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Bookhooks Style Guide

Using our Word template, you can annotate student work, adding comments for the 30 Common Errors listed in this style guide. The template facilitates mark up by teachers, and generates comments with links to these resource pages!

   Vague, Stilted, or Flowery Language

30 Common Writing Errors and Their Solutions

Sentence Fragment
Run On/Comma Splice

Parenthetic Expression
Comma Before Independent Clause
Punctuation at end of Quotation
Single Quote Marks
Dangling Modifier
Misplaced Modifier
Vague Pronoun Reference
Number Agreement
Parallel Structure
Verb Tenses
Fused Words
Passive Voice

Negative Form
Choppy Sentences
Qualifiers and Intensifiers
Vague, Stilted or Flowery Language

This listing of 30 common writing errors was compiled by The Pingry School and is used with permission.

Make clear statements in plain English. Attempts to sound “intellectual” usually result in the sort of vague, stilted, polysyllabic confusion shown in the first two examples. The quickest cure is to look away from the page and ask yourself, “What am I trying to say?”; then say that.

The third example shows a misguided attempt to sound “literary.” This flowery prose combines many sins: triteness, gushing sentimentality, heavy-handed alliteration, overuse of adjectives and adverbs, an intrusive authorial voice, and general imprecision. Thoreau’s version manages to evoke rich imagery and a heightened tone while remaining precise, specific, and unsentimental.

She made a negative evaluation of his physical appearance.

Your maternal parent is engaged in the act of vocalizing so as to compel a response on your part.

I turn my delighted gaze upon the denizens of the deep, whose scintillatingly silent realm is lit by an eerie illumination, all the way to its unplumbed depths. I glory in how wonderfully tranquil are those depths throughout the livelong year, as magically peaceful as the most magnificent sunset. Rejoice, O fishes, in your supreme serenity!

She thought he was ugly.

Your mother’s calling you.

I look down into the quiet parlor of the fishes, pervaded by a softened light as through a window of ground glass, with its bright sanded floor the same as in summer; there a perennial waveless serenity reigns as in the amber twilight sky, corresponding to the cool and even temperament of the inhabitants.

( – Thoreau, Walden)