A Writer’s Resource for Students and Teachers


Key to Codes


A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   L   M   N   P   Q   R   S   T   V   W 


Abb: abbreviations, symbols and slashes

Ad: adjectives and adverbs

Agr: pronoun-antecedent agreement

Apostrophe rules:

    Ap: possessives [formerly Ap.1]

    Ap.C: contractions [formerly Ap.5]

    Ap.I: “its” and “it’s” [formerly Ap.6]

    Ap.J: joint or individual possession [formerly Ap.4]

    Ap.Pl: possessives of plurals [formerly Ap.2]

    Ap.S: singular noun ending in “-s” or “-z” [formerly Ap.3]

     Ap.T: use curly apostrophes [new rule]

    Ap.W: plural words and letters, not numbers, abbreviations or dates [formerly Ap.7]

    ApX: misuse of apostrophe

Art: articles


Bib: bibliography form [formerly Doc.Bib]

Br: brackets

BrT: typography

BrX: use brackets sparingly


Capitalization rules:

    Cap: capital letters

    Cap.F: first word of a sentence

    Cap.N: title as name (“Mom,” “mother”)

    Cap.D: directions (“go south,” “the South”)

    Cap.T: titles of books, etc.

    Cap.G: deities (“God,” “the gods”)

    Cap.X: misuse of capitals

Comma rules:

    C: commas

    C2nd: additional comma needed

    CA: before “and,” “but” (independent clauses) [formerly C.1]

    C.Ad: coordinate adjectives [formerly C.4]

    C.App: appositives [formerly C.6]

    C.Cont: contrasts [formerly C.10]

    CD: dialogue (I said, “Hello”) [formerly C.15]

    CDA: direct address [formerly C.12]

    CDN: dates, numbers, etc. [formerly C.16]

    CE: ending/concluding element [formerly C.9]

    CI: introductory word group [formerly C.2 and C.11]

    C.Inter: interrupting elements [formerly C.8]

    CQ: tag question (“am I?”) or command [formerly C.14]

    CS: comma splices

    C.Ser: series [formerly C.3]

    C.Tr: transitions [formerly C.7]

    C.Wh: “who,” “whom” (nonrestrictive) [formerly C.5]

    CYN: “yes,” “no,” interjections [formerly C.13]

Misused commas:

    CX: misused comma

    CXA: compound elements [formerly CX.1]

    CX.Ad: cumulative adjectives [formerly CX.6]

    CX.Conj: after conjunction [formerly CX.8]

    CXE: before subordinate clause/restrictive element [formerly CX.9]

    CXI: short introductory elements [formerly CX.2]

    CX.MP: after modifier, possessive, pronoun [formerly CX.5]

    CXO: before object, complement, list [formerly CX.4, 7, 10]

    CXQ: certain quotations. [formerly CX.12]

    CX.SV: between subject and verb [formerly CX.3]

    CX.Th: indirect statements, quotations with “that” [formerly CX.11]

Creative Writing rules:

    CWA: action

    CW.Ad: adjectives and adverbs in creative writing.

    CW.Arch: archaic English [formerly CW.6]

    CW.Ch: characterization [formerly CWC]

    CW.Cl: avoid creative writing clichés [new rule]

    CW.Con: consistent style and tone

    CWD: introducing dialogue

    CWP: plot and conflict

    CW.SDT: show, don’t tell [formerly CW.Show]

    CWVT: avoid present tense in narrative

    CW.Vul: vulgar language

Ch: choppy sentences

Circ: circular reasoning

Cit: in-text citations [formerly Doc.Form]

Cl: clichés

Col: colons

Col.X: misuse of colon

Comp: incomplete comparisons

Cont: contractions


D: dash

Deg: comparative, superlative degree

Dangling or Misrelated Modifers:

    DM: dangling/misrelated modifiers [formerly DM.1, 4]

    DM.Ad: adverbs and adjectives [formerly DM.2]

    DM.Ap: appositives [formerly DM.6]

    DMP: participles and gerunds [formerly DM.3]

    DMT: dangling transitions [formerly DM.5]

