Spotting Errors

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Can you spot the errors in the following sentences?

  1. I didn’t bother reading Improve Your Body Image: Make Friends Who Exercise Less Than You Do, which was stupid.
  2. Neither the Brown sisters nor Jadwiga have ever considered dating Colbart.
  3. Sedgewick almost ran five miles before he remembered that the marathon had been cancelled.
  4. To get ahead in life, good writing skills are a must.
  5. For exercise, Carlo likes to walk his ferret or, in the winter months, he plays chess with very heavy pieces.
  6. Samantha, who has five years experience as an animal trainer, can’t get her cat to stop throwing up on the sofa.
  7. The chef hopes to perfect his technique for making beef taste like tofu by next Summer.
  8. Gerald’s wife, whom I believe likes to play poker, is from Nevada.
  9. Are either of the students planning to attend the workshop on subject-verb agreement?
  10. Priscilla’s essay was as good or better than Joan’s.
  11. Do you know where I can find computer accessory’s?
  12. The medicine had no affect on Martha’s nasal congestion but it did improve her appetite.
  13. Torture may not be an effective way to illicit correct answers from students.
  14. Instead of standing there ringing your hands, do something.
  15. Aldo is one of the workers who has never taken a vacation.

 

Answers:

  1. What does “which” refer to? It could refer to the fact that I didn’t bother to read the book or to the book itself. To eliminate this ambiguity, the sentence has to be recast: My not bothering to read Improve Your Body Image: Make Friends Who Exercise Less Than You Do was  stupid, or  I didn’t bother to read Improve Your Body Image: Make Friends Who Exercise Less Than You Do because it is stupid. Many other revisions are possible.
  2. In neither/nor constructions, the subject closer to the verb determines its number. Because the singular noun “Jadwiga” is closer, the verb must be singular. : Neither the Brown sisters nor Jadwiga has ever considered dating Colbart
  3. “Almost” should be modifying “five miles,” not “ran.” Sedgewick ran almost five miles before he remembered that the marathon had been cancelled.
  4. “To get ahead in life” is a dangling modifier because it isn’t followed by someone who can get ahead in life (good writing skills can’t get ahead). The sentence has to be recast: To get ahead in life, one must have good writing skills.
  5. The problem here is parallelism. The two activities Carlo likes have to be expressed in parallel grammatical structures: For exercise, Carlo likes walking his ferret or, in the winter months, playing chess with very heavy pieces. For exercise, Carlo likes to walk his ferret or, in the winter months, to play chess with very heavy pieces.
  6. Samantha has five years’ experience as an animal trainer. Years’ needs the apostrophe because it stands for “experience of five years.”
  7. The seasons are not capitalized, so the chef hopes to perfect his technique by next summer.
  8. Gerald’s wife, who I believe likes to play poker, is from Nevada. You can decide whether to use “who” or whom” by rephrasing the clause and substituting “she” or “her”: I believe she likes to play poker. She = who
  9. Is either of the students planning… Either takes a singular verb.
  10. Priscilla’s essay was as good as or better than Joan’s. Something can’t be “as good than” something else
  11. Computer accessories. Apostrophes are not used to make simple plurals
  12. The medicine had no effect on Martha’s nasal congestion, but it did improve her appetite. Affect is a verb that means “to have an effect.” A comma before “but” is necessary. When a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, yet, so—FANBOYS) joins two independent clauses, it is preceded by a comma.
  13. Torture may not be an effective way to elicit correct answers from students. Illicit means “unlawful.” Torturing students is illicit.
  14. Instead of standing there wringing your hands, do something (unless your hands are bells).
  15. Aldo is one of the workers who have never taken a vacation = Of the workers who have never taken a vacation, Aldo is one.

 

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