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SPARK: Tracking Frequent Errors

A resource for students wanting to improve their academic and research skills.

Tracking Frequent Errors

Keep a list of the errors that you make frequently. For example, if you are often told that you are putting apostrophes in the wrong place, list this error together with a brief description of proper apostrophe use. Consult your list of frequent errors when you are ready to edit your paper and look specifically for these problems.

Find and Replace

A useful strategy to help check for known common errors is to use the “find and replace” feature in your word processing software. For example, if you confuse “its” with “it’s,” search for occurrences of each in the document and decide which is appropriate on a case by case basis. The same strategy could be used to search for misuses of “their,” “there” and “they’re.” This strategy can also be useful to check for words you tend to overuse.

Most word processing programs have features for locating grammar and spelling errors. However, even the best of these programs can miss many problems. Often, they mark passages as problematic even though they actually work very well in the essay. The programs can serve as useful starting points to identify possible problems, but think of these as suggestions for review rather than as requirements.

Grammar and spell checkers cannot substitute for your own careful reading as they are not aware of your intentions. A spell checker, for example, will not mark their as a misspelling because it doesnt know that you actually meant there. If you are uncertain about a grammar or spelling issue, consult the Writing Supports Hub to find various writing services available on campus and online.