Every now and then I venture outside my comfy circle and critique for new writers. I get requests sometimes from newbies to WDC (writing.com), and if I have the time, I'll go and give them a review.
There are a number of common mistakes I see all the time, and a couple of them really irk me.
1. Confusing 'then' and 'than'. I know they can sound similar when spoken, but they are very different words with different meanings.
2. This is tricky, I know, but mixing up 'its' and 'it's'. Sometimes just a missing apostrophe can change the meaning of a sentence.
3. Using apostrophes wrong. You only need them when you're indicating possession, not when you have multiple things. You have three apples, not three apple's.
4. Overuse of semi-colons. I'm guilty of it. I love semi-colons, but they are a very specific piece of punctuation, and one that can be misused. They should be used sparingly, once every few pages at the most, not sprinkled liberally across every page.
5. Huge long sentences with multiple ideas separated by commas. Chop it up. Make several sentences of it. If I have to go back and re-read a sentence several times to understand it, it's too complex.
6. Funky dialogue tags. They stand out like the proverbial dog's bollocks. A simple 'said' or 'asked' is fine. As soon as a page of dialogue is littered with 'muttered', 'stammered', 'expleted', 'hollered' or 'squealed', it's too much. Especially if the tag is modified with an adverb - 'squealed shrilly' is redundant. There is a place for different dialogue tags, but use them sparingly.
7. The word 'that'. It's overused. WAY overused. And in many cases, it's not needed. Read the sentence aloud with 'that' in there, then again without it. Does it make sense? If so, take it out.
And that's just the ones that popped to the top of my head. Are there any writing quirks that prickle the hair on your neck?