Symbols used in correcting papers

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History

AGR or AGREE = subject and verb do not agree usually because a plural verb has been matched mistakenly with a singular subject or vice versa.

AMB or AMBIG = Ambiguous = The item so marked has several possible meanings and hence introduces awkwardness and confusion into your otherwise crystal-clear style.

D = Diction error = a poor choice of words; the word chosen often does not mean what you thought it did.

ID. = Non-idiomatic use of a word or phrase; English is not written this way. Your sentence probably reads like something a foreign speaker misunderstood in his phrase book. Such errors destroy the reader's confidence, because he or she becomes convinced that you have little sense for language and therefore cannot place much faith in either your individual interpretations or chains of reasoning.

SI = Split infinitive: one cannot place adverbs (or other words) between "to" and the infinitive form of a verb, as did the writers of Startrek, every episode of which opens with the notorious "to boldly go." Hint: if placing the adverb directly after the infinite strikes you as awkward, try putting it at the end of the clause.

INV or INVERT = Shift order or clauses. When ending a sentence with two clauses, particularly objects of verbs, place the shorter clause first; when dealing with logical progressions or complex causal connections, put the "because" or "since" clause first: it makes the argument easier to follow and hence more convincing.

NON-PARALLEL = Your clauses are non-parallel and hence hard to follow. Remember, if you begin a parallel construction, like a series, with a noun or noun construction, you must end with one; if you have active verbs in one part of a series or parallel, you must finish with them and not switch to "is" or passives. Any unprepared shift of this sort creates awkwardness.

NEC? = Unnecessary = either padding whose removal would strengthen the sentence or something whose statement distracts.

NC = NOT CLEAR = Either syntax is unclear and the reader cannot figure out what the sentence tries to say or the proposed logical progression does not work and the reader cannot understand how one point leads to another. A MAJOR FLAW.

P = Either you need a new paragraph or you have misdivided one. Do not begin a new paragraph after a set-in quotation if you are still continuing the argument which introduced the quotation.

SP = Misspelling. Too many of these insult the reader because they imply that the reader is either a slob or so imperceptive that he or she would not notice such slovenliness. Not a good idea.

VG = Very Good; not to be confused with

UGH or UGH! = Feh! the pits. Usually something that so jars the tone of your paper that the reader becomes completely distracted from the rest of your otherwise flawless reasoning and expression and is tempted to hurl your essay across the room or drop it in the circular file.

Related Resources


Victorian Web Victorian courses

Last modified 11 February 2002