Find the Error I Missed

Every month in my monthly e-newsletter, Better Writing at Work, I include a feature called Error Quest. In it, I challenge readers to find the one error I have purposely included in a short paragraph.

Every now and then, a reader recognizes an error I did not intend. That's what happened in the current Error Quest.

I have corrected the error I intended in the paragraph below. See if you can find my unintended error.

Twenty-seven students from India joined the program in June. Among the languages they speak are Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and English. Most of them are taking a year off work to focus on their studies in business management; a few have part-time jobs.

Did you catch the error? It may not be an error in the strictest sense, but it is an example of imprecise writing.

Note: The error does not involve the names of the languages.

I will leave it to Laura to explain the error. She is a writer-editor at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States government and the person who caught my unintended error:

"In the third sentence, the antecedent for them is the list of languages in the second sentence, rather than the twenty-seven students."

In other words, my use of them in the third sentence should refer to the plural noun in the previous sentence, which happens to be languages. Of course, I intended it to refer to students.

Here is a corrected beginning of the third sentence: "Most of the students are taking . . . ."

Thank you, Laura, for your excellent eye and for taking the time to send me your comment! I am pleased you are a writer-editor in my EPA. 

Syntax Training


  1. Hi Lynn,
    I really like the Error Quest challenge idea that you include in your monthly newsletter. It is a creative way to provide added value and practice for people who read your newsletter.
    I also like that you say that you too make errors, even though you are an expert in the business of writing.
    As a person who is also in the business of writing, it gives me food for thought. So thanks!

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