5 grammar errors that drive editors crazy!

We all have little grammar things or words we can’t spell. One of mine is woolen/woollen, don’t ask me why! But as a teacher, over the years I’ve seen a lot of common errors that writers make, and all of them are easily fixed with a bit of careful re-reading before submission. The ones that drive me, and most editors, crazy are the simple ones you should know. Grammar is not a set of rules designed to make your writing life miserable. The rules are there so that your readers know exactly what you are saying, and meaning, with no ambiguity.

a frightened cat

Don't scare off editors with bad grammar

The last thing you need is to look stupid. Some of these common mistakes will do exactly that:

  1. Using the wrong its/it’s.
    Hint: Say the sentence out loud, substituting it is for its. Does the sentence make sense? If not, no apostrophe is needed. This is one case where the apostrophe is never possessive. It’s a contraction.
  2. Relying on the spell checker. When you do this without thinking or checking the dictionary (and thus guessing) you can come up with some weird alternatives.
    Common errors here include affect/effect, aloud/allowed, break/brake. Some I’ve seen recently include using moose instead of mousse (imagine having a moose in your hair!) and defiantly instead of definitely.
  3. Saying the same thing twice. Not He received two complimentary tickets for free but He received two free tickets. Complimentary means free. My pet hate at the moment is She thought to herself. Unless she’s telepathic, the to herself is unnecessary. Lots of writers do this without realizing so weed them out.
  4. Misuse of commas – the current trend seems to be If in doubt, stick in a comma. You should err on the side of leaving them out. There is also a lack of fullstops in many people’s writing, resulting in run-on sentences all joined with commas. If you don’t know how to construct a sentence and end it, you may need to do some study.
  5. Switching tenses. Again, many writers who do this are not aware of it, so it’s an error you have to watch for. If others are commenting on it when they critique your work, you have a problem. So instead of The committee met last week and decides to buy the new chairs, it should be The committee met last week and decided to buy the new chairs.

There are lots more common errors – if you’d like a full list with solutions (handy to print out and keep by your computer), go to https://www.ebooks4writers.com/about/20-common-grammar-errors/



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