Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Irking things...

I do a lot of critiquing. I have the most fabulous group of critique partners and writers I read for, and I learn so much from them. They are all wonderful writers, and have a good grasp on grammar and mechanics.

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?


  1. I the posts on common mistakes. It always makes me stop and think about my WIP. I try really hard not to use "that" I remember a teacher of mine once said "that" is almost a useless word, so don't use it.

  2. THANK YOU!!

    Agreed, and way to post a nice list of the weird crap that almost all of us have done at some point in time . . .

  3. Good post. I always hate the it's and its. I think I write to late and over think it then can't remember what to do. lol. For the most part I get it right, which is good. Glad you shared this.

  4. This is a good list to print up and use as a reminder! You've listed most of my writing pet peeves (it's vs. its really bugs me).

    A couple of my own: to vs. too, and "alot."

  5. Oh yes. Alot bugs me too. And 'alright' which isn't actually even a word. It's 'all right'.

  6. Really? There are people who want to be writers who don't know the difference between then/than, and it's/its, and when to use apostrophes? Wow.
    In defence of the semicolon people, maybe they only just discovered how to use them. I only found out the correct way to use them a few months ago and I felt so smart every time I used one, so I used HEAPS in an essay I was writing for uni haha.

    Also, I don't want to seem like I'm comment stalking your blog, so I'll do my comment for the above post on this one too. Please tell me that we're getting Giants back? I really wanted to see it :(
    You said you'd never seen a movie where 3D adds to it, haven't you seen Avatar? I fully agree that most of the time 3D doesn't add anything to the movie though.

    Why is chrome telling me that I've spelt movie wrong?