Question from the e-mail: What is the most common mistake you find in submitted manuscripts?
Answer: There is NO writing mistake that I haven't made myself, so I do know them all. When you are concentrating on what to say the grammar rules are not necessarily in the forefront of your consciousness.
Having said that, the most common error we find in submitted work is capitalization errors, followed closely by apostrophes used incorrectly.
I find capitalizations mistakes in almost ever file I see. It's easy to use search and replace to fix them, but we will have to read a little around what is found to determine whether actual errors in capitalization problems exist:
For instance Mom or Dad gets a cap when used as a name, but NOT when used as a pronoun.
“How you feeling, Mom?” gets a cap as Mom is the name and it's used as a proper noun.
“My mom feels bad.” gets no cap, as the “my” before mom makes her one among other moms and so she’s a pronoun. Mom, or Dad or Aunt and Uncle only get caps if they are used as a name or are part of a name.
The same cap rule applies with military rank, or learned titles, etc. If you use military ranks, or titles like Sergeant, Professor or Doctor, while you are working on the book, they get caps if they are a name, but not if they are a pronoun.
“I was late, because Doctor Malkus gave me a prescription.”
“I was late, because the doctor gave me a prescription.” (A pronoun because “the doctor” is not part of his name.)
“The captain of the Revenge led his crew of pirates in an attack.”
“The crew of the Revenge was led by Captain Edward Teach.”
"I was late to Professor Hargreave's class."
The professor was very angry with me.
It can be a good idea to search these kinds of things AFTER a ms. is completed, just to double check, because again, when we wear the creative hat, the rulebook may go out the window.