Writing courses for university students can be controversial. Dr Roslyn Petelin, at The University of Queensland, says that going through the results of an editing test or grammar quiz can provoke vehement protestations and discussion-board controversy.

Her new book on effective writing lists numerous problems in grammar, punctuation, style and syntax.

Some of the problems that particularly peeve her are described in an article published in The Conversation.

Archaic language: Replace amongst and whilst with among and while.

Resistance to the singular "they": Saying “The four victims each found a small book like this in his or her home, or among his or her possessions” is tedious. Use “their” instead of “his or her”.

Placement of modifiers: Modifiers need a clear connection with the word/s they modify. The book title Stories I Only Tell My Friends should be Stories I Tell Only My Friends.

Incorrect pronouns: Saying "They asked Agatha and myself to dinner" or "They asked Agatha and I to dinner" are both and the grammatically incorrect. Both cases should refer to “Agatha and me”.

The wrong preposition: In “The rich are very different to you and me”, “to” should be changed to “from” to make sense.

The wrong word: There are lots of "confusable" words that will not be picked up by a spell checker: affect/effect, practice/practise, principal/principle, lead/led, and many more.

Dr Roslyn Petelin is an associate professor in writing at The University of Queensland, where she teaches in the post-graduate Writing, Editing, and Publishing program.

The original article in The Conversation is available here: