English Skill Building – 109 – Common English Errors

English Skill Building – 109

Common English Errors

Common Flaws in English syntax and their correction

Flaw type 1 – Excessive repetition of pronouns like ‘It’

Read the following write-up, examine the defects and remove them by suitable modification.

Faulty text – When I was a 9-year-old boy, my uncle gave me a gift. It[1] was a full-sized football which I played with great delight in my school ground. It[2] was, no doubt, too large for a boy of my age. When some older team mates kicked it[3] hard, the ball flew past me with a rocket’s speed to the far end f the ground. I couldn’t sprint from one end of it[4] to another without panting for breath. I decided to keep it[5] wrapped in my cupboard till I reached 15.

How to modify in the above write-up

Let us see what the defects in the writing are. The word ‘It’ has been used as many as five times. This leads to confusion for the reader.

[1] .. Here ‘it’ refers to the uncle’s gift i.e., the ‘foot ball’.
[2] .. Here ‘it’ refers to the play ground as per grammar, because of the close proximity between ‘ground’ and ‘it’. But, the reader may attribute it to the foot ball because the boy is just nine years in age and the word ‘full-sized’ has been used as an adjective for the foot ball.
[3] … ‘It’ refers to football.
[4] … ‘It’ refers to the open ground.
[5] … ‘It’ refers to the ‘foot ball’.
This is the reason why the reader gets vexed with such write-ups. It taxes their minds needlessly.

The better way to write it will be like this

Modified text – When I was a 9-year-old boy, my uncle gifted me a full-sized football which I played with great delight in my school ground. The ball was, no doubt, too large for a boy of my age. When some older team mates kicked the ball hard, it flew past me with a rocket’s speed to the far end of the ground. I couldn’t sprint from one end of the ground to another without panting for breath. I decided to keep the football wrapped in my cupboard till I reached 15. [‘It’ has been used only once.]

Lesson learnt

Avoid too much repetition of pronouns. It might distort the sense.


Flaw type 2 – Beginning sentences with the same word (‘He’ in this)

Read the following write-up, examine the defects and remove them by suitable modification.

Faulty text – Thomas Alva Edison was born on February 11, 1847 in the American town named Milan in Ohio. He[1] was the seventh and last child of Samuel and Nancy Edison. He[2] was seven when his family moved to Port Huron, Michigan. He[3] lived here until he began his epic journey to explore the world of science and technology at the age of sixteen. He[4] had very little formal education as a child. He[5] attended school only for a few months. He[6] was taught reading, writing, and arithmetic by his mother. He[7] was always a very inquisitive boy, constantly trying to learn new things by reading whatever came his way. His belief in self-improvement became his guiding star all his life.

What are the problems in the above write-up?

The pronoun ‘He’ has been used as many as seven times. ‘His’ has been used three times in the last sentence. Such vexing repetitions rob the writing of its charm.

The better way to write it will be like this

Modified text – Thomas Alva Edison was born on February 11, 1847 in the American town Milan in Ohio. To Samuel and Nancy Edison, the parents, he came as the last of the seven children. The family moved to Port Huron, Michigan, when Thomas was seven. On reaching sixteen, his epic journey to explore the world of science and technology began from here. Born to under-privileged parents in a large family, the young Thomas had very little formal education, going to school only for a few months. Nancy, the loving mother, taught reading, writing, and arithmetic to him. As an unusually inquisitive boy, Thomas constantly tried to learn new things by reading whatever came his way. The belief in self-improvement became his life-long motivating force. [See how the readability and style have improved by eliminating the multiple ‘he’ and ‘his’ from the text.]

Lesson learnt

Frame sentences in such manner that the same word does not appear at the beginning again and again.


Flaw type 3 – Excessive use of ‘Direct’ form of speech

Read the following write-up, examine the defects and remove them by suitable modification.

Faulty text – When I reached home, my father told me, ‘Albert, I don’t like your returning home so late in the evening.’[1]
Then came my mother’s stern voice from the kitchen, ‘Albert, did you water the plants before you went out to play?’[2]
My elder sister was not to be left behind. She yelled in her usual accusing voice, ‘You have no time to play badminton with me for a few minutes, and you spend hours with your friends strumming the guitar.’[3]
Just when my brain was telling me to slip into the bathroom to escape the barrage of complaints, my little brother came in to say, ‘I know you downloaded some music to the computer. It is affected by virus now. How can I complete my school project work for tomorrow?’[4]

How to modify the above write-up?

