January 28, 2015

Top 10 Writing Pet Peeves: Grammar & Writing Tips

For today's grammar focus, I'm recycling a post from June 2012. Enjoy!


No writer is perfect, and perfection would be boring anyway. 

I'm a big believer in keeping a reader engaged. Some mistakes, at least for me, bring me out of the story and back into my own head.

My Top 10 Writing Pet Peeves

This one annoys me, because I don't get it. The words are just so different. Chose/choose bugs me, but I can understand why people confuse them. Although I guess you can lose something that gets too loose. Hmmmm.

Similar Sounding Words
Examples: there/they're/their, its/it's, you're/your, two/to/too

The spell check function fails this test. I get it. When you are typing fast, you might accidentally use the wrong one. If you know you make these mistakes often, do a Search and Find as part of your editing process and make sure these words are used correctly. 

Mark Twain (from Wikipedia)
Overuse of Very
Using very gets old very quickly. I love the Mark Twain quote, "Substitue damn every time you're inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."  Rarely is "very" needed (with the exception of dialogue).

I. Hate. This. Word. Why? It is not a word. It's a double negative, and actually means not having no regard. So irregardless would technically mean having regard. Are you confused? Me, too. To me, it would be like saying irrelevantless.

Too Many Ellipses in Dialogue
I like an ellipsis for dramatic effect within story (or a blog post). However, I don't like line after line of dialogue with ellipses. Yes, it is a good indicator of someone being interrupted, but if someone is interrupted line by line, I think the conversation should be over. I know I would clam up by then. 

Also, some writers use it to show pauses when a simple comma will do.

Unnatural Dialogue
Speaking of dialogue, I want it to sound like two people talking. Good dialogue should read fast and true. It shouldn't read like prose. And rules that apply to good writing, do not apply to good dialogue. People speak with words writers are told to avoid: just, that, very. Even irregardless. Furthermore, if you craft a teenager, don't have them speaking like an adult. 

Read dialogue out loud to catch awkwardness.

Using the Word Believe Too Often
If a writer is using first person point of view, "I believe" is obvious. If the narrator is telling you about other characters and using believe, the reader doesn't know for sure what the narrator really knows. Do we just take the narrator's word for it?

Example: "I believe ghosts haunt the house up the street. My friend believes they don't."

If I is the narrator, we know he/she believes it simply by stating it. And we can't know for sure that the friend doesn't believe in ghosts, unless the friend character says it or the narrator shows why they don't think the friend believes it.

Am I making any sense?

Using Spell Checker as Editor
The spell check feature is awesome, and it will save you from typos and misspelled words. It will not save you from #1 or #2 above. Or some typos, like typing form for from. Use it, but don't let it be your editor.

Too Many Characters with Similar Initials
Maybe it's because I read at night, or maybe it's because I have three kids, but I can't keep it straight when Molly loves Max who was once wed to Mindy who fights constantly with her sister, Melissa. Oh, and Mike is falling fast for Molly, but Mindy is jealous. 

Update: Funny aside to this. In my Tala Prophecy series, I have Reagan falling for Rowan but fighting against Rafe. Oops! I fell in love with the names. Rowan and Rafe are brothers, so that helps my case, right? I know many families who keep with an initial theme. 

This is the worst. I'd rather an author own a mistake throughout, or own a style that I might consider wrong, than to switch back and forth. Confused as to whether to use the oxford comma or not. No problem, pick a way and run with it. 

Example: I recently read a book where a main character was Molly for half the novel and Mollie for the other half.

What is your biggest writing pet peeve? Or, what mistakes make you cringe when you're reading?

Note: I edited and edited this piece, terrified I'd make a mistake. There's nothing like writing a post about mistakes that contains mistakes. I hope it's as error free as possible.


ShaunaKelleyWrites said...

Yeah, I am guilty of most of these. My big two are an overuse of paranthetical statements.

And misuse of "ironically."

Jo Michaels said...

I'm with you and the commenter above. There are some things that are just wrong. :)