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.

ONE: VERBS

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)

TWO: PARTS OF SPEECH

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)

THREE: PRONOUNS

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)

FOUR: CONNECTORS

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)

FIVE: SINGULAR / PLURAL

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)

SIX: ARTICLES

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)

SEVEN: COMPARISON

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.


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