Background of the study
A few studies have shown if common errors on composition writing and punctuation marks usage by learners are related to their language exposure. This central issue has a great importance not only that writing is perhaps the most difficult to each but it is also often a neglected skill in second language education (Taylor, 2006).
As Sperling (2006) notes, writing is imperative because it has critical link to speaking abilities. La Brant (2006) state written skills encompasses internal. He further adds that standard of satisfaction among language educators on the written work of language learners are good grammatical structures, appropriate punctuation marks, verbs in their right tenses, pronouns in the right case and correct spelling of words.
English Writing Errors
In an investigation conducted by Chen (2002) sampled freshmen students’ recounted vocabulary (60.7%) and grammar (50%) as problems in writing. Mean while, AI – Hazmi and Scholfied (2007) study on students’ enforced revision with check list and peer feed back in EFL writing indicated that the difficulties their sample experienced in ESL writing were basic English language problems as well as discourse organization, paragraphing and cohesion.
Salem’s (2007) research on student error lexicogrammatical continuum on the other hand, categorized written difficulties made by Hebrew speaking EFL learner respondents’ as word dependent, lexical and grammatical. Reviewing the above mentioned research, chan’s (2002) study may be too generalized for both levels. English lesson may vary across stage of learning. Expectations of skills may be differ from the samples’ degree of knowledge of the language.
Al – Hazmi and Scholfield (2007) though did not fully explain the ‘‘basic English language problems’’ as stated from their work for comparison on future papers. It can be noted that most errors as a main concern in writing competency. However, in a study on teaching low – level ESL students’ composition, Taylor (2006) claims that writing abilities does not only include paragraphs that are well defined, brief, sensible and persuasive or may contain good grammatical sentences. He justifies that writing good sentence in one cohesive thought.
Thomas (2003) observed that American educations in their thrust towards science senior students that cannot correctly spell put the right punctuation marks and generally show vague line of through in sentence construction. Taylor (2006) even suggested that practice and training in English sentence writing are not only limited to ESL students but to native speakers as well.
It seems that language education expansive approach tools and techniques beyond classroom teaching perhaps are possibility. Educators may have an option of tapping viable outputs such as language exposure on good linguistic models at home, media and other for literature. This insight may infer to the social – interactionist theory that suggests the importance of social environment interaction in language acquisition and development (Lucas 2008).
Al – Ansari (2001) on his case study of undergraduate student’s types of exposure as predictor of their success, affirms that competency in a new language is achieved through constant exposure of the intended language. Fathman (2006) seems to be in agreement stating that learning a second language is shaped by many elements that include the learning environment and the student’s attitude. This also supported by Tomasello (2001) in his presentation of the usage based model of language, wherein he said that language acquisition for children through the initiation of linguistic expression that they hear around them Lilu and Yanlong (2005) asses for example that new style on newspapers, television magazine and radios are good writing models for it encompasses narration, exposition and argumentation.
Haper and de long (2004) argue that language exposure is not enough to attain language competency and thinks it may be strategy considered lacking. They cite that older students require a good grasp of abstract ideas and complex lexical structures that may be best learned through textbooks and traditional classroom discussion. Steinberg, Nagata and Aline (2001) certifies children that are left to the confine of a television or by just hearing conversation made by adult as a form of language learning did not progress into language acquisition.
Syntax is the technical word that is used to describe sentence structure. It is extremely important, as well ordered sentence makes meaning clear and concise, whereas a bad ordered structure makes the reader (and maker) work very hard to understand the meaning.
Student example: ‘‘although the current law for establishment whether something is a fixture or fitting can be argued to be rather messy and incoherent…………………….’’.
In this sentence, the word order is, to use the author’s own phrase, ‘rather messy and incoherent? A slight reordering using the same vocabulary makes the sentence much clear and more logical. Playing around with syntax can transform your sentence.
Inappropriate use of Tense
Make sure you use the correct tense and be consistent with it. When you are introducing and discussing other people’s opinions, use the present tense, e.g ‘Mills believes’ or ‘Mills claims’ rather than ‘Mills believed’ or Mill claimed? By putting them in the past tense, their opinions seem dated; it also suggests that their views may have since changed.
Student example: ‘ A few years ago, Robert P. Crease asked physician what they think is the most beautify of all time? In this sentence, the author shift tense. It starts in the past tense (‘a few years ago, Robert P. Crease asked physicians……………….’) then moves into the present tense (‘……………. What they think is the most beautiful experiment of all time). As well as being confusing, the statement could also be inaccurate as the physician may have changed their mind since they were asked.
Incorrect use of Prepositions
What are prepositions? Prepositions are words that describe the position and movement of the nouns in a sentence (see parts of speech to clarify your understanding). They are very easy to use incorrectly, because they often seem to sound right in a sentence.
Student example: We have disconnected ourselves with our fellow members of society and no longer know the neighbour around us.
In this example, the author has used the wrong preposition in a number of places. In the first part of the sentence, he or she has misunderstood the relationship between the subject (‘ourselves’) and the object (‘fellow numbers of society’) of the sentence: you cannot ‘disconnect with’, as ‘with’ ‘means together’, you can only disconnect ‘form’.
