Common Errors in English

Introduction to the student
1. Why have we produced a special web site on common errors in English?
  To help you to identify and correct common errors in your written work and so help you to express yourself in a clearer and more acceptable way. Good grammar helps you to express your own and others’ ideas in a way which is easily comprehensible for your readers. All teachers like to read clear and understandable reports, projects, and essays, so good grammar may translate into good grades!
2. I’ve already studied common error books at school. Why do I have to do this again?
  There are a number of published common error books for Hong Kong students of English but none of them focus on errors in written academic English. This material has such a focus and should, therefore, be directly relevant to the need of university students.
3. Where do the error samples come from?
  All the error samples are real – they were produced by Hong Kong students writing in English. The samples have been collected over a long period of time and have been ordered into categories to aid systematic study and access to particular errors. The samples present the commonest or most frequent Hong Kong errors in English. Many of these errors are, of course, common to all non-native users of English, but there are some categories of error (e.g. word class: convenient/convenience) which are far more common in Hong Kong than elsewhere.
4. How is the material organised?
  The booklet is a workout and so is organised in the same way as a physical workout – in 3 stages: warm up, exercise, and cool down. Warm up activities are designed to help you distinguish between appropriate and less appropriate ways of expressing the same idea or information. The exercise section is more productive and requires you to identify errors and correct them. Please note that rather than guessing answers you are not sure of, you should go to the CILL to find help in grammar reference books. The cool down section requires you to reflect on the rules of English grammar. At your relatively advanced stage of learning a clear knowledge of the rules can be very helpful.
5. What can I use the material for?
  Apart from practising your grammar in a focused way, the material can also be used as a useful checklist to help you proofread your written work. Please note that the answer key is separate from the workout itself.
6. Do I have to work through the material unit by unit in the order presented?
  You can, but you don’t have to. If you are already aware of the most troublesome categories of error for you individually, then you can tackle those categories first.

Christopher Green
October, 1998
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