Seven Most Common Editing Errors

Common Editing Errors

Many students read Editing passage (Paper One, Section A) and cannot find any mistakes. Sometimes it is not because they do not understand the rules of grammar, but because they do not know what to look out for. Hence, we have combed through ALL the 1128 ‘O’ Level papers (2013-2017) and analysed the most common editing errors that were inserted in the passage for students to spot and correct. After some number crunching, we present our findings, in order of its frequency.



Issues with verbs, or action words, are the most common error in the Editing section of the ‘O’ level paper.

(a) Tenses

Editing passages tend to be expositions (articles, magazines, newspapers, etc.). Therefore, they tend to be in the past tense. However, tenses may vary within the text as past events or future events are mentioned. Ensure the tenses match the time they take place.

·       “We all wore red and white clothes and sit (sat) down in our seats.” – 2013 (Past tense)

·       “One special bear cub used to dine at this table; it ate mangoes and drink (drank) champagne.” – 2014 (Past tense)

(b) Verb Form

The passage may include the wrong participle.

·       “I am very lucky because I was borned (born) on August 9th, a special day in Singapore.” – 2013 (Past participle form)

·       “It brushed past Dean before landed (landing) on the board.” – 2017 (Present participle form)

(c) Subject-Verb Agreement

Singular subjects require singular verbs. Singular verbs tend to end with a ‘s’. Plural subjects require plural verbs. Students should highlight the subject and match it with the verb.

·       “This allow (allows) those waiting for a flight to visit many beautiful places such as the rooftop Cactus Garden and the large Koi Pond.”  – 2016 (Subject-Verb Agree)



Different words have different functions. For example, a noun is a naming word and a verb is an action word. Errors are based on confusion between the functions.

(a) Wrong Word Class

·       “August 9th is when we celebrate our independent (independence) from Malaysia.” – 2013 (Error: adjective used instead of noun)

·       “There are two statues of Raffles in the city, the taller of which shows him with arms folded, looking out proud (proudly) over the Singapore River.” – 2014 (Error: adjective used instead of adverb)

·       “The airport is 12 miles from the city centre, but onward travel is easily (easy) by taxi, bus or MRT.” – 2016 (Error: adverb used instead of adjective)

Note: The Adverb / Adjective mistake is the most common form of error.

(b) Wrong Word Form

·       “He is regarded as the foundation (founder) of Singapore.” – 2014 (wrong choice of noun)

·       “From the minute they arrive at Changi Airport, many visitors are amazed at its size and impressed (impressive) facilities.” – 2016 (wrong choice of adjective)



Pronouns take the place of nouns. Common pronouns include me, I, which and who.

(a) Personal

A subjective personal pronoun is used to replace the subject of a sentence while the objective pronoun replaces the noun that the subject of the sentence affects. Students are required to identify the mix up between subjective and objective personal pronouns.

·       “I enjoy my birthday tea at my house and my friends and me (I) usually watch the National Day parade on TV.” – 2013 (Object pronoun instead of subject pronoun)

(b) Relative

A relative pronoun is used to connect two ideas or phrases in a sentence. The most common relative pronouns are who, whom, which, whoever, whomever, whichever, and that.

·       “This year’s highlight was the fabulous Red Lion skydivers, which (who) jumped from helicopters on to the floating stage.” – 2013 (Wrong relative pronoun – ‘which’ refers to objects)

·      “Although no one was hurt in this incident, about 70 shark attacks take place every year worldwide, some of whom (which) are fatal.” – 2017 (Wrong relative pronoun)



Connectors combine words, phrases or sentences to express relationship between ideas. There are generally four types of connectors:

(a) Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions are used when the two ideas are of equal importance. Common ones include ‘and’, ‘but’ and ‘or’.

·       “Raffles sent thousands of stuffed animal skins, skeletons and plants back to England so (and) also kept some animals as pets himself.” – 2014 (The two actions of sending and keeping are equally important)

(b) Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions are used when one idea is dependent on the other idea. Common ones include ‘because’, ‘if’, and ‘although’.

·       “Despite (Although) no one was hurt in this incident, about 70 shark attacks take place every year worldwide, some of which are fatal.” – 2017 (‘Despite’ is a preposition that means in spite of, but this sentence requires a conjunction like ‘although’ to signify one idea is dependent on their main idea)

(c) Conjunctive Adverbs

These adverbs used to show the logical relationship between two ideas. Common ones include ‘therefore’, ‘however’, ‘nonetheless’.

·       “This year was different, although. (though)” – 2013 (‘though’ is an adverb to express a difference between this year and previous years)

·       “‘Look, it’s snowing!’ Ben, although (however), said. ‘Snow never falls in Singapore.’” – 2015 (‘however’ is used to show the contrast of ideas)

(d) Preposition

Prepositions are used to show the relationship of an idea or a word to another. Prepositions can convey information about location, time, or direction or provide details. Common prepositions include ‘to’, ‘despite’ and ‘with’.

·       “I never have to go for (to) school on my birthday as all the schools are closed on that day.” – 2013 (wrong choice of preposition)



All nouns (and pronouns) have a singular and a plural version. While many plural versions are formed by adding an ‘s’, (cars, books), some remain the same (sheep, staff).

