's, 10's, the 1900's or 5s, 10s, the 1900s.

NOTE: Whenever you choose a style, use it consistently throughout your paper.

Add a missing apostrophe or remove one you have mistakenly used.
art Article Most problems with articles--an, a, the--involve either use of the incorrect form of the indefinite article or use of articles with uncountable nouns.
The indefinite article has two forms, a and an. It is used as an adjective before a noun (the definite article, also used before a noun, has only one form--the).

Do not use articles before uncountable nouns.

Countable nouns refer to people and things that exist as separate and therefore countable units: professors, ostriches, dimes. 

Incorrect: I always take notes when professor lectures.
Correct: I always take notes when the professor lectures.

Incorrect: Old dog cannot learn new tricks.
Correct: An old dog cannot learn new tricks. 
Incorrect: Wind blew bouquet out of his hand.
Correct: The wind blew the bouquet out of his hand.

Uncountable nouns refer to things that are thought of as wholes, as a mass, not a countable set of units: for example, abstractions such as love, progress, business, and substances such as air, water, wood, rice. 
  Uncountable nouns do not have plurals.
  Uncountable nouns do not normally have articles in front of them.

There are a number of uncountable nouns in English that do have plurals in other languages and therefore often confuse the non-native speaker of English. Examples: advice, furnitures, information, luggage, money. (Remember, these nouns are singular and therefore take singular vergs: "Your advice is valuable." "Your money is welcome." "The room has lovely furniture."

Incorrect: The love, not the self-interest, enables the society to exist.
Correct: Love, not self-interest, enables society to exist. (Abstract ideas)

Incorrect: We had the steak and the rice for dinner.
Correct: We had steak and rice for dinner. (Substances)

Incorrect: She had the money to buy the furniture but needed the advice on where to purchase it.
Correct: She had money to buy furniture but need advice on where to purchase it. (Note: If, in the sentence marked incorrect, the money and the furniture are each thought of as a specific, known quantity or set of items, the words are not being used in their general sense as uncountable nouns. In such a case, the use of "the" would be correct.)

Use A before words that start with a consonant sound. An is used with words that start with a vowel sound. It is the sound, not the first letter of the word that tells you to use An or a. For instance, you would say "A Michigan State University student" because the M in Michigan sounds like a consonant (Mih); however, you would say "An M.S.U. student," because the M here sounds like a vowel (EM).

Use articles before countable nouns.

awk Awkward This is a catchall term. It may refer to one specific problem or to any combination of problems. It may point to an error in diction, or to a much larger problem with coherence. A similar catchall term is Sentence Structure--ss. 
Example: Due to the number of students in college, they appear to be all equal because everyone is experiences the same things.

There are several problems with the above sentence. Basically, the statement lacks logical coherence. Additonally, the use of due to is an error in diction, and is experiences results from simple carelessness. 

Improved: There are so many students in college undergoing the same experiences that in many ways they seem to be copies of one another.

Awkward: Being an avid fan of detective fiction and having a husband who is a devoted Shakespeare fan provides a look at the two different types of writing.

It's hard to say specifically what is wrong here. Is being...and having...a double subject? If so, it is plural and does not agree with the singular verb, provides. But being...and having... sounds more like a dangling modifier looking for a missing subject. Since the two halves of the sentence do not fit together, the problem may be mixed construction. That's why Awkward is the best label for such an undeveloped sentence.

Improved: Being an avid fan of detective fiction and having a husband who is a devoted Shakespeare fan, I get a good look at both kinds of writing.