    SqM: squinting modifiers [formerly DM.7]

DR: Documentation responsibilities [formerly Doc.Resp]

DT: typography of dash (dash—like this)

DX: use dashes sparingly


Ell: ellipsis

Ell.T: typography of ellipses

Ell.X: avoid ellipses

EP: end punctuation

Essay rules:

    EC: conclusion

    EI: introduction

    EPara: paragraphs

    ER: think of your readers [new rule]

    ET: title

    ETh: topic and thesis [formerly ETop and ETh]

    ETrans: transitions


Fl: flabby sentences

FN: footnotes [formerly Doc.Notes]

Fr: fragments [formerly Frag]

FS: fused sentences


G: glossary of usage

G.1: write the rule, not just “G” or “Glossary.”

Ger: possessive with gerunds [formerly PC.5]


h/s: reference to gender (“he” or “she”)

Hdg: heading (Manuscript Form)

HP: hanging prepositions [formerly Prep]

Hwtg: handwriting (Manuscript Form)

Hy: hyphens with compounds, prefixes [formerly Hy.1]

Hy.E: divide words at the end of lines to make margins and spacing regular [formerly Hy.2]

Hy.T: typography

Hy.X: misuse of hyphens


Id: idioms, idiomatic prepositions

Ind: indentation (Manuscript Form)

Inf: informal, slang, regionalisms

Int/Ref: “-self” pronouns [formerly Intensive, reflexive]

Inter: artificial interruptions

Irr: irregular verbs

Ital: italics

Ital.T: typography

Ital.X: misuse of italics


J: jargon, pretentious language 


Writing about Literature:

    LA: refer clearly to the author

    L.An: anachronism [new rule]

    LB: do not boast

    L.Bkgd: omit unnecessary background [formerly L.15]

    LC: place commas carefully 

    L.Ch: call characters what author calls them [new rule]

    L.Con: provide context

    L.Doc: use secondary sources with care [formerly L.16]

    LF: vague analogies of form and meaning [new rule]

    LI: avoid the irrelevant “I” and “me”

    LO: avoid mystery openings 

    L.Org: avoid mechanical organization

    L.Pre: beware of imposing preconceptions [new rule]

    L.Punc: do not comment on the punctuation [new rule]

    LR: do not repeat “in/of the poem/story/play”  

    LRC: do not repeat what was said in class [formerly L.11]

    L.Sh: do not rely on the “this shows that” pattern  

    L.Sp: misspell author’s name, misquote title [new rule]

    L.Sum: avoid plot summary and paraphrase

    LT: avoid dull titles

    L.Terms: misuse of literary terms [rule 2 is new]

    L.Th: make your thesis interpretative

    L.Tone: maintain an objective tone

    LVT: use present tense in writing about literature

    L.Wdy: avoid wordy transitions [new rule]

LV: change linking verbs to action verbs. [new code]

Ly: adjectives ending in “-ly” [formerly Ad.5]


Manuscript Form rules:

    Hdg: heading

    Hwtg: handwriting

    Ind: indentation

    Mat: materials

    MF: manuscript form

    MFP: punctuation

    MFQ: quotations

    MF.Sp: spacing [formerly MF.4]

    MFT: title

    MF.Ty: typeface [formerly MF.4]

    Mrg: margins

    Pg: pagination

Poetic Meter:

    M: meter [formerly PM]

    MA: awkward phrasing [formerly PM.a]

    MO: monosyllables [formerly PM.c]

    MP: padded lines [formerly PM.b]

    MC: avoid artificial pronunciation [new rule]

    MSS: sentence structure (one-line clauses) [formerly PM.d]

MQ: misquotation [formerly QLD.a]

Mx: shifts and mixed constructions

MxM: mixed metaphors [formerly Mixed Met.]

Mx.Q: pronoun shifts with quotations [formerly Mix.4]


N: numbers

Neg: double negatives


Par: parallelism

Paren: parentheses

Paren.X: use parentheses sparingly 

Part: participial endings (“–ed”)

Perf: past perfect [formerly Past perf.]

