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 Post subject: 10 Writing Errors that Drive Editors Crazy
PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2010 11:05 am 
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Well, ok, this is just from one editor's blog (Chip MacGregor of the MacGregor Literary Agency) but I assume he's not the only one ;)

Meg wrote to ask a favorite question: "Are there some editing errors that drive you crazy? What are they?"

Yes! Of course! Here's one! Novelists who use exclamation points as though the period key didn't work on their keyboard! I hate this! Really! What's worse is the writer who needs to use several at once!!!!

Here's "another" one: Occasionally you'll find "authors" who feel a "need" to put any emphasized words in "quotes," since they think it makes them look "official." This is particularly tiresome when a "funny" author decides to put his "punchline" in quotations. An "idea": cut the quotation marks.

And a third (related) item: People who use an open parenthesis but no close parenthesis. (For example, this kind.

Number four: The serial comma. The rule for using commas is that there should be ONE LESS COMMA THAN THE ITEMS IN YOUR LIST. So if you list five things, you'd use four commas. Let me offer an example... "Farnsworth visited Italy, Spain, Bermuda, and Angora." Note that there are four countries and three commas -- one less than the list. Writers will often drop the serial comma, in an apparent attempt to make "Bermuda and Angora" one country (sort of like Trinidad and Tobago, if you need a geography joke). Drives me crazy.

5. Notice the unclear way I've used to create this list. I didn't number the first or second. Then I used "third" and "fourth," followed by the number 5. An editing error that drives me up a tree is jumbled numbers in a list. For some reason, Number-Impaired People will make an outline that reads, "First," followed by "Two," then "C," and then "4." (Or, occasionally, "13.") Make all your numbered lists consistent. And try not to put a numbered list within another numbered list. Too many numbers drives editors insane.

Sixth: Please notice I didn't write "sixthly." From a strict editorial viewpoint, there is no reason the word "firstly" or "secondly" exists. To number a list as "first" or "second" is to adverbialize them. To add "ly" is to adverbialize them. Therefore, WHY IN THE WORLD would you adverbialize an adverb? Why write "firstly" when all you really need to write is "first"? Besides, if it's a long list, can you really defend "thirteenthly"?

Seventh: Figure out the difference between "your" and "you're" before writing you're book. Ditto for "its" and "it's." [Warning to the humor-impaired: there is a deliberate error in that sentence. Ask your mom to explain it to you.]

Eighth: Your spell-checker is not to be relied upon. Ewe can knot really on it too pickup ever thin.

Ninth: Print out a copy of your proposal or manuscript and look it over. If the FIRST WORD of every paragraph starts with the same word, you need to go back and change it. (Unless the first word of every paragraph is the word "I," in which case you need to be slapped by the person sitting next to you, THEN go back and change it.) The same holds true for authors who use five different types of font on the cover page. I sometimes get queasy looking over the waves of font attacking me.

Tenth: Maxwell Perkins once said that "style" is nothing more than one author's decision to misuse the rules of grammar. A good editor will let you misuse it in order to help you create voice (any reading of William Faulkner is evidence of that). But that same editor will notice when you've crossed over to misusing it and sounding like a moron. Listen to your editor.

May I suggest two wonderful grammarphiles you can read in order to get a good grasp of the rules of grammar? Take a peek at Karen Gordon's Transitive Vampire and Well Tempered Sentence, as well as Patricia O'Connor's Woe Is I. Both authors actually have a sense of humor in talking about "the rules."

Although from what Raya's told me in the past, number four (putting that last comma in the list) isn't that hard & fast a rule anymore, especially in journalism, where space conservation matters most (in fact, I bet that's where the discrepancy started :P). However, I've always done it the way Chip does, just by default because that's how I was taught *shrug*

"I wonder how many people I've looked at all my life and never seen."
~John Steinbeck

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 Post subject: Re: 10 Writing Errors that Drive Editors Crazy
PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2010 4:01 pm 
The Scribe of Athero
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Location: FantasyFic HQ
Excellent list - effectively presented. There are times when you can legally omit the last comma in a series, but I don't remember what it is anymore. I usually always use the "one less comma than the items" rule.

However, the trend today is to use less commas, especially with parenthetical phrases. Example of the old proper way of putting commas in: He always turned to his art if, when the mood struck him, he had enough time to indulge his passion. The color highlighted section is a parenthetical phrase, that is, you can take it right out of the sentence, and it will still make sense. Nowadays, the trend is to omit the first comma (after if). I don't particularly like that trend, but I admit that it does cut down on the number of commas used.


Don't let aging get you down. It's too hard to get back * up. ~Maxine

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