You do NOT need to memorize the following list. It is for your reference only. I use these error codes when I comment on your essays.


Technical errors/Style issues

1 Incorrect use of apostrophe

2 Missing apostrophe

3 Singular-plural mismatch

4 Run-on sentence

5 Sentence fragment

6 Spelling error

7 Use parallel construction

8 Sentence or ¶ too long

9 Referent of pronoun or pointer not clear

10 Wordy, “fat,” redundant

11 Capitalization error

12 Word order confusing

13 Punctuation error

14 Quote marks beginning and end

15 Avoid dictionary definitions; philosophical usage is often different from ordinary language. If you MUST use a dictionary, at least use a philosophical dictionary!

16 Underline or italicize book titles.

17 No space before punctuation; space after.

18 Bad word break

19 Must have a space before an open quote, but no space after one.

20 Direct quotes require quotation marks and citations.

21 This is an odd (and perhaps unintentionally humorous) choice of words, evoking irrelevant associations or mental images.

22 Active voice would be clearer and more vigorous here.

23 Don’t say someone “feels” when you mean “thinks” or “believes” or “argues”.

24 I know what you mean, but this is not a standard English word or idiom.

25 Sloppy imprecise word choice


Problems in presentation of content

30 Biographical information about the author is usually not relevant to evaluation of philosophical argument. Students often include it as “padding”. But soundness of argument depends only on correct logic and facts.

31 Speculations about psychological influence of author’s childhood, background, etc., are usually not relevant to evaluation of philosophical argument.

32 HUH? Vague. This is either “word salad” (I haven’t a clue), or I can think of more than one thing this could mean. Ask me if you can’t imagine why I found it unclear.

33 It is more respectable among scholars to cite from the original text if available, rather than a commentator’s introduction or paraphrase. Also, citing a commentator’s paraphrase or introduction does not demonstrate the required familiarity with assigned reading.

34 This quote does not seem related to what comes before or after it.

35 Quote is out of context. The author is arguing against this view. (Did you read all the pages?)

36 You need to explain this more fully.

37 So? I don’t see the relevance of this to the paper.

38 To a philosopher this would be a perfectly reasonable question!

39 For maximum clarity, use grammatical statements — not questions — to state premises and conclusion of an argument.

40 This seems a great deal of fuss over nothing much. No one disputes your claim.

41 A claim isn’t more true just because it’s strongly felt or believed.

42 You don’t need to be so tentative here.

43 Watch the weasel words.

44 Your account of this argument is oversimplified and/or distorted. (Perhaps you do not yet fully understand it.) Remember the principle of charity.

45 This reads like a first draft. Organization needs work.

46 I don’t see the analogy here.

47 I don’t see how this follows.

48 I see alternatives besides the ones mentioned.

49 This seems overstated.

50 Why? This is a conclusion. You need to support it.

51 Avoid vague relational claims. More specific statement of the connection is needed here.

52 This seems simply untrue.


Extremely serious problems
(automatic max grade = D)

60 Your words? Please be prepared to show me your sources.

61 Your paper does not demonstrate sufficient familiarity with lecture content and/or the assigned reading.

62 Your paper doesn’t show sufficient argument and counter-argument.

63 A paper must be more than a string of quotes or a “quote-quilt”.


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