Rethink and rewrite the marked passage. If the passage seems all right to you, see me.
cap Capitalization Capitalize proper names: proper names are names of specific persons, places, things, places, institutions, organizations: Dr. Abrahams, East Lansing, Holt High School, the United Nations, Latina American. (Capitalize high school or college only if its part of a specific proper name, like Columbia College; use lower case if you are speaking in a general sense: I am graduating from high school.) Capitalize Mom, Dad, Father, Mother when these words are used in place of their proper names, as in "Hello, Dad." When these words are used as common nouns referring to all moms and all dads, don't capitalize.
Capitalize East, West, North, South when they are used for specific regions (She took a great job in the North.) Don't capitalize when they're used as directions (Go south three blocks, then turn east for another four blocks.)
Capitalizethe first letter of every word beginning a sentence, including the first world of every quoted sentence: He said proudly, "Everything is in order."
In titles of books, articles, movies, plays, short stories, and poems, always capitalize the first and every word except short prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, and articles of four or fewer letters: The Old Man and the Sea; Much Ado About Nothing; Life with Father; The Train from Rhodesia; A Prayer for My Daughter.
Capitalize the word or words indicated, or change them to begin with a small (lowercase) letter if you have used capitals incorrectly.
case Case What happens here is you're using your normal speech patterns in a formal situation (if the assignment is informal and you're doing this deliberately, then it's okay). In formal writing, a high degree of grammatical accuracy is demanded. Case is the form a pronoun takes when it performs a certain role in a sentence. Three cases exist in English: the subjective case, the objective case, and the pssessive case (for nouns in the possessive case, see Apostrophe, above).
Let's look at a simple sentence: She angered him. They typical English pattern is the subject=She + verb=angered + direct object=him. To use case correctly, use the subjective case (the case that goes with the subject of a sentence) in positions occupied by subjects and the objective case in positions occupied by objects. Two other sentence positions occupied by objects are important to note: indirect objects and objects of prepositions. Verbs may not have only direct objects, but indirect objects as well: He made her (him, us, me) an offer=He made the offer to her (him, us, me) . You can tell when her is an indirect object if you can "translate" it to mean to her or for her. He made her an offer equals He made the offer to her.

Common Case Problems:

The double subject: Do not use the objective case in double subjects:

Wrong--Him and Claire rehearsed for the dance.

Right--He and Claire rehearsed for the dance. [The subjective case he is correct. The test for the correct case is to drop "and Claire." "Him...rehearsed" sounds wrong.]

The double object: Do not use the subjective case in double objects:

Wrong--Karen phoned both Fiona and he.

Right--Karen phoned both Fiona and him. [Him is a direct object. The test for the correct case is to drop "both Fiona and." "Telephoned ...he" sounds wrong.]

Wrong--Philip gave her and I the information.

Right--Philip gave her and me the information. [Me is an indirect object. The test for the correct case is to drop "her and." "Philip gave...I" sounds wrong.]

Note: Do not use myself as a way to avoid choosing between I and me. (Wrong: Bob gave her and myself the information.) The pronouns myself, himself, herself, ourselves, themselves, yourself, yourselves are used either as reflexive pronouns (I hurt myself) or intensive pronouns--to provide emphasis (I'll do it myself. You yourselves are to blame!).

Wrong--They returned the video tapes to Jasmin and I.

Right--They returned the video tapes to Myra and me. [Me is the object of a preposition {to}.]

Pronoun + appositive as subject. Use the subjective case for sentences beginning with a pronoun plus an appositive in the subject position:

Wrong--Us students are very mature people.

Right--We students are very mature people. [Students, part of the subject of this sentence, is an appositive, a noun that renames or identifies the noun or pronoun before it. If you drop the appositive students, you can see that "Us...are very mature" sounds wrong.]

Than/as + pronoun. Use the subjective case for comparisons ending with a pronoun intended as a subject:

Wrong: Tonya Harding skates better than me.

Right: Tonya Harding skates better than I. [The sentence would logically continue as "Tonya Harding skates better than I do" or "than I skate." The subjective case--I--is needed because the pronoun after than is the subject of an elliptical--unfinished--clause: I skate.]

Ambiguous: Kati likes movies more than me. [Does Kati like movies more than she likes me, or does she like movies more than I do? Probably the latter.]

Clear: Kati likes movies more than I do.

To be + subjective case: Use the subjective case for any pronoun immediately folling the verb to be (am, are, is, was, and so on).

Wrong--It was her who stole my new computer.

Right--It was she who stole my new computer.

Who (whoever)/whom (whomever): In choosing between who (whoever) and whom (whomever), use who if the pronoun you want is the subject of its own clause. Use whom (whomever) if the pronoun you want is an object in its own clause.

Example: Who spilled coffee on my computer? [Correct. Who is the grammatical subject of this question.]

Example: Whom do you agree with? [Correct. If you turn the sentence around, you get "You agree with whom?" and you can see that wom is the object of the preposition with.]

Whose/who's and its/it's: Do not confuse certian forms of the possessive case with contractions. Whose and its imply possession or ownership.

Example: Whose down parka is this?

Example: Take the parrot out of its cage.

Who's and it's are contractions and are used informally to replace who is, it is, and it has.

Example: Who's (Who is) the villain responsible for painting the sidewalk?

Example: It's (It is) a sunny day outside.

Example: It's (It has) been a long weekend.

Pronoun + gerund: Use the possessive case for a pronoun that occurs immediately before a gerund (an -ing word used as a noun):

Example: She did not mind my having a second helping. [Correct. Do not write "me having."]

Example: We look forward to your joining us. [Correct. Do not write "you joining."]


Pronouns and Their Cases
  Subjective Objective Possessive
Personal Pronouns      
First Person I, we me, us my, mine
Second Person you you your, yours
Third Person he









her, hers



Relative Pronoun who




Use the correct case of a pronoun.
choppy Choppy Sentences Do not simply combine your sentences with ands or semicolons. The result would be a series of longer choppy sentences known as stringy sentences. If you master the simple art of using a variety of sentence types, your style will become much smoother Revise your series of short, choppy sentences by varying your sentence patterns.
cl Clarity (see vague)    
cliche Cliche (see trite)    
coh Coherence As it now stands, the material does not make clear, logical sense. The parts are not organized in a logical pattern. Coherence means holding together. Some other words for coherence are organization, order, arrangement, and pattern. When your phrases, sentences, and ideas hold together, your writing has coherence. The train of thought will be easy to follow. Connections and relationships between ideas will be clear. Major ideas will stnd out from minor points and ideas of equal importance will receive equal emphasis. Completely rewrite the indicated passage.
col, :/ Colon Colon before an explanation: An explanatory word or phrase following a statement may be set off with either a colon or a dash.

Right: The quality of food served at the fast food restaurant may be described in one word: revolting!

Right: The quality of food served at the fast food restaurant may be described in one word--revolting!

Wrong: The quality of food served at the fast food restaurant may be described in a single word as: revolting!

If you use as, you do not need the colon. As, like the colon, points to the explanatory revolting. As, however, does not dramatically stop the flow of the sentence the way the colon or the dash does.

Generally, the longer the explanatory passage, the more suitable it is to introduce it with a colon:

Right: Small businesses must be protected through appropriate governmental action: the effective and thorough enforcement of antitrust laws in order to maintain competition and prevent agreements and combinations destructive to business.

Inappropriate: Small businesses must be protected throught appropriate governmental action--the effective and thorough enforcement of antitrust laws in order to maintain competition and prevent agreements and combinations destructive to business. [In a formal style, the colon is preferred but not absolutely required.]

Colon before a list of items: Use a colon to introduce a series of items at the end of your sentence.

Example: Be sure to take the following items with you to the library: index cards, a notebook, pens, pencils, and a rested mind.

Colon before a long quotation: If you are quoting a long passage, especially one that consists of two or more sentences, introduce it with a colon, not with a comma:

In "An Apology for Idlers," Robert Louis Stevenson writes: "There is a sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation. Bring these fellows into the country, or set them aboard ship, and you will see how they pine for their desk or their study."

Place a colon after an introductory statement to call attention to what follows.
C Comma Insert a comma before a coordinating conjunction that connects two main clauses (main clauses are also called independent clauses). And, but, nor, for, or, so and yet are coordinating conjunctions.

Example: Dr. Abrahams encouraged her students to ask questions in class, and she noted that those who did were often the ones that did best on their final grades.

Exception: If the main clauses are very short, you do not have to separate them with a comma: I never saw and I never hope to see him.

Insert a comma after sentence parts that come before the main clause, especially long phrases and subordinate clauses.

Example: When it rained for three days without end, our basement flooded and our roof leaked.

The words in italics are a subordinate clause.

Example: Scratching his head, Randy said that the mosquitoes were terrible this year.

Example: To solve the problem, the doctor recommended a mosquito repellent.

Exception: Most short prepositional phrases that come before a main clause are not followed by a comma:

After a second Jonas admitted that he hadn't carried mosquito repellent.

Certain introductory words and phrases like for example, in short, in fact, however, and consequently, are used to form a bridge or transition from one sentence to another and are followed by a comma:

In short, Jonas admitted that he simply didn't mind getting bitten.

Set off parenthetical (nonrestrictive) sentence parts with commas.

Example: Modern automobiles, which are smaller and more fuel efficient than ever, strike me as more practical and attractive than the older tanks.

Example: She is, I agree, a good rider.

Soil erosion, the loss of water-storing topsoil, turns land into desert.

Test It: To test whether an element is parenthetical, remove it from the sentence. If the basic idea of the sentence remains the same, then the element you have removed is parenthetical and should be set off by commas.

Restrictive elements: Restrictive sentence elements are necessary to the meaning of the sentence, as in this example:

Everyone who is hard of hearing should wear a hearing aid

Notice the clause who is hard of hearing is essential to the meaning of the sentence. If you remove it, the basic idea of the sentence is distorted. Restrictive elements are not set off from the rest of the sentence by commas.

Insert commas between words, phrases and clauses in a series.

Example: The room was dark, damp. and cold.

The formula for the series is a, b, and c.

Also acceptable is a, b and c, where there is no comma between the last two items in a series. Just try to be consistent throughout your writing.

Use a comma to separate coordinate adjectives. Coordinate adjectives are adjectives that stand in equal relationship to the noun they modify.

Example: He is an old, faithful dog.

Example: She has a happy, twinkling expression.

Do not use unnecessary commas.

Put them in where they belong and take them out where they don't belong.
coord Coordination    
CS Comma Splice You've joined two sentences (independent clauses) with a comma:

Comma Splice: We packed all our luggage, then we were on our way to the airport.

Revision: We packed all our luggage; then we were on our way to the airport. [Changing the comma after luggage to a semicolon removes the comma splice.]

Comma Splice: He was an excellent computer programmer, however, he frequently failed to show up for work.

Fevision: He was an excellent computer programmer; however, he frequently failed to show up for work.

Look at sentence and remove commas and add semicolons when necessary.
dict Diction Certain errors in diction (word choice) recur frequently. Check to see if your error is one of these. In any case, the following suggestions are a guide for correcting and avoiding mistakes in diction:

Check the exact meaning of the word you have used in a large modern dictionary ("College-edition" size, at least). You may find that in some cases your problem is spelling, as for example, confusing accept with except.

Sometimes the word you choose does not fit the tone of the rest of your essay. Tone is the attitude the writer takes toward the subject. The tone may be solemn, humorous, conciliatory, angry, informal, technical. It may reflect any emotional or intellectual attitude imaginable. In a formal essay, for example, it would not be suitable to use terms like guy, mom, dad, or dude.

Change the word or phrase you have used to one that is more exact in meaning, to one that is less wordy, or to one that is more suited in tone to the rest of your essay.
dang Dangling Modifier The modifier in your sentence dangles because it does not clearly and logically relate to another word in the sentence. Use either of the changes in the box to the right to revise the sentence.


Dangling: When sitting, my shoulders tend to slouch back. [I, the logical subject of the modifier, does not appear in the sentence. As now written, the sentence says that my shoulders are sitting.]

Revision 1: When I sit, my shoulders tend to slouch back. [This revision changes the dangling elements into a subordinate clause.]

Revision 2: When sitting, I find that my shoulders tend to slouch back. [This revision makes the subject of the main clause, I, agree with the dangling element.]

Note that the introductory phrase should logically modify the noun or pronoun immediately following the comma. Further, the noun or the pronoun should always be the subject of the main clause:

Dangling: To type well, your legs must be in the correct position. [Are your legs doing the typing?]

Revision 1: If you want to type well, your legs must be in the correct position.

Revision 2: To type well, you must keep your legs in the correct position.

Revision 3: To type well, keep your legs in the correct position. [In imperatives--statements giving commands--the subject pronoun you is implied.]

Dangling: Going home, it started to drizzle. [Where is the subject who is going?]

Revision 1: As I was going home, it started to drizzle.

Revision 2: Going home, I felt it starting to drizzle.

Dangling: Fearful of a threatened lawsuit, his decision to pay me back was wise.

Revision: Fearful of a threatened lawsuit, he wisely decided to pay me back. [He, not his decision, was fearful.]

Dangling: At the age of three, my mother discovered I had a speech impediment. [Was the mother really three when she discovered this?]

Revision: When I was three, my mother discovered I had a speech impediment. [In this case, there is simply no smooth way of revising that deeps the dangling phrase At the age of three unchanged.]

Change the dangling element into a subordinate clause by adding a subject and a verb.

Change the main clause so that the subject is correctly modified by the dangling modifier.

dash Dash Avoid using the dash if commas or parentheses will serve equally well. Use the dash to mark an abrupt shift in thought, to emphasize a parenthetical element, or to ensure a clear reading. However, overuse of the dash becomes monotonous (boring).

Note: Most keyboards are equiped with only a hyphen and not a dash. To type the dash, use two strokes of the hyphen key [--]. Leave no space before or after the dash. Sometimes, a program like Word will automatically convert the two hyphens to a single, longer dash.

Insert or delete a dash.
dev Development (see para)    
ed error -Ed Error in -Ed Endings Often the past-tense -ed ending is not clearly heard in spoken English. Thus, it is easy to omit it in writing. Examples:

Omitted: I hope she would be there. [In many cases, of course, only the d is omitted rather than the full -ed.]

Corrected: I hoped she would be there. [The -ed ending sounds like a t. A t may be hard to hear right after a p. the same is true for the -ed after the k in asked or after the sh in wished. No wonder you can easily omit it in writing.]

Omitted: She try to telephone him.

Corrected: She tried to telephone him. [It is easy not to hear the d sound in tried right before the t in to. As a spelling rule, note that verbs ending in a consonant plus y--hurry and empty, for example--change their y to an i and add either -es for the present tense or -ed for the past: hurries, hurried, empties, emptied. Notice, however, that verbs ending in a vowel plus y undergo no such change: play, plays, played {there are three exception to this ay-verb rule: Lay, pay and say regularly become lays, pays and says in the present but change to laid, paid, and said in the past}.]

Omitted: I use to live in Mexico.

Corrected: I used to live in Mexico. [This is the most common error of this type. The -ed in used sounds much like a t and is not easy to hear before the t in to. The same is true for suppose to, which should be supposed to.]

Note: Do not drop the tense endings from past participles used as adjectives:

The church boasted ornate, stain-glass windows. [Change "stain-glass" to "stained-glass"]

Add -ed to indicate the past tense of a verb.
emph Emphasis Rearrange your sentence to give the important words and phrases their proper emphasis. The position of greatest emphasis is the end of your sentence.

Change the weak passive voice of the verb to the strong active voice. (See Passive Voice.)

Underline a word or phrase for strong emphasis. Use sparingly. Underlined words in a manuscript appear in italics (slanted type like this) in print. Underline a word or phrase for strong emphasis only if you cannot achieve the emphasis by rephrasing or rearranging sentence parts.

