Miscellaneous and Common Errors in Writing

There are a few errors that I see consistently in the manuscripts and other projects I review. Sometimes an error gets reused so often that it’s not really clear what is and isn’t correct. This post covers a few of the more common errors that I see in the writing I review.

The Apostrophe. I see apostrophe errors everywhere these days—in newspapers, TV commercials, business signs, so it’s easy to copy what you commonly see. Thus, some quick reminders about when (and when not) to use an apostrophe:

Apostrophe s (‘s)
Singular nouns Susan’s house; the group’s dynamics
Plural nouns that do not end in “s” the children’s desks; the mice’s nests
S apostrophe (s’)
Plural nouns ending in “s” the cells’ ability to change; the dogs’ leashes were tangled
Contractions isn’t (is not); could’ve (could have)*
Omissions the ‘60s (instead of the 1960s)

*NOTE: it’s never “could of;” the correct phrase is “could have,” shortened to “could’ve”

It’s also become common for people to throw in an apostrophe when it is not correct:

Numerals: the 1960s; he scored all 100s
Possessive pronouns: his, hers, theirs, etc.
Plural words: hospitals, hallways, trees

When to use “e.g.” vs. “i.e.” Use “e.g.” (short for the Latin exempli gratia) in place of “for example,” when citing an example of something or a list of possibilities.

Different types of systemic treatments can be considered in solid cancers (e.g., chemotherapy, immunotherapy).

Use “i.e.” (short for the Latin id est, or “that is”) in place of “in other words” or “that is to say.” I.e. is used when rewording or clarifying a phrase or sentence.

Treatment-naïve patients, i.e., those who have not undergone any type of treatment, may be enrolled.

Writing a Date. Over the last few years it has become more common to see full dates written with ordinals. Never include an ordinal (“th,” etc.) when writing a date:

June 23 = YES
June 23rd = NO

This date is spoken as “June twenty-third,” but the ordinal is not included when written.

However, do use an ordinal when referring to a date as an ordinal, e.g., “the 23rd of the month.”

This is just a small sampling of common writing errors and I’ll cover more in future posts. If you have any grammatical, punctuation, or other “rules” that you aren’t sure about, please let me know and I will be happy to review them here. And as always, if you need editing assistance with any writing project, please feel free to contact me at kristina-greiner@uiowa.edu.

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