Pg: pagination (Manuscript Form)

PrepX: redundant prepositions (“rise up,” “start out”)

Pro sh: pronoun reference shifts

PV: passive voice

Pronoun Case:

    PC: case (“I,” “me,” “my,” etc.)

    PCA: compounds (“he and I,” etc.) [formerly PC.3]

    PCC: comparisons (“as old as I,” etc.) [formerly PC.1]

    PCL: linking verbs (“This is she”) [formerly PC.2]

Poetry rules:

    PD: diction

    PF: formatting poems

    PLE: avoid ending lines on weak words

    PP: punctuation

    PSS: loose sentence structure

    PTh: theme and idea [formerly PT]


Quotation Marks:

    QM: quotation marks

    QMD: dialogue

    QMLQ: long (extracted) quotations [formerly QM.4]

    QMP: punctuation (periods, etc.) with quotations

    QMT: typography

    QMW: words, letters, numbers, abbreviations [formerly QM.5]

    QMX: misuse (to indicate irony)

    QQ: quotations within quotations

Quoting rules:

    Q.Br: brackets [formerly QL.Changes.b]

    QC: introduce with a comma [Formerly QLC]

    Q.Ch: other punctuation changes [formerly QL Changes]

    Q.Col: introduce with a colon [formerly QL.Col]

    QD: documentation (parenthetical citation) [formerly QLD]

    QEB: citing electronic texts [new rule]

    Q.Ell: omissions (ellipses) [formerly QL.Ell]

    QEP: alter end punctuation [formerly QL.Changes.a]

    QI: introducing quotations [formerly QLI]

    QLQ: long quotations [formerly QL.Ex]

    QN: enumerating citations (e.g., 149-51) [formerly QLN]

    QND: citing drama [formerly QLN.b]

    Q.No: introduce with no punctuation [formerly QL.No punc]

    QNP: numbering short and long poems [formerly QLN.a]

    QP: quoting poetry [formerly QLP]

    Q.Punc: punctuation with quotations [formerly QL.Punc]

    QV: vary handling of quotations [formerly QLV]



    Red: redundancy

    Red abs: comparatives, absolutes, intensifiers [new code]

    Red pro: pronouns (“his reason for his decision”) [new code]

Ref: pronoun reference

Rep: repetition

RO: run-on sentence

RX: awkward rhymes, jingles [new rule]

Rhyme in Poetry:

    Rh: rhyme [formerly PR]

    Rh.2L: penultimate syllable unstressed [formerly PR.d]

    Rh.A: awkward phrasing [formerly PR.b]

    Rh.Dif: adjacent sounds different [formerly PR.g]

    Rh.Sch: rhyme scheme [formerly PR.h]

    Rh.Str: last stressed syllable [formerly PR.c]

    Rh.Tr: true rhyme [formerly PR.e]

    Rh.W: weak words, only for rhyme [formerly PR.a,f]


SC: semicolons

SCX: misuse of semicolon

SDT: show, don’t tell. [formerly CW.Show]

SFG: foregrounding research sources [new code]

Sh: pronoun reference shifts

SI: split infinitives

Sim: simplify complicated sentences

Sp: spelling checklist [formerly SpL]

SqM: squinting modifiers [formerly DM.7]

Subject-Verb Agreement:

    SV: subject-verb agreement [formerly SV.1, 2]

    SVA: “and” and “or” [formerly SV.3, 4]

    SVC: complements [formerly SV.7]

    SV.Col: collective nouns, numbers, titles [formerly SV.10]

    SVI: inversion (“there is/are,” etc.) [formerly SV.5]

    SV.Pro: indefinite pronouns (“any,” “each,” etc.) [formerly SV.6]


T: titles (punctuation: “The Raven,” Hamlet)

Ty: typographical error [new rule]


Var: vary sentence patterns

VI: intransitive verbs 

Voc: meaningless and lifeless words

VS: subjunctive mood (“if I were you”)

VT: verb tense [formerly also Sh or VT sh]

VTR: transitive verbs


Wdy: wordiness

WF: wrong form of a word (“evilness,” “a dominate team”) [new rule]

Wh: “who” and “whom”

WW: wrong word