The Phenomenon of Error In College Writing

People tend to talk a lot about errors in their writing.  However, few people really think about how complex a phenomenon error is in writing.  Fro isnnatce, what was taht?????  Did Prof. Rodgers' cat walk across the keyboard?  Is she writing in a different language or dialect?  Did she simply make a typo?  Does she not know how to spell? 

Every time anyone makes an error in his/her writing, the reader has to ask him/herself this series of questions.  So what was the answer? 

Well, truth be told, you really don't know.  Nor do I when I see errors in your writing.  If they are typos, should I care?  Why or why not?  If they are errors, should I care?  Why or why not?

The goal for 99% of most college writing is clear communication.  And, typos and errors can seriously impede clear communication (see above).  Furthermore, in college writing, the expectation is that we will all use a common and specific dialect, namely Standard Written English (SWE).  What are the guidelines of SWE?  How do we talk about them?  What do you need to know about them?  Well, one of the best ways is to talk about THE MOST COMMON ERRORS OF WRITING ISSUES that people becoming conversant in SWE as a dialect have.  These fall into two categories:  SENTENCE INTEGRITY, meaning, for the most part, complete sentences, and DICTION, meaning WORD CHOICE. 

Though many people fear that their writing is riddled with errors that violate the guidelines of Standard Written English, this is most often not the case.  Instead, most people struggle with one or two errors that they make consistently.  Identifying these specific errors/issues then allows one to determine what "patterns of error" exist, and to actively work to correct these issues (assuming, of course, that one hopes to become proficient in SWE!).  Please read through the attached list of Common Writing Issues.  Can you identify any of these in your own work?  If so, which ones?  Please make a list of the errors/issues that are most prevalent and include examples from your own writing to document the error/issue.

Adapted from What Is Writing?: An Introduction to Writing as an Act and Medium of Communication (2015). 

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