Here is a checklist of mistakes that editors see over and over again. With training, it is possible to spot them at a glance and so improve the work. In the world of writing, it is essential to make articles and stories as perfect as possible before submission.
Misuse of Apostrophes
Apostrophes have two uses:
- To indicate ownership
The dog’s tail was long and hairy.
The plum’s skin was smooth.
- To signify a contraction
Let’s go and see Jane at her house.
You’re next in line for promotion.
Using Incorrect Words That Sound Similar
English can be confusing as there are many words that sound similar or the same but are spelled differently and carry completely different meanings. Spell checkers pick up some errors but others go unnoticed. With understanding and careful checking, it is possible to keep writing free of incorrect word usage. Here are some of the words that are commonly used incorrectly:
The verb in a sentence must agree with the subject. Many times, this is not adhered to and a singular subject is given a plural verb or vice versa.
- These sentences are incorrect:
The dog and cat is responsible for the mess.
The dog or cat are responsible for the mess.
Everybody are coming to the party.
All the children is coming to the party.
- Here are the correct versions:
The dog and cat are responsible for the mess.
The dog or cat is responsible for the mess.
Everybody is coming to the party.
All the children are coming to the party.
When to Use a Hyphen
Hyphens join words that fall before and describe a noun.
- The snow-covered mountains rose high above the river
- The quick-frozen carrots were packed into bags
If the order is reversed and the descriptive words are not before the noun, the hyphenation falls away.
- The mountains that rose high above the river were snow covered
- The carrots that were quick frozen were packed into bags
Using Generic Vocabulary
This is a lazy way of writing. Look out for nouns and adjectives that have vague meanings and weak impact. Be specific and steer away from clichéd ideas.
- Generic sentences
The tree displayed green leaves
The building was tall
The bowl was full of sweets
- Specific sentences
The oak displayed emerald leaves
The office block towered above the other buildings
The bowl was full of liquorice allsorts and marshmallows
Editors have little patience with simple mistakes that are repeated throughout a piece of writing. Being aware of common mistakes and checking for them is an important part of readying an article or story for submission to an editor.