Give proper emphasis to the more important parts of the sentence and less emphasis to the less important parts.
exag Exaggeration (see log/gen)    
exclam, !/ Exclamation Point The exclamation point is used to express strong feeling. Do not overuse it. Use only one exclamation point, not several. Insert an exclamation point, or omit one if you have used one incorrectly.
frag Fragment of a Sentence You have written only a phrase or a subordinate clause, or some other piece of a sentence, but not a full sentence. If you can logically attach what you have written to the previous or following sentence, do so. If not, expand your fragment into a full sentence by adding the missing element(s). Change the sentence fragment to a complete sentence.
fs Fused Sentence (see RO)    
gen Generalization (see vague and log/gen)    
hyp Hyphen The hyphen is mainly used to connect words that are to be regarded as a unit of meaning: fire-eater, helter-skelter, rabble-rouser. (In many cases, usage is not generally agreed upon even in dictionaries. In order to be consistent, choose one current dictionary and follow it.) Inserta hyphen (-) where indicated.
id Idiom An idiomatic expression, or idiom, is a linguistic form that occurs in one specific language and will not usually be found in any others. English is a language so rich in idioms that both native speakers and non-native speakers of English often misuse such expressions.

In English there are two areas that present problems involving idiomatic usage: vocabular and grammatical structure.

Vocabulary. Many expressions may seem illogical or nonsensical in the contexts in which they occur. Take the following sentence, for example: "He made money hand over fist." A native speaker is unlikely to have a problem with this remark, but a non-native speaker may not know that "to make money" means to earn money (not to manufacture it), and that to make money hand over fist, means to make lots of money. Or take this sentence: "The fool wasted ten years before he came to his senses." The phrase to come to (one's) senses--finally to act more wisely--is immediately clear to most native speakers, but may not make sense (another idiom!) to a non-native speaker.

Standard vs. non-standard idioms: Many idioms are perfectly acceptable in formal written usage as standard English, but there are many also that are slang, or nonstandard, and are labeled as such in any good dictionary. Use a desk-size college English dictionary (or a bilingual one, if preferable) to be sure how an idiom is used, and write down idioms that you hear and find confusing.

Grammatical Structure. The idiomatic nature of English is not confined to matters of vocabulary but extends to grammatical structures as well. Some of the major problems related to grammatical usage are found under article, case, -ed error, passive voice, -s error, and tense.

Use an acceptable idiomatic expression.
ital Italics When printed, underlined words appear in italic or slanted type, like this. If you underline (or italicize) words, you are asking the reader to pay greater-than-usual attention to them. Frequent underlining for the purpose of emphasis may backfire, however, for it will no longer seem to signal what is unusual. Underline no more than is absolutely necessary--under normal circumstances, perhaps three or four times per page at most. There are four situations that call for underlining:

1. Underline the titles of books, magazines, newspapers, plays and movies. Do not put quotation marks around them: Newsweek, Neuromancer, the New York Times, Our Town, Star Trek VI.

2. Underline foreign words and expressions: coup d'etat, al fresco, chutzpah, persona non grata, intifada.

3. Underline words or letters if they are not used for their meaning, but as words and letters only:

Example: Add a u to gaze and you get gauze.

4. Underline words when strong emphasis is desired: "I'm leaving now," she declared, "not tomorrow!"

Note: Do not underline and do not put quotation marks around the title of your own essay or composition.

Underline the word or passage indicated.
jarg Jargon Do not use jargon, the highly technical language of professions and specialized interest groups, if you are writing for a general audience.

Jargon: Digging into a long-buried insula in the old Roman camp, we uncovered a shard-filled midden.

Rewritten: Digging in a long-buried block of buildings in the old Roman camp, we uncovered a shard-filled heap of ancient refuse. [In this version, the areological teminology of the original is "translated" for the average reader.]

Jargon: When I bit into the chocolate bar, I had an instant of parageusia and was sure that someone had spiked it with salt.

Rewritten: When I bit into the chocolate bar, I had a taste hallucination for an instant and was sure that someone had spiked it with salt. [There's no need for the fancy psychological vocabulary.]

