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!