Incorrect use of Colons and Semi – colons
Colons and semi – colons may look and sound alive, but are actually very different. They can generally be avoided, so only use them if you are confident in your understanding.
Student example: This problem can also be seen in this example in a marriage both the man and woman…………………………….
In this sentence the author has used a semi colon where colon should have been used. The aim of the punctuation mark is to join the two halves of the sentence together, which are :- (I). A claim or statement (‘This problem can also be seen in the following example’) and (ii). The explanation, example or proof (‘‘in a marriage both man and the woman………….’’ ) sometimes this use of a colon is referred to as a ‘why – because ‘’ Marker (Cutts, 1995: 83).
Semi – colons, on the other hand, are very different from colon. Any two statement (or clauses) that are separated by a semi – colon should be:-
- Be closely to stand alone as separated sentences, and
- Be closely connected in term of their subject matter. For example ‘There are a number of different use of semicolons: used in the right way, they can be extremely versatile. In the same way, a grammatical colon separates (A). The introduction of something, e.g an idea or a claim, from (B). The explanation for that idea or claim.
Incorrect use of Apostrophes
A apostrophes are perhaps the most punctuation mark of all. Described as ‘ errant tadpoles (Cutts, 1995: 89), they can, if used incorrectly, completely obscure the intended meaning of a sentence.
Student example: – ‘The law does not specify other eventualities, such as situation where a lost item fall onto a landowners land……………………………..’
In this sentence, ‘landowners’ should be ‘landowner’s’, because the land belongs to the landowners. Apostrophe indicates ownership. Correct use of the apostrophe show clarity of thought and a good understanding of the relationship between the nouns in a sentence.
Incorrect use of speech Marks.
Speech marks ‘do exactly what they say on the tin’: they mark speech. Nonetheless they are still one of the most misused punctuation marks.
Student example: ‘In The End of Education’, Nils (2004) states that ‘‘the only thing the UK system is a complete overhaul——————–’’
In this sentence, the author has used speech marks (‘-‘) instead of inverted commas (‘_’). In must disciples speech marks should only be used when something is being said, not when something has been expressed in writing.
Confusing Singular and plural
Nouns always specify number that is whether they are singular (‘dog’) or plural (‘dogs’). As well as being consistent with the number, you must be sure that your verbs match your nouns (e.g ‘The dog swims’ or the dogs swim’).
Student example: – ‘The law of averages are too unreliable…………………….’ In this sentence, the word ‘law’ is singular (that is one in number); if it is intended to be plural (more than one), it be ‘laws’. However, the author has use ‘are’ the plural from the verb instead of ‘is’, the singular (remember ‘the law are’, and ‘the law is’).
Using Unnecessary Words
One of the most significant differences you will notice as your writing improves is a reduction in superfluous (that is unnecessary) words. The best and most precise writing is often the simplest, as the author is in full control of every word.
Incorrect use of Commas
In a nutshell, ‘commas act as separates between the parts of sentence’ (Cutts, 1995: 81). To this effect they often need to be used in pairs. The following is just one example of how commas are misused (see, swan, 1996: 468 – 470 for a comprehensive list).
Student example:- ‘private problems, Mills believes can often be resolved outside of court…………..’
There should be a pair of commas in this sentences, not a single commas, it should read ‘private problems, can often resolved………………….’ ‘Mills, believes’ in a separate ‘clause’ all need to be separated so that the sentence makes sense with or without it.
Inappropriate use of Definite Article
One of the most confusing things about the English language for some international students is the ‘definite article’ otherwise known as ‘The’ because some language do not have article.
Student example: ‘To find a sense of reason instead of drawing in the depths of confusion the society bestows upon us……………..’
In this sentence, the second occurrence of definite article (‘The’ in the society) is superfluous. Although correct use of the definite article is a common problem among international students, it is also increasingly common among home students.
Inappropriate or Incorrect use of Capital letter
Apart from in people’s name, in titles, and at the beginning of sentence, capital (big letter) should only be used if the word is a ‘proper noun’ rather than a common noun, that is if it the official or title for something (see part of speech to clarify your understanding). Student example: ‘one day a teacher notice that the children start missing school and often arrive late…………’
In this example, the author has used capital letters inappropriately. For example, in the case of school, the only time it should be given a capital is if its proper noun is being referred to, that is Wood Lands School, or if the reference is to a specific school. In example, the author was not referring to a specific school.
Statement of the Problem
Majority of the students who are admitted into the secondary school in Nigeria have no ample opportunity to study English Language any more related subjects such as Linguistic and Literature in English. Though, all students admitted into the Universities in Nigeria are encouraged to take few course in the use of English, the content of these English courses are grossly inadequate for the students to acquire requisite skill in effective use of language for communication and for the give and take of social experience.
In order to study English as a second language and be successful at it, the student must be helped by the teacher to acquire skills in the four language arts skills namely: speaking, reading, listening and writing. It must be emphasized that “ a person is functionally literate when he has acquire the knowledge and skills in reading and writing which enable him to engage effectively in all these activities in which literacy is normally assumed in his culture of group” ( Gray, 2009: 24).