Common misteaks made by writers

I once wrote a newspaper editorial about making mistakes. I wrote it because I’d made a mistake in the newspaper a week or two before and I felt really bad about it. It was an honest mistake. However, the person affected by the mistake came into the newspaper office and really let me have it; said I shouldn’t make mistakes because I have a degree. Well, degree(s) or not, I still err like anyone else. I put it online for all to see, and if you want to read it, go here. It’s a little difficult to read and it was an attempt at humor (you can decide whether I was successful or not).

But that made me think about mistakes that I see often from writers. So, I thought I’d blog about that…maybe I’ll hit on something that even you weren’t aware of…editing this, I see it will take more than one…so consider this part 1.

One of the quickest ways to get tossed off an editor’s desk is first, format. Follow the directions for formatting. There is a general standard, but not all publishers are alike. Failing to follow their formatting guidelines proves you didn’t do your homework and that you don’t really care what they want. Thus, if you don’t care, why should they?

Next is work that is replete with errors. When submitting to a professional publication that you’d like them to pay you money for your work, yes, even one single solitary error will affect your submission. Proof, again and again.

So, what are some of the no-brainers of errors? Here are a few:

A lot of writers use “suppose” when they really need “supposed.” The first is in essence, thinking. “I suppose we could go there,” or “Do you suppose they arrived safely?” While the latter can be the past tense of the former (“We supposed they arrived safely.”), it is most often used to mean should have. “He was supposed to go today,” or, “You are supposed to stop at a red light.” I’ve seen many writers use the former in those situations. Thus, “He was suppose to go there,” is incorrect. As is “You are suppose to stop at a red light.” Both of these incorrect examples should use “supposed.”

Its/it’s often gives writers fits. The easiest way to remember the difference here is, the apostrophe takes the place of an “I” and means it is. Its is possessive. It’s (see, it is) one of those possessive exceptions in that it is possessive and yet doesn’t use an apostrophe. Thus “It’s a long time until Christmas,” is actually “It is a long time until Christmas.” Whereas “What will you do with its wheel,” is possessive. Meaning the wheel belongs to something (presumably a car…or maybe a bike…or wagon).

Another easy one that writers shouldn’t get wrong is your/you’re. As in the its/it’s case, the former (your) is possessive and the later (you’re) has an apostrophe in place of a missing letter—in this case, “a.” Thus, “This is your blog,” means the blogs belongs to me (possessive). While “You’re going to run over your word count” (see how I got them both in one sentence?) means “You are going to run over your word count,” and the “your” indicates that word count belongs to me.

And, as this has gotten long, I’ll write more mistakes later!

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Common misteaks made by writers

  1. Thank you, especially for the sentence about formatting. I tell my students they should pay attention to the way I want their papers formatted, but they think I am too picky. You’ve just given me a specific example of how formatting is important in the workplace, too. May I quote you to them?

  2. Freeda Baker Nichols

    I read your blog this morning from the Downtown Inn at Piggott, AR, where I’m staying while I attend the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Creative Writers’ Retreat. Roland, you are doing a great job as Mentor of the Fall 2011 Writers’ Retreat.
    I’m looking forward to a couple more days of inspiration and learning as I strive to find that “One true sentence” that Hemingway proclaimed is all it takes to become a “writer.”

  3. As I read this, I’m away at a writing retreat myself – literally. I’ve retreated in my camper to the deep woods to make sure my second book gets started. I’d like to know what you do to protect your time and stay productive over the long term. I know weeks of my life go by with little writing done, given family & professional obligations. Hence these retreats, which I love, but consider a poor, drastic solution in the long term.

  4. Roland, when I did my online articles years ago, I, posted a rant (yeah, it was) on people who didn’t edit their work before submitting it. I admitted I was guilty of occasionaly messing up, but I was really angry at writer(s) who didn’t even bother to check capitals, grammar, punctuation or anything – sO IT Looke3d Kind of like this. Your comments on formatting are so true. If there was ONE thing I’d teach new, old, or in-between writers, it would be this. Whether submitting for contests, publication, or just on-line blogging, proper formatting goes a long way in making the readers’ experience a pleasant one!

  5. I’m glad you addressed the suppose/supposed mistake. I rarely see any mention of that in articles about writing errors, but I see it all the time in submissions I critique and even in published pieces. I think it has become common in everyday speech and has slipped into our writing. Thanks, Roland.

  6. Kenneth Renshaw

    I recall the same error made by 2 writers of emails to me, one by the administration at TRCC, and one by Ryan Vaughan at KAIT-TV. The email opened up with “Hello”, with the “o” missing!

  7. Zola: you certainly may quote me. Even better, give them a link to this blog and make them come READ it! 😉
    Freeda: you are very kind (as well as a very good writer!). Thanks very much.
    Bruce: I’ve come to believe in the importance of writer retreats for writers these days–MOSTLY because of the day and age in which we live. As for making time…hmmm…I may have to BLOG about that, too! 🙂
    Chris: (we’re missing you up here!) Rant on! AND, the internet is only making matters worse as it seems to require LESS skill and not more.
    Tracy: Yeah, that one bothers me a lot. I THOUGHT I’d be able to get all my “list” in on one blog, but my word count just kept growing. So I figure now it may end up in as many as three parts!
    Ken: Hahahaha. That’s one you just have to ask: “did you EVEN read this at all before you sent it out?”
    Thanks for reading, y’all.

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