Thursday, November 20, 2014

What are the most common writing mistakes

by Eleanor Cross

Teddy Weiss is sick of it all: the jerks who constantly bully him because he is smarter than they are, being poor, and the frustration of being so close to changing lives with an incomplete invention because he is too poor to afford the materials.

When Teddy’s uncle comes into a lot of money, Teddy is nearly able to finish his invention at last, until wrongfully accused, Teddy is beaten severely by those who are constantly bullying him and he seeks revenge.
Question from the e-mail: What are the most common writing mistakes you see in the manuscripts that are submitted to you?

Answer: Quite a few keep turning up. One perennial favorite is mistaken spelling of homonyms.
Spell check will never find those as either spelling is a Real Word.  Here's the basic ones we see the most.

1.    Check homonyms and be sure they are used correctly. Problems often happen with words that sound alike, but are spelled differently. Watch out for words like hear and here, then and than, to (toward), too (more or also), and two (the number), there, their, and they’re, zinc and sink, and check them all carefully in the dictionary  We use the one at as it's always up to date and gives American, not British, usage.

2.    Poorly formed transitions that don't orient the reader. A transition is when you move the reader from one place to another, or one scene to another, or one time to another–usually the opening sentence in a block of copy or scene. A good transition, like the lead in a newspaper or magazine article, should answer the questions, Who? Where? and When?

3.   Poorly formatted dialogue and mistakes in  dialogue punctuation: Make sure characters don’t waste time on small talk. Punctuate dialogue correctly. Never let two characters talk in the same paragraph. Commas and other punctuation go inside the quotes. And everything a person says at one time (even if they change the subject) goes in the same paragraph. Never let two characters speak in the same parqagraph.

4.  Punctuation of the  speech tags as part of the whole sentences.  When a quote is followed by a “speechtag” as in, ‘David explained.’– the tag that identifies the speaker is still part of the SAME sentence and so the end of the dialogue speech is connected with a comma (NOT a period), and then a close quote. The comma is there to show that the “said” that follows is still part of the same sentence. Dialogue quotes should not end in period when there is a speechtag. Tags like “Responded David”, or “Explained Mary” should never be capitalized as they are not a new sentence.  Use “said” most of the time. Never use animal sounds such as ‘he barked’ unless your character is a dog or a drill sergeant.

5. Action tags get caps as they are a new and separate sentence, but they can still identify the speaker, because the reader will assume that whoever moved also spoke as well. You must be careful there to be sure the person who moves really is the speaker.  If you want to show another character's reaction to the speech, change paragraphs. Treat the movement as if it were a dialogue reply.

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