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Top 10 Writing Mistakes Part 2: Today

by Travis Heermann  ||   No Comments

In Part 1, we examined error studies of writing during three decades of the 20th Century: 1917, the late 1930s, and 1986. We found that the nature of the errors shifted slightly–even though the primary errors were with comma usage, pronouns, spelling/misused words, verb tense–but the incidence of errors held steady, at about 2.1-2.2 errors per 100 words. This indicated that writers were not making more errors, just various mixtures of many of the same errors.

But what about today?

Andrea A. Lunsford and Karen J. Lunsford conducted a similar study in 2006, with a sample of 877 papers. The results came in as follows:

  1. Wrong word
  2. Missing comma after introductory element
  3. Incomplete or missing [research] documentation
  4. Pronoun reference
  5. Spelling error (including words pronounced the same way but having different meaning)
  6. Quotation error
  7. Unnecessary comma
  8. Capitalization
  9. Missing word
  10. Faulty sentence structure

The number of errors per 100 words increased by less than 2% from the 1986 study. Therefore, the ubiquity of errors is holding steady and has been for the last 100 years. The major error patterns remain largely the same.

For businesses that rely on written communication–the vast majority of them–employees’ writing ability is critical to maintaining credibility and professionalism. Shoddy writing is the first thing that will scare off prospects. High-quality, error-free writing is still the realm of trained professionals. If a business doesn’t have the resources to maintain a staff of trained, talented writers, it pays to keep in mind that amateur writers produce amateur results, and professional writers produce professional results.

Source: Lunsford, Andrea A. and Karen J. Lunsford. “Mistakes Are a Fact of Life: a National Comparative Study.” College Composition and Communication 59 (June 2008): 781-806.

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