Basic English: Four of the most common mistakes

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In my job as a sub editor I come across so many basic errors in grammar and the use of unnecessary words.

These are exhibited by junior writers with no more than six months of cub training to senior writers and even contributors who are academics in their respective fields.

These are just a few of the most common.

1. The councillor wants a sponsor so that she can be able to educate her team.

Can: the verb ‘can’ is mainly used to mean ‘be able to’ as in the sentence can he move? = is he physically able to move?” so says the Oxford English Dictionary.

Thus in the above sentence ‘can’ must be used on its own or use be able on its own, but the ‘be’ would change to ‘is’ (is able)

2. John is at the bar, meanwhile at the same time, his girlfriend is outside flirting with his cousin.

Meanwhile: (adverb) in the period of time between two events. 2. At the same time. (Oxford)

Thus in the sentence above, ‘at the same time’, is just a waste of words. The meaning of ‘meanwhile’ is unnecessarily duplicated.

3. Following after the storm, there was hail damage to many cars parked in the street.

Following; a preposition, coming after or as a result of. (Oxford)

Following the storm … is the correct way to write the sentence. Adding ‘after’ makes the grammar clumsy, to say the least.

4. The campus will be close for a period of one month.

Period: noun a length or portion of time

In the above sentence the specific period is already qualified and defined, that is, a month.

It is well understood that a month comprises on average 30 days, thus there is no further need to qualify it with the words period of.

Please take note – a month, a year, a week, a day, an hour a minute, a second.

Never say, ‘for a period of one year’.

She ran every day for a year.

Please pay attention to these basic phrases and make sure your writing remains crisp.

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