No matter how often we try to avoid it, we all make a few subtle grammatical errors when we write. Some of them occur when we type the wrong word. Others are born from listening to incorrect grammar on TV and radio. While taking the time to use Word’s Find/Replace function to seek every grammar mistake makes no sense, I do recommend searching for a few of the most common ones–and ones least likely to be found by your editor and advance readers.
As I mentioned in Monday’s post, “The Writing Process: Find & Eliminate Stupid Words“, I’m working on editing a paranormal thriller novel, and I figured I would share some of the things I’m looking for in this week’s blog posts. YMonday, I posted my working prologue before any of these edits. At the end of the week, I will post the prologue after the edits.
Today’s editing directive: seek out and eliminate common grammatical mistakes.
Here is a list of mistakes that I look for because I know I’m a repeat offender:
- So: Should never be used as a substitute for “very”
- Like: Marlboro started the whole “like verses as” problem with their ad “Marlboro tastes good like a cigaret should.” Remember: use like with objects (He looks like a dog!) and as with concepts (Marlboro tastes good as a cigaret should.)
- Plus: Don’t you mean “also.” Use “plus” when you are adding numbers.
- Irregardless: This is not a word. Therefore, you shouldn’t use it.
- Due to/because: Remember, “It was canceled because of rain,” but “The cancellation was due to rain.”
- Different Than: It should be different from.
- Which/That: “Which” is parenthetical, meaning you can take what comes after it completely out of the sentence and the sentence would still work, as in “Grab the paint, which I think is a beautiful color.” “That” is used with the phrase after it is imperative to the sentence. “Grab the paint that we just opened,” has a totally different meaning than, “Grab the paint, which we just opened.” Especially if you have more than one can of paint in the room.
- Lay vs Lie: Lay (present tense) is transitive, meaning action. The conjugation looks like this: Lay/Lays (present tense), Laid/have laid (past tense), laying. “The hen lays an egg” (present tense), and “Yesterday, the hen laid an egg.” Lie (present tense) is intransitive, meaning no action, which includes being in the state of lying down. (If you are in the process of lying down, then you are actually laying, as in “Now I lay me down to sleep.” The conjugation of “lie” is where things get confusing: Lie/Lies (present tense), Lay/have Lain (past tense, not to be confused with the present tense form of lay), Lying. Yes that means 1) you can lay down while 2) someone is already lying down and 3) your wife is laying the baby down. If this happened in the past, you would have laid down while your friend lay in the bed and your wife laid the baby down.) Catch all that?
- Fewer/Less: You have fewer numbers. You have less amounts.
- Nor: No double negatives here. Incorrect Usage: “He cannot eat nor sleep.” Instead try one of these three: “He cannot eat, nor can he sleep.” “He cannot eat or sleep.” “He can neither eat nor sleep.”
- Two, to, too: Do a word search and make sure you haven’t confused them.
- There, Their, They’re: Same here.
- Your, you’re: And same here.
- Though, Thought, Through: Believe it or not, you will confuse these, too.
After doing a search on a few of these in my prologue, I discovered this:
- “Others dismissed the accusations, saying his jail time was due to a prank…” I actually found it during a “was” search earlier. Technically, his jail time is a noun, so the sentence might have worked. However, the cause of the jail time was not just the prank. It would have included a trial, etc. I changed the sentence to: “Others dismissed the accusations, claiming he spent time in jail for a prank…”
I will post the new prologue with all the changes tomorrow.
Fantasy novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. Weston speaks to children, teens, and adults about writing and the process of getting published. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. Find out more about The Elysian Chronicles at www.elysianchronicles.com.