Common Mistakes – Part 1
The services I offer include proof-editing papers for publication. As most of these have been written directly into English by Spanish university researchers, more often than not they contain a number of errors. In this first of what I hope will be many blog posts on the subject, I have highlighted ten mistakes which crop up again and again. I base my work on the New Oxford Style Manual, but I have also indicated the preference of The Chicago Manual of Style where this differs.
- etc… is wrong and so is etc with no point after it. It should be etc. The point is required because it is an abbreviation.
- vice-versa, viceversa and visa versa are all wrong. It should be vice versa
- et al. has a point after the al (but never after the et) because it is an abbreviation as well. According to Oxford, you can put et al. in italics in the bibliography. Chicago, however, states that it should not be italicised.
- Do not put a space before a full point (period) at the end of a sentence or before exclamation and questions marks, commas, etc.
Are avocados good for you ? is incorrect.
Are avocados good for you? is correct.
- There are no spaces after the first quotation mark or before the second quotation mark.
“ Avocados are good for you ” is incorrect.
“Avocados are good for you” is correct.
- For quotes, Oxford prefers single quotation marks (also known as inverted commas) whilst Chicago wants double. For quotes within quotes, Oxford prefers double, whilst Chicago wants single. Therefore, correct use of quotation marks for Chicago = double then single. Oxford recognises that usage varies, and so the preferred use of single then double is not a hard-and-fast rule. However, use must be consistent throughout the document.
According to this article, ‘so-called “pure” olive oil is cheaper but not as tasty as extra-virgin olive oil.’ = Oxford
According to this article, “so-called ‘pure’ olive oil is cheaper but not as tasty as extra-virgin olive oil.” = Chicago
- When two words or more come before a noun and describe it, i.e. when they become a phrasal adjective (also known as a compound modifier), they have to be hyphenated. There are examples of this in point 6 above (hard-and-fast rule, extra-virgin olive oil).
A rain soaked garden = incorrect
A rain-soaked garden = correct
- can not = incorrect because cannot is one word. This is one of my pet peeves as it’s not just non-native speakers of English who get this wrong.
- When adverbs such as however, moreover, therefore and already come in the middle of a sentence, a comma is used before and after them.
Avocados however are good for you. = incorrect
Avocados, however, are good for you. = correct
(Chicago has more information about usage than Oxford, however, and explains that no commas are needed when the adverb is integral to meaning, or the use of commas would break up the clause unnecessarily.)
- When adverbs such as however, moreover, therefore and already come at the beginning of a sentence, they are followed by a comma.
However avocados are good for you. = incorrect
However, avocados are good for you. = correct
This post was first published on 08/02/2014 on my previous blog.