Correct jargon and put what you have to say in words any intelligent reader can understand.
lc Lower Case (do not capitalize: see cap)    
log Logic You may have failed to argue your point convincingly. Your problem may be ineffective phrasing, ineffective thinking, or both. Think through your idea agian, and if it still seems worth defending, try to present it more effectively. Re-read the marked passage and try to discover the flaw in your language or line of reasoning
log/auth Appeal to Authority In appeal to authority, you offer no stronger backing for your point of view than the word of a presumed authority on the subject. The word of established, well-recognized authorities may be good support for what we believe. But there is a lot wrong with relying on false authorities. The winner of the Indianapolis 500 is not necessarily the best authority on what beer to drink. Another problem is that even the best authorities sometimes contradict each other. What you should avoid, if at all possible, is relying on authority and nothing but authority for your beliefs.  
log/emot Appeal to Emotion In appeal to emotion, instead of using objective evidence and rational argument, you support your views by an appeal to your readers' emotions--to their prejudices, fears, or vanities:

Appeal to Emotion: Why would anyone want Klinger as president of the university? He has twice been divorced, and his present wife is an alcoholic. [An appeal to many people's prejudices is substituted for an examination of Klinger's administrative credentials.]

Improved: Why would anyone want Klinger as president of the university? As we all remember, he was dismissed several years ago from his position as financial vice-president.

Appeal to Emotion: As almost any leading corporation executive will tell you, a Brooks Brothers suit is the only kind worth buying. [The appeal here is to the reader's desire for success and status and not to the quality of the suit itself.]

Improved: Although the price is high, I prefer Brooks Brothers suits to any others because of the excellent material and craftmanship that go into them.

log/gen Overgeneralization You are overgeneralizing when you allow no exceptions to your rule. Other than in the natural sciences, it is hard to find general statements that apply to absolutely every known case. Learn to qualify (to admit exceptions to) your statements. Be wary of words like always, never, all, none.  
log/ns Non sequitur The Latin term non sequitur means it does not follow. You move from one thought to another as if there were a logical connection between them, but there is none. [Appeal to emotion is a special case of non sequitur.] When one thought does not follow another, the reason may be, very simply, that you were hasty and left out a necessary bridge or transition. If you supply the transitional thought, the reader clearly sees the connection between the other two thoughts:

Non Sequitur: Because my next high school was much larger, we were allowed a longer lunch hour. [Something is missing here. What is the connection between the size of the school and the length of the lunch hour?]

Improved: Because my next high school was much larger, and the lines in the crowded cafeteria moved more slowly, we were allowed a longer lunch hour.

Non Sequitur: Because of an all-male student body, in class each student could be himself and act and speak naturally. [This is a very jumbled and misleading statement because at least two facts or ideas are left out.]

Improved: Because the student body at my high school was all male, showing off for the females was strictly an after-school distraction, and in class each student could be himself and act and speak naturally.

log/simp Oversimplification When you oversimplify, you make a statement you want your readers to believe, but you give either inadequate evidence or too simple an explanation. Generally, there are few statements that can be absolutely proved, but you should present good evidence or sound argument to support your point of view. Good evidence consists of concrete examples and relevant facts and figures. A sound argument recognizes and tries to deal with the complexity of most issues.  
mm Misplaced Modifier A modifier is a word or group of words that adds descriptive detail to any of four types of words in a sentence: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. In the sentence "He loves old cars," old is an adjective that modifies (describes) the noun car. In the sentence "They fought bravely," bravely is an adverb that modifies the verb fought. In the sentence "Be very careful," very is an adverb that modifies the adjective careful. In the sentence "She swims extremely well," extremely is an adverb that modifies the more important adverb, well.

Sometimes a modifier is misplaced. It shows up too soon or too late in a sentence to connect unmistakably with the word it modifies. In such cases, confusion may result, as in the following examples:

Misplaced: They only wanted to steal what they needed. [Does the writer mean, "They would get what they needed only through stealing"? This is unlikely. The writer probably means, "They wanted to steal no more than what they needed." The proper placement of only can bring out exactly this meaning.

