This list is a result of more than ten years of experience in the sphere of academic writing, editing, and proofreading. These fifty common expressions will give you an idea of what kind of mistakes you are going to correct, and will help you to communicate with writers in a clear and concise way.

Term/Notion Definition Example


The use of words and phrases that do not add meaning to a sentence.

The economic and social status of the target consumer is very vital in determining the pricing strategy.

“Very” is redundant in this case since “vital” itself possesses a strong semantic coloring; it means “very important”.


The use of grammatically inappropriate sentence structures and word combinations that make the content difficult or confusing to read.

Faith guides a person’s ethical values to behave in a way that fulfills the laws set by religion. - the sentence is rather confusing

Faith guides a person to follow ethical principles and appreciate religious laws. - the message of the sentence is clear from the first reading

poor wording

The use of repetitive, wordy, or uncommon words and phrases due to a poor command of English.

In most cases, customers tend to think that the products that are priced lowly are of the lowest quality and develop a negative attitude towards such products.

In most cases, customers tend to think that low-priced products are of the poorest quality; thus, they develop a negative attitude towards such items.


The use of more words than needed to express a point of view.

Everyone is vulnerable to various illnesses depending on the lifestyle one engages in, or the risks attached to the profession an individual is undertaking.

The level of vulnerability to various illnesses depends on one’s lifestyle and work-related risks.

choppy sentences

Rather short, disconnected, and unsophisticated sentences that make the writing look basic.

Harvard University was founded in 1636. The university has become a very popular educational establishment. Many students all over the world want to enter the university.

Since its establishment in 1636, the university has become extremely popular, and even today many students all over the world wish to join the Harvard academe.


The failure to follow the same rules or patterns throughout a piece of writing, which may concern format, spelling, punctuation, verb tense, writing style, etc.

Image-based spam is one of the most common threats on the Internet.

Additionally, a number of free applications found on the internet may contain malicious code.

dangling modifier

A word or phrase that modifies a subject that is only implied in the sentence, but not clearly stated.

Micromanagers make all the decisions on their own and control every single step of their subordinates, leading to demotivation and poor employee performance.

Micromanagers make all the decisions on their own and control every single step of their subordinates, and such an approach leads to demotivation and poor employee performance.

misplaced modifier

A word or phrase placed too far from the word it modifies.

The weathering in Oxford is majorly caused by the acid rain being a massive industrial center.

The weathering in Oxford, a massive industrial center, is majorly caused by acid rain.

subject-verb disagreement

An error when the subject and the verb do not agree in number.

Many organizations have purchased this application since it speeds up operation processes and enhance security of data storage.

Many organizations have purchased this application, since it speeds up operation processes and enhances the security of data storage.

topic sentence

The first sentence of a paragraph which states its main idea.

One of the main obstacles to reaching international consensus on climate change action is the ongoing debate over which countries should shoulder the burden.

supporting evidence

Facts, examples, quotations, or statistics that develop or support the central claim of a paragraph.

The notion of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ (CBDR) was formalised in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (UNFCCC, 1992). Article 3.1 explicitly states 'Accordingly, the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof' (p. 4).

concluding observation

A sentence that summarizes and analyzes (makes a conclusion out of) the entire paragraph.

Fairness and equity need to be pursued in reaching a global agreement on climate change, but transforming it into an actionable strategy is problematic.

thesis statement

A debatable claim supported in the body of the paper.

The ecological damage produced by Katrina on the Gulf Coast was caused by the political and social environment of the region.

purpose statement

A statement that tells the reader what the paper will be about.

This paper will examine the ecological damage caused by Katrina on the Gulf Coast.

run-on sentence

A sentence in which two or more independent clauses are merged together without using a coordinating conjunction or proper punctuation, such as a period or a semicolon.

Environmental sustainability is a topical issue, it receives plenty of attention from the media.

direct quotation

A word-for-word repetition of written or spoken language.

In his guide Writing at University: Some Handy Hints David Kennedy notes that, “In academic writing you must always indicate when you are using someone else’s ideas. If you don’t then you may find yourself accused of plagiarism.”

indirect quotation

A paraphrase of someone else's words.

David Kennedy emphasizes the importance of citing all borrowed ideas to avoid plagiarism.


The process of organizing a text into logical parts using paragraphs.


The use of the same word, phrase, or structure too often within a sentence, paragraph, or text.

In order to eliminate stereotypes, one needs to be aware of stereotypes in the first place. When one becomes aware of stereotypes, one can recognize and alter the responses triggered by stereotypes.

Suggested revision: To eliminate stereotypes, one needs to acknowledge their presence and find ways to alter the responses they trigger.

incomprehensible sentence

A sentence that is difficult or impossible to understand because of incomplete or misused grammatical structures, inappropriate word choice, or confusing syntax.

"The amount is going to use the general development of the social welfare of the country as a whole."

"Most common are sales tax which levied on the amount of sales that a company made, income tax is practices worldwide which represents a portion of your income to paid as tax to the government."


A pair of words shortened by placing an apostrophe in place of omitted letters.

cannot → can't

I would → I'd

it is → it's

faulty parallelism

A construction in which two or more coordinate elements are expressed in different grammatical forms.

The lecture we attended yesterday was insightful, engaging, and a source of inspiration. → The lecture we attended yesterday was insightful, engaging, and inspiring.

(non-)restrictive clause

A restrictive clause defines (or restricts) the meaning of a noun/phrase and gives necessary information about this noun/phrase in a sentence. If it is removed, the sentence will not have the same meaning. This clause is not set off by commas.

