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Help: Editing Hints



Ideas can only be evaluated once they have been communicated. In this course, you have several opportunities to convey new and revised understandings about teaching, student comprehension of text, strategic engagement in content, instructional decision-making, and reflection. In presenting this evidence of your successful pursuit of the course goals, you want to make sure that your good efforts are not thwarted by a lack of care in preparing the necessary documentation of your intellectual stimulation and growth.

This page highlights some of the errors that seem to be most common among student papers.

Basic Requirements

  1. All papers (text analysis, final reflection, and final project) should be typed. The text analysis and final reflection paper should also be double-spaced.
  2. Please observe length limits, when given. Maximum page amounts do not require you to write that many pages but they do ask that you avoid exceeding them.
  3. Use proper citation whenever you incorporate, use, represent, discuss, or adapt ideas that are not strictly your own creation. The American Psychological Association's Publication Manual is the standard reference for most graduate courses in education at the Curry School. In this course, you may use other citation styles with which you are more comfortable, as long as they are recognizable and you employ them in a standard fashion. (The truth is that most students' papers do not require any type of citation or referencing.)

The Top Errors

Pronoun-Antecedent Conflict

If you refer to something that is singular (such as "each student," "the teacher," or "everyone"), please use a pronoun that is also singular ("he," "him," "she," or "him or her"). As an alternative, consider changing the antecedent from singular to plural, as in the second correct example below.
BAD:The good teacher will reflect on their practice.
GOOD:The good teacher will reflect on his or her practice.
GOOD:Good teachers will reflect on their practice.


While there are many who think that "hopefully" can be used in the way that most people use it (to mean "I hope" or "It is hoped"), it should only be used as an adverb ("in a hopeful manner."). The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association(1994) specifically rejects the use of "hopefully" as a non-adverbial introductory or transitional word, as noted on page 41 of the Fourth Edition. Chances are, you will be better off simply to avoid the use of hopefully at all, in any circumstances.
BAD:Hopefully, I can find better ways to teach from text.
GOOD:I hope I can find better ways to teach from text.
GOOD:I enrolled hopefully in this course, because I thought it might help me.

Commas in a Series

In a series of three or more items, include a comma between the items, including before the conjunction (and or or). [See both Strunk & White and the APA Publication Manual.] Do this in spite of any training you may have had in scientific or technical writing.
BAD:The lecture was short, sweet and to the point.
GOOD:The lecture was short, sweet, and to the point.
BAD:The text had a table of contents, index, glossary and appendix.
GOOD:The text had a table of contents, index, glossary, and appendix.

Plural vs. Possessive vs. Plural Possessive

Generally, to make a plural add an "s," and to make something possessive, add an apostrophe and an "s." If it is both plural and possessive, put the apostrophe after the "s." Unfortunately, the rules become rather more complicated, but see if the following examples help.
BAD:The student's are in their seats.
GOOD:The students are in their seats.
BAD:Chris' homework was incomplete.
GOOD:Chris's homework was incomplete.
BAD:The student's papers were much better this time.
GOOD:The students' papers were much better this time.
GOOD:Mr. Jones's rules are overwhelming his students, who think that his class's paper policies are more demanding than those of other Joneses they have had as instructors.

Punctuation and Quote Marks

With the exception of colons and semi-colons, punctuation marks generally belong inside the final quote mark.
BAD:After the "tea party", the colonists fled the harbor.
GOOD:After the "tea party," the colonists fled the harbor.
GOOD:The library is my favorite "thinking spot"; I come here often to "commune with nature."


"Due to" should be used only following a linking verb. Most of the time, people use "due to" when what they really mean is "because of."
BAD:Due to the bad weather, class was delayed.
GOOD:Because of the bad weather, class was delayed.
GOOD:The delay was due to the bad weather.


Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr.

The Nuts and Bolts Guide to College Writing

Common Errors in English

Pronouns and Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement

Spinnwebe: Apostrophe's

Hopefully, Or I Hope?


Last modified Wednesday, 01-Aug-2007 02:07:39 EDT.
Accessed times since 31 July 2007.
Maintained by Raymond C. Jones.

Copyright © 2002-2007 by Raymond C. Jones