Editing is the last item on the PSU Writing Rubric. While it is the lowest on the rubric, it’s still immensely important for your writing. Here’s what the rubric has to say about editing that “exceeds expectations”:
- The paper is nearly free of errors of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and word choice. Formatting follows the guidelines of the assignment (if any), and/or the formatting conventions of the discipline (if relevant), and/or the formatting conventions of general academic writing. The overall effect is polished and professional.
Without good editing, a reader can get distracted from what really matters: content. Therefore, the Writing Center is here to answer any questions you may have about common grammar mistakes.
Comma splices. A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are joined with a comma.
Incorrect: The dog was really cute, I like him a lot.
Each of the two clauses can stand on its own as a complete sentence. Therefore, we need to use different punctuation in order to join these two thoughts. To fix a comma splice, you can either add a semicolon, a period, or a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) preceded by a comma.
Correct: The dog was really cute; I like him a lot.
Correct: The dog was really cute. I like him a lot.
Correct: The dog was really cute, so I like him a lot.
*BONUS: If a sentence is a combination of a dependent clause and an independent clause, a comma is unnecessary. Example: The dog was really cute (independent) and liked me a lot (dependent).*
Its v. It’s. “Its” is the possessive form of “it.” “It’s” is a contraction of the words “it is.”
Incorrect: Its my birthday!
Correct: It’s my birthday!
Incorrect: It’s dogbowl is empty.
Correct: Its dogbowl is empty.
Affect v. Effect. These two words get confused a lot. The key to remembering the difference is that “affect” is usually used as a verb.
Incorrect: The rain effected my drive to work.
Correct: The rain affected my drive to work.
“Effect” is usually used as a noun.
Incorrect: The rain had an affect on my drive to work.
Correct: The rain had an effect on my drive to work.
However, both words can be used as verbs or nouns depending on context. This is where it gets tricky:
Correct: I want to effect change. (“Effect” is acting as a verb here.)
Correct: She had a sad affect. (“Affect” is being used as a noun.)
I would venture to say that 9 times out of 10, “affect” will act as a verb, and “effect” will act as a noun. However, there are exceptions to every rule, so just be sure to pay attention to the context of how you’re using the word. There are plenty of online resources if you find yourself getting stuck.
Which v. That. v. Who/m. We see mistakes of which v. that v. who/m all the time at the Writing Center. Here is a detailed explanation of how to use each of these words correctly:
“Which” should be used when additional, unnecessary information is attached to a sentence. Eliminating the “which” clause should not change the author’s meaning.
Correct: The dog chased the cat, which had been eating cabbage.
“That” should be used when the information is pertinent to understanding the sentence. A “that” phrase is often used to specify who or what is performing the action.
Correct: The dog chased the cat that had been eating cabbage.
Do you see how the two examples above mean completely different things? “That” is specifying what specific cat is being chased, and “which” is adding information that isn’t necessary for the meaning of the sentence.
“Who” can act in both situations as “that” and “which.” The only difference is that “who” can only be used when talking about people.
Correct: The dog’s owner, who was really embarrassed, ran after them. (Same situation as “which”)
Correct: Reynaldo is a dog owner who is running after his dog. (Same situation as “that”)
*BONUS: “Whom” can act the same as “who,” but only when it is in the direct object position (the item that receives the action).
Incorrect: Reynaldo, who the dog loves, is running after him.
Correct: Reynaldo, whom the dog loves, is running after him.
Incorrect: The waiter, who my dad can’t stand, brought him the wrong order.
Correct: The waiter, whom my dad can’t stand, brought him the wrong order.
See how “whom” is receiving the action? Generally speaking, if you can replace “who” with “him” or “her,” then you should use “whom.” (I.e The dog loves him, my dad can’t stand him).*
Perhaps the biggest tip the Writing Center can give to students is to read their essays out loud! Taking this extra step can make a world of difference. Hearing yourself allows you to pick up certain things that you wouldn’t otherwise. Awkwardly-worded sentences will pop out, you’ll hear verb tense issues, and you’ll pick up on some of the grammar stuff mentioned above. I highly recommend any writer to read their work out loud to themselves (or have someone else read it) to make sure it is absolutely perfect to turn in.
While editing is last on the PSU Writing Rubric, bad editing can completely ruin a paper, even if the paper has good ideas. Your reader must be able to understand the sentences you write, and proper grammar is essential to making that happen. Although you shouldn’t be overwhelmed with making sure everything is grammatically correct, you should make a good effort to make sure everything is communicated in a way that is understandable. If you have questions, feel free to ask the Writing Center, or our best friend, Google.com.
Good luck and happy writing!