S-V Agreement Errors: What They Are and How to Avoid Them
As a copy editor, one of the most common errors I come across is the subject-verb agreement error. This error occurs when the subject and verb in a sentence do not agree in number, causing confusion and making the sentence unclear. However, with some careful attention to detail, this error can be easily avoided.
What is a Subject-Verb Agreement Error?
A subject-verb agreement error occurs when the subject and verb in a sentence do not agree in number. In other words, if the subject is singular, the verb must also be singular, and if the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural. For example, the sentence “The dog barks” is correct because the subject “dog” is singular and the verb “barks” is also singular. However, the sentence “The dogs barks” is incorrect because the subject “dogs” is plural and the verb “barks” is singular.
Why is Subject-Verb Agreement Important?
Subject-verb agreement is important because it affects the clarity and meaning of a sentence. If the subject and verb do not agree in number, the sentence can be confusing and difficult to understand. This can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications, which can be particularly problematic in business and professional settings.
How to Avoid Subject-Verb Agreement Errors
To avoid subject-verb agreement errors, it is important to pay close attention to the subject and verb in every sentence. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Identify the subject and verb in the sentence: Before you start editing, make sure you know which word is the subject and which word is the verb. This will help you identify any errors more easily.
2. Check for number agreement: Make sure the subject and verb agree in number. If the subject is singular, the verb should also be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb should also be plural.
3. Watch out for collective nouns: Collective nouns, such as “team” or “group”, can be tricky because they can be singular or plural depending on the context. Make sure to pay close attention to the context of the sentence to determine whether the collective noun is singular or plural.
4. Beware of intervening words: Intervening words, such as prepositional phrases, can sometimes make it difficult to determine the subject of a sentence. Make sure to identify the subject before checking for number agreement.
5. Use grammar checkers: Grammar checkers, such as Grammarly or Hemingway, can be helpful tools for identifying subject-verb agreement errors. However, it is important to remember that these tools are not foolproof and may not catch every error.
In conclusion, subject-verb agreement errors can be easily avoided with some careful attention to detail. By following the tips outlined above and taking the time to carefully review every sentence, you can ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and effective.