Prof. Reynolds Editing Codes and Writing Tips

To help you identify aspects of your writing that you could improve, I may have written codes near sentences that could use some rewriting. The explanation of these codes, with an example of incorrect usage shown in italics in parentheses, is as follows:

A -- Awkward sentence.

AD -- Misuse of the term "age". You do not need to say Triassic aged rocks, since Triassic rocks says the same thing. Also, radiometric age determinations are not age dates; they are either ages or age determinations.

C -- Missing, misplaced, or unmatched comma (This sentence, for example needs a comma after the word example.). Use paired commas to set off phases, such as this little phrase, within your sentences. In general, use a comma if you want the reader to pause (On one street signs had fallen over.). To test whether you need a comma, read your sentence out loud as if you had never read the sentence before, and see if you need to insert a little pause. Also, in spite of what you may have been taught, it is much clearer to include the comma before "and" in a list, like "red, green, black, and gold".

D -- Dangling participle (The dog bit him, indicating he had bad dog karma.) Indicating is "dangling" if it does not clearly refer to a noun or pronoun in the first part of the sentence [like the directly preceding noun or the subject]. In this sentence, neither the "dog" nor "him" indicates anything. An easy fix is to add a comma, a subject, and the word "and". The dog bit him, and this incident indicates he has bad dog karma.

DI -- Data and interpretation mixed together. It’s best to present data first, then interpretation, or to otherwise make it clear to the reader what is actually observed and what is interpreted.

FIG -- Figure would have helped here. Sometimes a picture does equal a thousand words!

FO -- The phrases "are found", "are observed", and "are seen" can generally be deleted. You can say "The rocks are red" instead of the longer "The rocks were found to be red".I -- Incomplete sentence (Sentence no verb.)

J -- Technical jargon that I suspect you don’t understand. It’s better to use only those terms you fully understand, or to look up any terms about which you are uncertain.

M -- Miscellaneous grammar or punctuation error. Generally use a ":" to start a list or after a phrase such as "the rock types include the following: quartzite, rhyolite, etc." Use a ";" to separate two complete phrases that you want to be part of the same sentence, such as "The volcano erupted; they ran.", or to separate items that themselves contain commas: "The rocks were very resistant; tan, gray, and black; and rough to the touch.

MM -- The term "Ma" means million years before present, whereas the term "m.y." can be used for a duration of time. A proper usage is "The Cenozoic rocks were deposited between 40 and 30 Ma, a time span of 10 m.y."NQ -- Not quite correct; usually refers to content, rather than grammar.

O -- Optional change. The sentence was grammatically correct as written, but could be improved.

P -- Sentence structure not parallel (The rock is green, yellow, and is white.). This sentence needs to have another "is" before yellow or to have the last "is" deleted.

R -- Repetitive. Either you have already said this or you have used the same word very nearby.

RED -- Redundant. You have said this elsewhere in the paper, maybe more than once.

REF -- Reference missing or incomplete. Either a key reference should have been cited here, or the citation given is not complete or fully correct.

RO -- Run-on sentence or sentence is too complex (The rocks were deformed, their color was red, they were fine grained. ). To fix, either make each clause a separate sentence or separate related clauses with a semicolon.

S -- Spelling error -- always use a spell checker! Misspelled words in a letter or paper leave a bad impression.

ST -- Unless necessary, keep verbs within a single sentence in the same tense. (The rocks were red and are fine grained.)

TS -- No topic sentence. The first sentence in a paragraph should tell the reader what in general is coming or should otherwise set up the rest of the paragraph. It may ease the transition from the last paragraph to this one. Don’t just plow right into some minute detail.

TT -- Improper use of time term. You should not use a time term, such as often or occasionally, when you mean commonly, locally, generally, etc. (The rocks are often black. Does this mean they are black only on Mondays?) -- you didn’t lose any points for this, but it’s good to look at the literal meaning of your words.

TW -- Usage of that versus which probably not correct. In general, that should be used for an essential clause, where no break in the flow of the sentence is intended. "There is the Velociraptor that ate Rush Limbaugh." The phrase after that is essential because there may be more than one Velociraptor. Which should be used for a nonessential clause, and is generally preceded by a comma to set off the phrase as being nonessential to the sentence. "There is the Velociraptor, which looks really hungry." In this case, there is only one raptor but I wanted you to know that, by-the-way, it looks hungry. "Which" can be used in some other ways that don’t require a preceding comma, in which case you don’t need one right in front of "which".

V -- Verb does not match number of subject (There is many sea creatures, and that big one look mean.)

U -- Unit modifier or compound adjective lacks a hyphen. When two or more descriptive words appear before a single noun, hyphens may be required to clarify meaning. (He is a virgin timber inspector. My dog is a smoke colored Labrador.). Does he inspect virgin timber or has he never engaged in sex. The dog is neither smoke, nor colored, so a hyphen is needed to link the two adjectives. Thus, "she is a smoke-colored lab" needs a hyphen, but "she is smoke colored" does not. Comparatives (like "darker gray dog"), superlatives ("most cool" dude), and adverbs (words ending in "ly", like "gently dipping" layer) don't require hyphens.

UC -- Unclear linkage. A word, such as "this" or "it", may be vague as to which part of this sentence or the previous sentence it refers. Such a word — notice I could have used "it"— may be vague if it does not refer to a directly preceding word, to the subject of the previous sentence, or to the entire previous sentence.

W -- Excessively wordy and/or indirect (perhaps verging toward paragraph padding or B.S.)

WC -- Word Choice is a little odd, possibly incorrect.

-- Paragraph break needed.

squiggly loop -- Delete

# -- Insert space.

-- Word should have been capitalized. Capitalize place names (like Grand Canyon) and official names of formations (e.g. Kaibab Formation or Conway Granite), but not directions (like north, northwest) or ordinary, everyday mineral and rock names, like granite, sandstone, or quartz, unless those words are part of an official name, as in "Conway Granite". Capitalize ages, like Mesozoic and Cretaceous.

-- Letter should have been lower case (not capitalized). I may also put two lines beneath the offending letter.

( ) -- Delete space or hyphen, or combine two words into one. Words like "northeast" are not hyphenated.

‘s -- Use of apostrophe is incorrect. (There were two rock’s. I found out one was Steves.). Use an apostrophe to indicate possession, such as "Steve’s rock" or "three students’ books", not for plurals "two rocks". The exception is the term "it"; use "it’s" only when you mean "it is". Do not use "it’s" if you mean it possesses something; instead say "its color was pale blue".

check mark -- What you say is right on! I usually use this to refer to content, and am congratulating you for getting it right.