Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #0

From the Editor’s Eye
The 10 Most Common Errors Made by Writers
(And How to Fix Them)

The eleventh of a ten-part series.

#0. Extra: (A Few of) My Language Pet Peeves: Word Contortion, Distortion &  Deformation (Hoping for Reformation)

Some misused and abused words, terms, and phrases that bug the crap out of me . . .

  • mall — a public area often set with shade trees and designed as a promenade or as a pedestrian walk (not a shopping center).

Example: the National Mall in Washington, DC, and the Independence Mall in Philadelphia. Not a Nordstrom, Macy’s, or Starbucks in sight.

This is a mall:



  • strip mall — (not a mall in any sense of the word)

This is a strip mall . . . er . . . moll:



  • podium — a small platform on which a person may stand to be seen by an audience, as when making a speech, or conducting an orchestra, or receiving an award. Latin: elevated place, balcony. The operative element here is podi-, the Greek term for foot, not shopping.

This is a podium:

  • lectern — a stand that holds a book, notes, etc., for someone who is reading, speaking, or teaching (not a podium, although a lectern might sit on a podium).

This is a lectern:


Shout-out to NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell for using lectern rather than podium during her coverage of the recent political conventions. Now, if only her colleagues would pay attention.

  • try and . . . — yes, this has a long history, especially in the mother country. Irregardless, it ain’t rite. (BTW, if you have watched any British TV lately, you realize you should not use that as an exemplary example of proper English.)

The appropriate phrase is try to. Think of it this way: In this context, “to try” means “to attempt.” Would you say: “I will attempt and do it”? No. You’re more likely to say: “I will attempt to do it.”

The and implies that you have no doubt, that you will do it. In which case try is not needed: “I will do it.”

  • exact same — this is something a child or adolescent would say. Use one or the other, but not both. Alternate term: identical. Dialogue may be excepted because it reveals character (fer shur).
  • exact center — ditto.
  • utilize — get rid of it; it’s pretentious (it’s French, after all). Use works just fine; avoid utilize and utilization. Yeah, I know, bureaucrats and military types use it. Nuff said.

Resources & References


#10 They’re, Their Now: Contractions & Homophonic Convergence
#9. Commagain? Oxford Comma, Comma Splice & 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, and Contusion
#2. Apostrophic Calamity: Apostrophe vs. Dumb Quotes
#1. Verbal Abuse: Lie Down with Lay & Related Verb Warps

Still to come:

An ongoing series on the art & craft of writing. Watch this space.

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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.larryedwards.com/wigeonpublishing/
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2 Responses to Ten Most Common Errors Made by Writers: #0

  1. Pingback: From the Editor’s Eye: The 10 Most Common Errors Made by Writers | Polishing Your Prose

  2. Reblogged this on San Diego Writers/Editors Guild and commented:
    A final word from Larry Edwards on common errors: #0. Extra: (A Few of) My Language Pet Peeves: Word Contortion, Distortion & Deformation (Hoping for Reformation)

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