Agreement Unclear: A Common Writing Error and How to Avoid It
As a copy editor, one of the most common errors I come across is “agreement unclear.” This happens when it`s not clear whether a subject is singular or plural, resulting in a lack of agreement between the subject and its verb. This is a common mistake that many writers make, but it can be easily avoided by keeping a few simple rules in mind.
One of the most basic rules to remember is that when a subject is singular, the verb must also be singular, and when a subject is plural, the verb must also be plural. For example, “The dog barks” is correct because “dog” is singular and “barks” is singular. On the other hand, “The dogs bark” is correct because “dogs” is plural and “bark” is plural.
However, sometimes writers get confused when the subject is a collective noun or when the subject is separated from the verb by prepositional phrases or clauses. In these cases, it`s important to remember that the verb must agree with the subject, not with the object of the preposition or the clause. For example, “The team is playing well” is correct because “team” is a collective noun that functions as a singular subject. Similarly, “The group of students is studying” is correct because the subject is “group,” which is singular, even though the object of the preposition “of students” is plural.
Another common mistake is when the subject and verb are separated by a clause that interrupts the sentence. In this case, it`s important to make sure that the subject and verb still agree when the sentence is read as a whole. For example, “The dog, who loves to play, jumps over the fence” is correct because “dog” is singular and “jumps” is singular. On the other hand, “The dogs, who love to play, jumps over the fence” is incorrect because “dogs” is plural and “jumps” is singular.
The key to avoiding agreement unclear is to always make sure the subject and verb agree, regardless of any intervening clauses or phrases. By following these simple rules, writers can eliminate this common error from their writing and ensure that their messages are clear and effective. So the next time you`re writing, take a moment to check that your subject and verb agree – your readers (and your editors!) will thank you.