One of the major complaints about self-published books is that they often come through with spelling and grammar errors.
But even worse than that is finding multiple grammar errors in books from major publishing houses. It makes me cringe.
Here are some of the most annoying errors I see, not just in books, but also in magazines, on websites, in advertising, in blog posts, on social media, and in emails. Make these mistakes, and I will judge you harshly.
- Starting a sentence with a modifying clause that doesn’t apply to the subject of the sentence. Having majored in music, allegro is a lively tempo. No, no, no! Allegro didn’t even go to college! What does that subordinate clause really describe? Having majored in music, I know allegro is a lively tempo.
- Misusing similar words. Affect, effect; great, grate; there, their, they’re. They may sound alike, but they mean totally different things. For example, affect is a verb that means to influence; effect is a noun that means a result. The temperature can affect a paint’s drying time. An effect of the hot weather was that the painters were able to apply a second coat later that afternoon.
- Misusing apostrophes. Use an apostrophe in contractions, such as wasn’t, don’t, or isn’t. Use an apostrophe to denote ownership, such as Sarah’s handbag, Dad’s car, Tom’s tree. There is one exception: it. It’s means it is. Belonging to it uses no apostrophe: the dog drank its water. Do not use an apostrophe for plurals: shoes, rings, and the Smiths, not shoe’s, ring’s, and the Smith’s. If you have plural acronyms, make the letters capital followed by a small s, like ABCs or RTEs.
- Misusing exclamation points. One means excitement. Most paragraphs only need one, at the end of the most exciting sentence. We’re going on vacation. To Paris. Paris in the springtime! And don’t you ever, ever, ever use multiple exclamation points one after the other!!!
- Using wienie words. I have to confess, I use wienie words in my rough drafts when I’m trying to get ideas down fast before I forget them. Then I have to go back and change them. Do you know what wienie words are? Weak words that don’t add meaning or impact to your sentences. Like “very.” Very is a very, very weak word. Other wienie words: really, that, began to, started to. They have the effect of making your writing seem unnecessarily wordy. In most cases, you can eliminate them completely. Better yet, rewrite the whole sentence with strong words that convey exactly what you want your readers to experience. Instead of “he began to climb the very steep path,” try “he leaned forward, trying not to stumble while navigating the steep path.”