A non-restrictive clause adds additional information (about a noun or phrase) to a sentence. If it is removed, the main idea of the sentence will remain the same. This clause is set off by commas.


I have finally bought the car that I showed you last week.

The woman talking to our sister is her new boss.

People who lead an active lifestyle are less likely to have health problems.


I want to discuss this issue with my lawyer, who is out of town this week, before I reach my final decision.

My mother, who has just returned from her trip to Europe, will come to our party tonight.

I haven't seen him since the 1980s, when everyone wore the same hairstyle.

(in)transitive verb

Transitive verbs are used with an object (a noun/pronoun/phrase that refers to a person or thing that is affected by the action).

Intransitive verbs are used without a direct object, though there may be other information after the verb (e.g. prepositional phrases or adverbs).

Note: some verbs may be both transitive and intransitive depending on the situation.


We will discuss this question at our next meeting. (not: We will discuss at our next meeting)


The children giggled uncontrollably.


  • All girls in the family played the piano. (transitive)
  • Children were not allowed to play outside because of the storm. (intransitive)

title case

The use of capital letters to indicate principal words in titles. Meanwhile, coordinating and transition elements, such as conjunctions, prepositions, articles, are written in lowercase. However, the latter should be capitalized in case they start the title. Title and sentence case are essential elements of major formattng styles in formal writting.

Book/movie titles: Pride and Prejudice, The Lord of the Rings

Oxford comma

The final comma in a list preceding a coordinating conjunction such as “and”/”or”. The Oxford (serial comma) is used optionally. However, it can clarify the meaning of the sentence when used with certain notions that include more than one word.

You should try cobbler, pound cake, and fish and chips when you visit England next time.

compound sentence

A sentence containing two or more independent clauses (i.e. stand alone sentence with a subject and a verb) which are usually joined by a coordinating conjunction. Both clauses should be of equal weight.

I reached the destination, but I was very tired of walking through the heavy snow.

sentence case

The capitalization of the first letter in the first word of the sentence. Subsequent words are put in lowercase. The pattern is used in a standard English sentence. Title and sentence case are essential elements of major formattng styles in formal writting.

Breaking news: man walks on the moon.

Open door for new migrants.

comma splice

A comma splice (run-on) sentence (- An error which occurs...) occurs when two main (independent) clauses are connected with a comma alone. Since an independent sentence presents a complete thought, it can only be connected to another one with a coordinating conjunction.

She burned her finger while putting a dish into the stove, she took ice from the freezer to ease the pain.


Words or terms frequently used together. Often, there is no reason why some words should be used together, but people are used to put certain words in a sequence.

Make - tea/ the bed/ sense

Problem - solve/tackle

unattended determiner

Demonstratives "this", "that", "these", and "those" that are not followed by any noun and make the reader confused about what the writer is referring to.

This is because parents put too much pressure on the kids → This situation occurs because parents put too much pressure on the kids

unclear antecedent

A word (usually a pronoun like he/she/it, their, etc.) that can refer to more than one subject in a sentence.

The folder was on the bus, but now it is gone → in this case, it is unclear whether "it" refers to the folder or the bus.


A logical connection of ideas within a paragraph/the whole text of a paper. To make the text coherent, the writer has to stay consistent in his/her idea development, construct successive sentences in parallel form, and add clear backing references.

In the first stage, an idea can be generated with the help of a mind-map. In the next stage, a clear plan of action can be produced in the form of a list. - both arguments are expressed in a parallel way, the writer does not lose focus, and the statements relate to a more general topic sentence.


A logical connection (or interrelation) of ideas at the sentence level. Usually, the best way to ensure text cohesion is to use linkers, transitions, and introductory phrases.

There are three components to a typical modern catalytic converter: one to effect the reduction of nitrogen oxides, another to facilitate the oxidation of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, and the third to maintain the correct abundance of oxygen. In the first stage, the nitrogen...

controlling idea

The main idea of a sentence that guides the development of an essay or a paragraph. It usually gives the specific reason why you are writing the piece and must take place in the thesis statement and topic sentences of body paragraphs.

Marijuana has a destructive influence on teens and causes long-term brain damage.

paper structure

All sections that keep the paper organized and help to discuss the topic in detail.

For an essay, the structure includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion; for a scholarly article, an abstract, introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections.

Overall, each type of paper has its own structure.


An expression—often metaphoric—that conveys no specific meaning due to being overused and outdated.

Throughout history, people have competed with each other.

He was a kind and loving man, but every rose has its thorn.


The use of a noun instead of a verb or an adjective, which makes the writing more wordy and confusing.

to give an explanation → to explain

to create an invention → to invent

passive voice

Shifting the focus from the subject of a sentence to the object or the action.

An experiment has been conducted by the scientists. → The scientists have conducted an experiment.

gender-biased language

An outdated way of referring to people in general by using words that prioritize one gender.

a fireman → a firefighter

steward, stewardess → flight attendant

phrasal verbs

An informal way of using a general verb + preposition instead of a more specific verb.

to find out → to learn

to come up with → to develop


A word or phrase that excludes the possibility of a statistical error.

always/never; everybody/nobody

space filler

An unnecessary word or phrase.

obviously; extremely; as discussed above


A word or phrase that is either too confusing to understand or can be interpreted in more ways than one.

The committee discussed many things.

There were many people at the meeting.

incomplete comparison

A comparison that has only one element (what is compared). Thus, the reader cannot discern what the object is compared to.

Our car model is faster, better, and stronger.

Faster, better, stronger ... than what? What are you comparing your car to? A horse? A competitor's car? An older model?

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