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Tag: Correct usage

Basic English: Four of the most common mistakes

In my job as a sub editor I come across so many basic errors in grammar and the use of unnecessary words.

These are exhibited by junior writers with no more than six months of cub training to senior writers and even contributors who are academics in their respective fields.

These are just a few of the most common.

The incidence of incidents

There’s not much to say about incidence and incident except that temptation (also read auto brain) to misuse the two words is quite common.

It’s one of those cases in the English language where words sound the same with different spelling.

I find these the most challenging in the language and tend to make the most mistakes with this type of English trickery. I find when I am busy, a word sound in a sentence can pass for the right word because the brain picks up the sound if one reads aloud.

Incident is a noun, meaning event or happening. For example: There was an incident during the student protest.

The word incidence, a close neighbour in the Paperback Oxford English Dictionary (2001), just one above, is also a noun. It means the occurrence of something, or frequency of occurrence, for example to form patterns. Such as: The incidence of student protests at South African universities has been high of late.

Both have a plural with the simple addition of an ‘s’.

Thus, there have been many incidents since violence erupted at universities throughout the country.

wits

And, The incidences of violence have students, parents, lectures and police extremely worried.

 

And, The incidences of violence and injury have students, parents, lectures and police extremely worried.

Although this would be better said as, The incidents of violence and injury have students, parents lectures and police extremely worried.

However, you would say, Studies will compare the incidences of violence at UCT and Wits to suggest solutions (in other words two sets of incidences). However, you could just as well use incidents and the sentence would be correct.

Incidence in its plural form is a less preferred usage and should be avoided if at all possible.

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