Clearer: They wanted to steal only what they needed.

Misplaced: The emperor was just and kind to people in his way. [It sounds as if the emperor was kind to people who were obstacles in his path.]

Clearer: In his way, the emperor was just and kind to his people.

Misplaced: He fell when he was running into a manhole.

Clearer: He fell into a manhole when he was running.

Misplaced: The woman who was working quickly swallowed her lunch. [This is the case of a squinting modifier, one that can modify either of two words. Does quickly modify working or swallowed? Most probably it modifies swallowed.]

Clearer: The woman who was working swallowed her lunch quickly.

Misplaced: We wer awakened by the rattle of machine guns and sporadic bursts of rifle fire that morning.

Better: That morning we were awakened by the rattle of machine guns and sporadic bursts of rifle fire.

Put the misplaced word or phrase in the place where it belongs--closer to or in clearer relation to the word it modifies.
mood Mood (see shift)    
ms Manuscript Form Faulty (see wp)    
mx Mixed Construction Your sentence begins with one construction or figure of speech, then shifts to another that cannot logically or structurally complete the sentence:

Mixed sentence parts: By throwing the upper-right-hand lever is the way to stop the machine.

The two halves of the above sentence do not fit together.

Correction: Throwing the upper-right-hand lever is the way to stop the machine.

Correction: By throwing the upper-right-hand lever, you can stop the machine.

Mixed sentence parts: The reason so few professors seek employment at this college is because we are located so far from any metropolitan center.

Correction: The reason so few professors seek employment at this college is that we are located so far from any metropolitan center.

Mixed sentence parts: Just because she is rich is no reason to suppose she is happy.

Correction: The mere fact that she is rich is no reason to suppose that she is happy.

Mixed sentence parts: Now, and not next month, is when we should write letters to our legislators.

Correction: We should write letters to our legislators now, and not next month.

Mixed metaphors. The wheels of fate moved their grimy hands. [Do wheels have hands? As you can see, mixing metaphors (figures of speech) may be funny, but not intentionally so.]

Mixed metaphors: A tongue of land jutted out from the foot of the cliff. [It is absurd to imagine a foot sticking out its tongue.]

Change one part of your sentence to make it match the rest.
no ,/ No Comma    
no No New Paragraph Should Start Here    
no p No punctuation needed here    
num Numbers   Spell out any figure that can be spoken in one or two words: thiry, fifty-six, three hundred, two million. [Note: Hyphenate numbers between twenty and one hundred (forty-two, seventy-one, ninety-six).]

Use numerals for any sum that must be expressed in three or more words: 172, 307, 1002.

Exception: Spell out figures that begin a sentence: Three hundred sixty-eight students work part-time.

om Omission    
org Organization (see coh)    
para Paragraph    
P Punctuation--obvious error or omission    
para, // Parallelism    
paren, ( ) Parentheses    
pass Passive Voice    
poss Possessive Case (see case and apos)    
pro Pronoun Reference     
pv Point of View (see shift)    
quot, "/" Quotation Marks    
red Redundant (see wdy)    
ref Reference (see pro)    
rep Repetition    
ro Run-On Sentence    
semi Semicolon    
-s error -S Error in -S Endings    
sexist Sexist Expression    
shift Shift in Point of View    
slash See Overuse of Slash under ab    
slang Slang    
sp Spelling--Consult a Dictionary    
split Split Infinitive    
ss Sentence Structure (see awk)    
T Tense    
titles Titles    
trans Transitions    
trite Triteness    
und Underlining (see ital)    
unity Unity (see Paragraphing)    
us Usage (see dict)    
vague Vagueness    
var Sentence Variety Needed    
vb Verb Form    
voice Voice (see pass)    
wc Word Choice (see dict)    
wdy Wordiness    
wp Word Processing    
ww Wrong Word (see dict)    
X Obvious Error