The Direct sentences are too many, four in number. There is no need of Direct form, if Indirect form can be used to convey the same sense.

The better way to write it will be like this

Modified text – When I reached home, my father pulled me up for regularly returning home late in the evening.
Then came my mother’s stern voice from the kitchen reminding me about the watering of the garden plants which I had forgotten when I went out to play.
I was clearly getting jittery when my elder sister yelled at me saying how I could find time to strum the guitar with my friends when I had little time for badminton with her.
To get a respite from all such attacks coming one after another, I wanted to slip in to the bathroom. But, that was not to be. My little brother fired his salvo.
He complained that the computer was infected with virus that came in with my music download. Now, he was unable to do his school project without the system.

This write-up is surely easier for the reader.

Lesson learnt

Unless specifically warranted by the situation, do not resort to Direct form of speech.


Flaw type 4 – Use of Acronyms, Abbreviations, Sort forms etc.

Read the following write-up, examine the defects and remove them by suitable modification. The frequent use of shortened expressions makes the text somewhat un-intelligible for some readers.

Faulty text – It was a dramatic heist in one of the biggest diamond ornaments store in London owned by an Indian. Precious jewellery worth millions had been stolen by the robbers who left no signs of their break-in. The staff, first to come in the next morning recoiled in horror to see the empty show cases. They telephoned the manager. Curiously, he didn’t rush to the store saying that he was down with ARDS[1], but he assured his staff that he would come ASAP[2]. The owner, a wealthy Punjabi, had delayed his return from India as he had contracted TB[3] there.
The London police arrived in the scene accompanied by a detective from the MI5[4]. On preliminary enquiry, they understood that each item had a RFID[5] tag. Despite such safety measure, he burglars had managed to erase their trail. They had not left any forensic evidence at all. The police were baffled. They smelled a rat. Was it an attempt to lodge a fraudulent insurance claim? They alerted the SFO[6], who alerted the CBI[7]in Delhi to keep a tab on the owner. The Interpol[8] was also alerted. The detective turned his attention towards the wife of the owner, who had intriguingly not accompanied him to India. But, it became clear that she was a renowned academic with no interest in her husband’s business. She was a senior researcher at the CRASSH[9] who had earlier studied at the LSE[10].

How to modify the above write-up?

Modified text – It was a dramatic heist in one of the biggest diamond ornaments store in London owned by an Indian. Precious jewellery worth millions had been stolen by the robbers who left no signs of their break-in. The staff, first to come in the next morning recoiled in horror to see the empty show cases. They telephoned the manager. Curiously, he didn’t rush to the store saying that he was down with breathing difficulties known as Acute Respiratory Difficulty Syndrome (ARDS), but he assured his staff that he would come as soon as possible(ASAP). The owner, a wealthy Punjabi, had delayed his return from India as he had contacted TB there.
The London police arrived in the scene accompanied by a detective from the MI5. On preliminary enquiry, they understood that each item had a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag. Despite such safety measure, the burglars had managed to erase their trail. They had not left any forensic evidence at all. The police were baffled. They smelled a rat. Was it an attempt to lodge a fraudulent insurance claim? They alerted the SeriousFraud Office (SFO), who alerted the CBI( Central Bureau of Investigation) in Delhi to keep a tab on the owner. The Interpol was also alerted. The detective turned his attention towards the wife of the owner, who had intriguingly not accompanied him to India. But, it became clear that she was a renowned academic with no interest in her husband’s business. She was a senior researcher at the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) who had earlier studied at the London School of Economics (LSE).

The above-mentioned way of writing removes all doubts from the mind of the reader.

Lesson learnt

Unless it is a fairly known acronym like UN, US, TB, CBI, AIDS, NASA, CIA, FBI, etc., write the full form followed by the acronym in bracket. It removes all confusion from the mind of the reader.
Terms like MI5, Interpol etc. don’t have expanded forms. They should be used as such.

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