The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen is a list of the twelve worst and most common errors in English. These are the errors that make English teachers run out of red ink and pull out their hair. Teachers in the English department, teachers of writing enrichment classes, and other Methodist University instructors will emphasize these errors.

This web site is designed to acquaint you with the Dirty Dozen errors, help you recognize and correct them, and test your understanding of them.

Note on Grammar Terminology

In order to explain the Dirty Dozen errors, we have had to use some terms like “independent clause,” “coordinating conjunction,” and so forth. We encourage you not to get bogged down in this terminology; in many cases you will learn these errors best by looking at the examples rather than studying the definitions. That said, all terms are defined on the Terms page.

Note on Illogical Sentences

Some sentences that students write do not conform to any of the Dirty Dozen errors. They are not comma splices, they don’t have dangling modifiers in them, they don’t exhibit faulty predication—they’re just grammatically off-kilter, out of whack, illogical. Here are some examples:

  • Everybody wants white tees all the way the latest throwbacks including myself.
  • All those name brands I named I less had one pair of their shoes.
  • Worried about either graduating from high school or we are worried about having to start all over and be the new fish all over again.
  • Parents who were once teenagers and hate what they did and don’t want you to try anything they did.

We will label sentences such as these “illogical sentence structure,” and we’ll use the abbreviation “iss” in marking these errors.


Brief Descriptions and Short Examples of The Dirty Dozen

Error 1: The Fragment

Error 2: The Fused Sentence

Error 3: Comma Splice

Error 4: Subject & Verb Agreement Error

Error 5: Pronoun & Antecedent Agreement Error

Error 6: Vague or Ambiguous Pronoun Reference

Error 7: Misplaced Modifier

Error 8: Dangling Modifier

Error 9: Lack of Parallel Structure

Error 10: Inappropriate Shifts in Person or Tense

Error 11: Error in the Use of the Apostrophe

Error 12: Faulty Predication

Pre-test on the Dirty Dozen

Answers to Pre-test/Study Guide

Final Exercise on the Dirty Dozen


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