Instructional Materials for Craig White's Literature Courses

Editing Marks


Common Errors

Editing marks


  = good-to-excellent, readable, on-point and contributing to progress of essay


= something definitely wrong, e.g. grammar or punctuation or factual error; an error to avoid repeating


 = delete or elide  

= insert   

or = paragraph, as in "start new paragraph"; or "No "


   = lower-case; i.e., not a capital letter; i.e., A > a


Unfamiliar words I may use in my notes:

diction = word choice or selection (i.e. "vocabulary")


syntax = sentence structure ("The set of rules and principles in a language according to which words, phrases, and clauses are arranged to create well-formed sentences; (also) the analysis or study of such principles; the branch of grammar concerned with this." Oxford English Dictionary)



Common surface errors

Homonym spelling problems (Homonyms = words that sound alike but are spelled differently; words that sound OK in speech look wrong in writing.)

These words sound alike, and in some cases have related meanings. Many writers don’t know the difference, and many readers won’t either. But most college teachers know the difference, whether they count off or not.


There / they’re / their


your / you’re

to, too, two

Another tricky spelling: Past tense of verb “to lead” = led (sounds like the element lead)

Effect / affect


effect = noun


  affect = verb


(Usually! Both of these tendencies have some higher-order exceptions.)


it's and its

It’s is always a contraction for “It is”—as in “It’s great!” This contraction is the only case in which the vocalization /ITS/ is spelled with an apostrophe.

Its is the possessive pronoun form of it, as in “That dog can't find its way home." (The word "its" sounds the same as above but can't mean "it is.")




Standard typographical problems:

can not (incorrect) > cannot (correct)

alot (incorrect) >  a lot (correct)

Dependable but lazy and empty sentence form:


Dependence on expletive syntax: There is, are, etc.; It is, was . . . (a.k.a. “empty subject”).


This is a perfectly normal syntax—see, I just did it!

"There is" are empty words. The best syntax has strong subjects and verbs:

There is a Help link that you can click at the top of the page.”


“Click the Help link at the top of the page.”

Writing “that” for “who” as pronoun subject in a dependent clause.
(Not “the man that took my newspaper” but “the man who took my newspaper.” Rednecks everywhere say “that” instead of “who,” but especially in Texas. If you say “people that” instead of “people who,” you’re referring to people as things.)