Five Common Errors

Here are five examples of common grammatical and stylistic errors found in university publications.

1. Capitalization

Titles of People

Capitalize a title if it directly precedes a person’s name.                                                                       

  • Professor Jack Lane
  • Jack Lane, professor of English, …
  • Paul Zingg, president, …


Capitalize the full degree title; lowercase the shorter form. No periods in abbreviations.

  • Bachelor of Arts Degree
  • bachelor’s degree                                                                                  
  • BA, MA, PhD                                                                                  
  • BA in history (not BA degree in history)

Departments  and Majors

Capitalize the department’s and major’s full official name. Do not capitalize a person’s major.

  • Department of Chemistry
  • chemistry department
  • economics major                                                                                   


2. Commas

Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, so, or, nor, for, yet) joining two independent clauses (complete sentences).

  • I wanted to make dinner, but I cannot cook.
  • She must have been tired, for she fell asleep the moment she got in bed.
  • I want to go to the store, and I want to go to her birthday party.


3. Possessives

  • its (possessive); it’s (contraction for it is)
  • student’s (singular possessive); students’ (plural possessive)


4. I.e. / e.g.

These often are confused: i.e., id est, means that is; e.g., exempli gratia, means for example.
It is usually preferable to spell out the terms in text. Use abbreviations in parenthetical phrases and in tables.

  • Only the department's tenured faculty—that is, full, associate, and assistant professors—are entitled to serve on the Personnel Committee.
  • The University has exchange programs with universities in many European cities (e.g., Paris, London, Florence, and Stockholm).


5.  Numbers

In nontechnical text, spell out whole numbers from one through nine; use numerals for 10 or greater.

  • Course requirements include reading nine novels.
  • There are 10 periodicals on order.

For tips and a checklist for proofreading, see the CSU Chancellor's Office website.