·       “From the minute they arrive at Changi Airport, many visitors are amazed at their (its) size and impressive facilities.”  – 2016 (Plural pronoun instead of singular pronoun)

·       “He was just preparing to ride a wave when the shark, which was about two metre (metres) long, appeared close by.” – 2017 (Singular noun instead of plural noun)



Articles are words that define a word as specific or nonspecific. By using a definite article (the) we let the reader know that we are talking about a specific item. By using an indefinite article (a / an), we let the reader know we are talking about a general item.

·     “Travellers with time to relax can enjoy the (a) massage or even use the swimming pool.” – 2016 (‘a’ is used as the massage is for all and not specific)

·     “The beach lifeguards described an (the) incident as a ‘near-miss’, and cleared all the swimmers and surfers out of the water immediately afterwards.” – 2017 (‘the’ is used as it is clearly refers to a specific incident)



We use comparison words to compare adjectives, adverbs and nouns (quantity).

(a) Adjectives and Adverbs

We compare adjectives and adverbs using comparatives and superlatives. Comparatives (better, bigger, more quickly) are used to compare two items and the superlative (best, biggest, most quickly) to compare three or more items.

·       “There are two statues of Raffles in the city, the tallest (taller) of which shows him with arms folded, looking out proudly over the Singapore River.” – 2014 (There are only two statues)

(b) Quantity of Nouns

We compare the quantity of nouns by using quantifiers. Some quantifiers are used with countable nouns (fewer, fewest) while some are only used with non-countable nouns (less, least)

·       “Although many people know these facts, less (few) people know about Sir Stamford’s other unusual interests.” – 2014 (This question is tricky as ‘less’ is a comparison, but there is nothing to compare. The answer is ‘few’, the base quantifier meaning not many)

The above are the seven most common editing errors in the ‘O’ Level English Language papers. We hope that you find this resource useful.

If you still have any questions, please click on the blue round button on the bottom left to contact us!

English Academic Language for All Round Academic Excellence

Academic Language

Mastery of English, especially English academic language, is a necessity for continued advancement in the Singapore education system. English is a compulsory component for all levels, and thus, students need to do well to move on to the next stage.

Unfortunately, English is not a simple language to master. Grammar seems arbitrary and words used in different contexts and different subjects have different meanings. I will highlight just two primary school subjects below though this idea permutes through all subjects taught in English.

Mathematics: Academic Language

One subject where English has some influence is Mathematics. I am sure most parents are already aware of this. However, this is an important point, and I would like to emphasise it. For problem sums, it is not only important to know the models or methods for solving it, but also equally important for the student to understand the English language behind it so that he can understand what the sum is asking for. Needless to say, being weak in English can stop a student with superior mathematical ability from scoring distinctions.

Science: Academic Language

Similarly, English and Science are inseparable. There has been a huge debate about the role of English in Primary school Science. There seems to be a gap between the use of scientific words and the actual meaning of the English word. However, I believe that this is not the case. For example, in explaining how a balloon fills up with air, a student might choose the word ‘expanded’ instead of ‘inflated’. The correct word required might seem a distinction made only for scientific reasons. However, if you check the dictionary, to inflate means “fill (something) with air or gas, so it becomes distended”, while to expand means “become larger or more extensive”. Therefore, inflate is a better choice than expand. Hence the word ‘expand’ is not accepted. This shows that a grasp of excellent English increases the chance of excellence in one’s Science grades.

Certainly teachers do give definitions for these words when they teach these topics. However, we must agree that it is not as simple as just giving the definition. Moreover, in trying to get the students to relate to the subject matter, the teacher might use plain everyday English to get the point across. This might be the reason some students end up answering questions in a very general way rather than in a way that demonstrates their mastery of the content.

How can parents help?

One key concept that we need to learn is to help our children master and use academic language. What is academic language? Academic language is the language used in textbooks and on tests. It is different in structure and vocabulary from the everyday spoken English. Just because a student speaks English well does not mean it will be easy for them to pick up academic language. Academic language becomes harder as the student moves up the levels. Some examples of academic language include alliteration in language arts, ratios in mathematics and atoms in science. If we can help our children to learn academic language, they will benefit in English and other subjects.

Some tips for improving academic language

1. Reading about the same topic in different genres is a great way of learning academic language. There are many story books on Math and getting children to read them before reading the related textbooks or notes would not only interest the children but help them learn.

2. Drill children into the habit of underlining key instructional words, as these are also part of academic language. Ask children to underline the keywords of a textbook or a complex question. Get them to think about exactly what that word is asking them to do.

3. Get children to translate the textbook or academic subject into plain English or get them to explain a concept or topic in academic language. This strategy works extremely well for Science, as the students have to be careful of the words they choose.


English is certainly one of the keys to academic success, not only in terms of its importance as a subject but also its significance to other subjects. Therefore, it is important to find English teachers who are aware of this aspect. It is also equally important to find Mathematics and Science teachers who are committed to explaining the terms of the language of their respective disciplines.

Aligning the English Syllabus

In 2013, there was a English syllabus change for the GCE ‘O’ level examinations. There was much discussion in the educational sector about this and many people, including us, have written about the changes. During that time, there was limited information on the syllabus and teachers in national schools were still attending courses to learn about it.

It has been two years, and two papers are now available for reference. I shall analyse both papers so that parents are better informed on the differences between the new and old English syllabuses. After all, it was previously just theory, and now we can see how it is applied in the actual examinations.

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