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Health Services Administration

Writing Tips: Common Errors


punctuation mark image


1. Use a comma to

  1. separate independent clauses (contains subject, verb, and is a complete thought) that are joined by coordinating conjunctions – and, but, or, for, yet, and so.
  2. separate three or more items in a series – lions, tigers, and bears
  3. between consecutive adjectives that modify the same noun – e.g. a dark, stormy night
  4. where needed for clarity – e.g. when it is time to go, go.

2. Use a semi-colon

a. preceding the conjunctive adverb – e.g. The dean will be late for the recognition ceremony; however, she does plan to attend.

b. to join two complete but related thoughts that are not joined by a conjunction – e.g. The dean will not attend the recognition ceremony; she will be missed.

3. Use of Apostrophes

a. contractions - e.g. won't, haven't

b. show possession - indicates something belongs to someone - e.g. Jill's office; the library's computers

4. Use periods (and other punctuation marks) after parentheses (in most cases). (The exception is when writing a full sentence inside parentheses.)

Word Placement

1. avoid misplaced modifiers (may alter the intended meaning) - She told him that she wanted to move to a new location frequently. 

  1. Right: She frequently told him that she wanted to move to a new location.

2. avoid dangling modifiers - Hidden in the closet, Aunt Suzy found her missing sweater.

  1. Right: Aunt Suzy found her missing sweater hidden in the closet.

Tense Agreement

Keep tense (past, present, future) consistent within a sentence and paragraph

Connecting Ideas

Use transitional wording (e.g. however, conversely, despite, similarly, consequently, etc.) or sentences to connect ideas or introduce new topics  

Balance Sentences

1. avoid sentence fragments by ensuring each sentence has both a subject and a verb

2. avoid run-on sentences by using punctuation appropriately

3. avoid overloaded sentences that contain too much information

References / Resources

Tricky Words

There are many words that cause issues. Use an online dictionary, as needed, to verify correct word usage:

Affect vs Effect

  • Affect is most often used as a verb (to influence) – e.g. The physician hopes to affect the patient’s decision.
  • Effect is most often a noun (consequence) – e.g. The effect of the policy change was to reduce falls on the unit.

 e.g. vs i.e.

  • e.g. is used as “for example”  - e.g. University of Detroit Mercy has several campuses, e.g. Corktown.
  • i.e. is used for "that is" - e.g. I just watched my favorite sports team, i.e. Detroit Tigers.

Writer's Voice

writer's voice image

"Writer's voice" refers to how you express yourself through your writing - your presence on the page - how you craft your message

1. Strive to write in active voice when possible; the passive voice should be used in moderation

  • passive voice is useful when the thing being acted upon is more important than the subject performing the action, as in the following example
    • active voice = more dynamic; the subject drives the verb (e.g. Healthcare providers reused PPE as supplies diminished.)
    • passive voice = subject receives action through verb (e.g. As supplies diminished, PPE was reused by healthcare providers)

2. Avoid using first person / personal pronouns (e.g. I or me)

  • how to craft writer voice without using personal pronouns:
    • present a claim or make a statement then support  your claim / statement by referring to (and citing) other authors' work (e.g. Music is a practical and successful intervention for reducing preoperative anxiety. According to Weisfeld, et al. (2019), music decreased anxiety in preoperative patients...)
    • use verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and phrases that describe your thoughts on an author's claims (e.g. agree, convincingly, doubt, adversely,  consistently, significant, important)
    • include a summary at the end of the section or a summary statement at the end of a paragraph

3. Remember: The author / researcher studied a phenomenon …not the article or journal.

4. Use bias free language

  • include gender neutral language, if possible - e.g. healthcare provider rather than he or she
  • avoid labeling a person with a deficit - e.g. the deaf patient vs the patient with a hearing impairment

5. Avoid redundancy in wording, e.g. first originated



Efron, S. E., & Ravid, R. (2018). Writing the literature review : A practical guide. Guilford Publications.

Goldsmith, J.A. (2017). Writing Effectively. In C. Saver (Eds.), Anatomy of writing for publication. (pp. 111-126). Sigma Theta Tau International.

Grammar Resources

Resources used on this page:

Books on Writing