Welcome to lesson 3 in my blog series on common amateur writing mistakes. The topic I am focusing on today is ‘Bad grammar and spelling’.
When I wrote my first book, I did the edits myself. I scoured each line looking for things that shouldn’t be there. I then had a couple of friends read over my manuscript and guess what? They found errors.
Here are a few common mistakes to look out for:
– Questions that do not finish with a question mark, eg What did you buy at the shops.
– Sentences that don’t finish with a full stop or exclamation mark
– Overuse of exclamation marks in dialogue!, eg “I haven’t seen you in so long! You look great! I’m so excited to see you!”
– Inconsistent character names/using the wrong character name in a sentence/inconsistent spelling of character names.
– Putting full stops and commas in the wrong side of quotation marks, eg using “. and “, instead of .” and ,”
– Not capitalising proper nouns, eg dad could be Dad if it is being used to refer to a particular person.
– Mixing up words with the same pronunciation, but different spelling (heterographs)- eg too and two, here and hear (spellcheck won’t pick this up).
– Typos! A misplaced letter can change the meaning of a word. Recently in our Church newsletter there was an advertisement asking if somebody could provide an indoor bowels set for our seniors group. Oops. Don’t just rely on spellcheck – these kind of errors don’t get picked up.
What can you do about it?
Here are my tips for avoiding spelling and grammar errors.
1. Download a style guide and follow it to the letter – for more info, try this site http://www.winepressofwords.com/2012/08/which-style-guide-should-i-use/
2. Use the Find tool (Ctrl F) in Microsoft Word to your advantage. I have invented a few searches to try to pick up errors that I know I make. Quotation marks are an issue for me, so I use Ctrl F to search for quotation marks and check each piece of dialogue to make sure the punctuation is correct. I also search for my character names to make sure I have not used them in the wrong scene.
3. Pay for a copy-edit if you can afford it. If not, get at least five people to read through your manuscript and look for any typos or mistakes (English teacher friends are awesome proof readers).
I’ve never read a review on Amazon that said – “This book was typo free and had proper use of grammar”, but I’ve seen plenty of negative reviews complaining about bad grammar and spelling errors. It’s definitely worth putting in the time to get it right.
What techniques do you use for improving the professionalism of your writing?