From the Editor’s Eye: The 10 Most Common Errors Made by Writers

A ten-part series.

Introduction

The other  day I went to the dentist (yes, editing is a bit like pulling teeth) and my hygienist told me she had just read a book written by one of her other patients. She liked the story, but she said the book had so many errors that it distracted her and  left her feeling embarrassed for the author. She debated whether she would read any other books by that author.

Errors in written material are like potholes in roads.

With the ever-increasing number of books being self-published today, I fear this will become even more common.  (Yes, I find errors in books from the big publishers, but it’s typically one or two, and rarely four or five, not scores of them.)

Clarity, not confusion.

grammar_5_common_mistakesAs an editor, I want published authors (self- or otherwise) to look like professionals. To that end, this two-per-week blog series identifies (a la David Letterman) the ten types of errors most likely to result in the greatest hair loss to this editor—and annoy your readers.

These errors represent what we in the editing biz call editorial style: grammar, spelling, punctuation, and word usage. I culled the examples from manuscripts I have edited as well as published works. I will address the craft of writing in a separate series.

#10. They’re, Their Now: Contractions & Homophonic Convergence
#9. Commagain? The Oxford Deflate & Dialogue Punchuating Bag
#8. Word Contortion: Homophonic Trip-ups
#7. Three Dots and Out: Give Your Ellipsis Elbow Room
#6. A Tense Moment: Word Context, Past & Present
#5. Dash It All! Part A: Hyphen and En Dash
#4. Dash It All! Part B: Em Dash—The Separator
#3. Pronounflagration: Pronoun Profusion, Confusion, Contusion
#2. Apostrophic Calamity: Apostrophe vs. Dumb Quotes
#1. Verbal Abuse: Lie Down with Lay & Related Verb Warps
#0. Extra: (A Few of) My Language Pet Peeves

If you’re going to break the rules,
then know the rules you’re breaking.

ap_stylebook_2016      grammar_girl    cmos

So, before you show your manuscript/book/blog posts . . . whatever . . . to anyone influential and likely to be hypercritical—book reviewers, agents, publishers,  your mother-in-law—double check for these common errors. You may be surprised at what you find.

If you have examples or anecdotes you want to share with me and others, please use the comment box at the bottom of the page.

I begin with . . .

#10. They’re, Their Now: Contractions & Homophonic Convergence

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About Polishing Your Prose

Larry M Edwards is an award-winning investigative journalist, author, editor and publishing consultant. He is the author of three books, and has edited dozens of nonfiction and fiction book manuscripts. Under Wigeon Publishing, he has produced six books. As author, "Dare I Call It Murder? A Memoir of Violent Loss" won First Place in the San Diego Book Awards in 2012 (unpublished memoir) and 2014, Best Published Memoir. The book has also been nominated for a number of awards, including: Pulitzer Prize, Benjamin Franklin Award, Washington State Book Award, and One Book, One San Diego. As Editor, "Murder Survivor’s Handbook: Real-Life Stories, Tips & Resources" won the Gold Award in the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Book Awards, Self-Help. For a sample edit and cost estimate, contact Larry: larry [at] larryedwards [dot] com -- www.larryedwards.com -- www.dareicallitmurder.com -- www.wigeonpublishing.com
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13 Responses to From the Editor’s Eye: The 10 Most Common Errors Made by Writers

  1. Pingback: Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #10 | Polishing Your Prose

  2. Reblogged this on San Diego Writers/Editors Guild and commented:
    SDW/EG member Larry Edwards shares his observations on the top ten errors authors make, culled from his years of experience as an editor. Here’s the introduction.

  3. Pingback: Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #10 | San Diego Writers/Editors Guild

  4. Pingback: Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #7 | Polishing Your Prose

  5. Pingback: Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #6 | Polishing Your Prose

  6. Pingback: Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #5 | Polishing Your Prose

  7. Pingback: Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #6 | San Diego Writers/Editors Guild

  8. Pingback: Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #4 | Polishing Your Prose

  9. Pingback: Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #3 | Polishing Your Prose

  10. Pingback: Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #2 | Polishing Your Prose

  11. Pingback: Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #0 | Polishing Your Prose

  12. Pingback: A Shout Out to my Editor – Boyer DePaul

  13. Pingback: A Shout Out to my Editor – Boyer DePaul

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