This chart provides a good review of basic requirements for proofreading and editing college papers. Check it before you submit a paper and after you get it back.  This list progresses from basic mechanics and sentence structure errors which must be avoided, to stylistic problems for which there may be a number of possible solutions as you revise your sentence.  See The Little, Brown Handbook or a similar handbook for more information on these and other editing problems. (Note that your professor might use different abbreviations or symbols when marking papers.)

W or WO

Write out (don't abbreviate or use symbol)
e.g., the 3 characters ---> the three characters


e.g., the mississippi river ---> the Mississippi River


Use lower case
e.g., the River Thames ---> the river Thames


spelling; e.g., Misisipi
(I often just circle spelling mistakes.)


insert something (usually a word left out)
e.g. It's time ^ go ---> It's time to go
wavy line
around letters
or words
Reverse order of letters, words, or symbols
e.g., teahc ---> teach OR . . . end". --->. . . end."


Leave a space here; e.g., FifthAvenue marked as Fifth#/Avenue

Begin new paragraph


Indent here
line through
letters or words
e.g.,  The painting was round in shape. ---> The painting was round.

curvy line over
and/or under space

Do not space here; e.g., more over ---> moreover

slash mark
through hyphen

Word divided incorrectly; e.g., paragra/


Sentence fragment
e.g., The tragedy here that such a love could not be consummated and that one so young should be cut off just at the dawn of life.
Rewrite:  The tragedy here is that . . .


Comma splice, or comma fault—two sentences joined incorrectly with a comma.
Use a semi-colon or period between them or add a conjunction.
e.g., We are not allowed to think for ourselves, that privilege is reserved for administrators.
Change punctuation or add because before that.


Faulty parallelism
e.g., First of all, Daisy was an adult, married, and had a young daughter.
Rewrite:  First of all, Daisy was a married adult with a young daughter.


Dangling modifier or verbal phrase:
e.g., Sweet and innocent, evil deeds destroy the life of the heroine.
Rewrite:  Evil deeds destroy the life of the sweet and innocent heroine.
e.g., Returning evil for evil, no lasting good can be done.  (Who is returning evil for evil?)
Rewrite:  Returning evil for evil, the hero can do no lasting good.


Faulty verb tenses
e.g., They had ran out of gas. (Use simple past tense "ran" or use past participle "run" after helping verb "had.")
e.g., Hamlet saw the ghost and is confused about how to get revenge.
(Inconsistent tenses or tense shift: stay in present tense or past tense to discuss the events in a work of literature.)


Agreement error
e.g., The increase in the number of nations in some continents are amazing.
(Subject-verb agreement:  verb should be "is")
e.g., No matter what the detergent commercials say, no woman really enjoys mopping their dirty kitchen floor.
(Pronoun agreement:  change "their" to "her")


Problem with pronoun reference
e.g., John told his father that his car wouldn't start. (Whose car?)


Needless or confusing repetition of the same word.
e.g., The characteristics of the main character are reflected in the characteristics of the minor characters.


Redundancy:  needless repetition of the same idea in a word, phrase, sentence, or passage.  Reword more concisely.
e.g., He is influenced by the surrounding environment . (Delete "surrounding.")
e.g., The collector of insects needs only a small amount of equipment to begin an insect collection.


Awkward wording
e.g., The football player has had many broken noses, with which he ends up looking like a prizefighter.
Rewrite:  The football player has broken his nose so often that he looks like a prizefighter.


Wrong word
e.g., By the time they reached Phoenix they had spent their food allotment and were faced with the gloomy aspect of starving to death.
(The writer probably meant "prospect.")


An idea is not expressed in precise terms.
e.g., What most impressed me about the story was the author's descriptive language.
(Her vivid, sensory diction or his simple, concrete words?)


Colloquial language used in informal conversation but not appropriate in academic writing.
Use colloquial language or slang only when quoting dialogue or creating a special effect.
e.g., The story is over with when the guy comes back really worn out after a lot of cool adventures.
Rewrite:  The story ends when the hero returns, exhausted after many exciting adventures.


Trite or overused expressions which make your writing lack freshness.  Rephrase in plain but not trite language.
e.g., The hero returned from the picnic tired but happy and that night he slept like a log.


Be more concise; cut out unnecessary words.
e.g., He was justified in trying to straighten out his mother on her backward ideas about her attitude toward politics.
Rewrite:  He was justified in trying to reform his mother's outdated attitudes about politics.