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I am marking some student work and one of the sentences was

The author is by Katherine Patterson.

What is the term for the error in this sentence?

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Which is the error? The book is by KP is fine: wrong word/word choice error. The author is KP is fine: misused preposition: "by". –  user21497 Oct 10 '12 at 1:19
    
It is usually called 'just plain wrong', a 'grammatical error' or, more obscurantistly, a 'solecism'. –  Mitch Oct 10 '12 at 1:41
    
Do you think you can give us more information--what error was made? Depending, your student either a) meant 'book' and not 'author or b) added in an extra word 'by'. That would be more helpful for identifying the term you're looking for. –  Souta Oct 10 '12 at 2:51
    
Not everything has a name. You can just say what the correction should be. –  Mitch Oct 10 '12 at 12:22

3 Answers 3

You could call it a conflation error. It sounds like the student wanted to say either:

The book is by Katherine Patterson.

or:

The author is Katherine Patterson.

but simply conflated the two simple sentences into one:

The author is by Katherine Patterson.

As a side note, not all conflation creates an error. For example, Peter Shor gave a nice example of a conflated idiom in his answer to this question. Wikipedia has an entire entry on conflation.

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It’s either an extra word, or the wrong word. There is no special name for it.

  • The book is by Katherine Patterson.
  • The author is Katherine Patterson.
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Yes, "extra" or "extraneous" is the right way to go. –  Mark Beadles Oct 12 '12 at 18:47

The term Katherine Patterson is a predicate nominative. The predicate is equivalent to the subject, author. The correct construction is

The author is Katherine Patterson.

The construction by Katherine Patterson is a prepositional phrase that would usually serve as an adjective or adverb.

It can't be an adjective modifying the subject. The author is equivalent to the named person, not characterized by the person.

It can't modify the verb is. The author is not by anyone or anything.

If the subject were book, the phrase could be adverbial, modifying is, defining the source of the book's existence.

The book is by Katherine Patterson.

If the subject were book, the phrase could, arguably, be adjectival, meaning

The book, by Katherine Patterson, is.

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1  
What about "The book is by Katherine Patterson." That seems straightforward, and plenty correct. –  J.R. Oct 10 '12 at 2:21
1  
@J.R. The sixth paragraph refers to just that, even though it does not list it. I will edit to make it clear. And +1 for conflation error. –  bib Oct 10 '12 at 11:37
    
Strong the force is... –  mplungjan Oct 10 '12 at 11:38

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