As an editor, a major part of my job is to correct a writer’s grammar. This includes spelling errors, incorrect homophones (or words that sound similar but aren’t if you think about it), punctuation, and word choice. Each month I’ll share with you some common mistakes I find in the works that I edit and how you can avoid making the same ones. My goal is to help you be a better writer not only in your professional work but also in everyday life.
- Confusing the possessive with the contraction, such as in their/there/they’re and your/you’re.
- Misspelling things that kind of sound the same but mean completely different things, like hanger/hangar, loose/lose, wether/weather.
- Misusing words that are similar but have different forms and functions, such as effect/affect and then/than.
Due to this overabundance of material already out there, I don’t feel my need to add my own voice to the melee. If you are in a bind because you can’t decide whether or not to use you’re or your, Google it.
Some things that I’ve found many people don’t understand are how to use commas properly, which is understandable since there are so many ways to use them, and lots of exceptions. Another is when to spell out numbers and when to use digits. I’ll even be covering things such as proper use of capitalization, italics, and underlining. These types of errors may be less egregious to the general populace of the Interwebz, but they are no less important when writing and publishing a novel. Remember that every error you make diminishes your readers’ respect for you, even if only an infinitesimally small amount.
Some rules are different among different circles or in different parts of the world (like the difference between catsup and ketchup in the UK and US). In those instances, I will be relying on American spelling and the Chicago Manual of Style. The Chicago Manual of Style, informally called CMOS by those who are [too] well acquainted with it, is the stylebook used by most traditional publishing houses.
Here’s a bonus error that I won’t bother explaining to you:
“Jessie <3’s Sean!”
Jessie Sanders is the managing editor at Consortium Books, editor of the bestselling Dragonprince trilogy, and author of the young adult fantasy novel, Into the Flames. Every Friday she shares an article about editing and how to improve one’s grammar.