I thought it might be fun, today, to post a list of the common grammatical errors I’ve seen in recent times. I’m not pointing the finger at anyone, or trying to make anyone feel bad.
These are the kinds of errors we all make when we’re in a hurry, or perhaps not paying as much attention to what we’re writing. When I see these in email, blogs or forum posts, I can forgive them, I’ve made these errors myself.
When I see them in published books, however, I am a little less forgiving. A published book should be edited, proof read and then the author should view pre-publication galleys to check for changes/errors before the book goes to press. In fact, most published books should have been read, reread and thoroughly combed for typos, grammatical errors and any other problems, several times pre-press.
The worst thing about these errors is that they have the ability to throw me completely out of a story and then it takes me time to settle back in.
So, here goes. These are the ones I have spotted most recently: (these are not direct quotes, but sentences I have constructed as an example)
I took a deep breathe because I was finding it difficult to breath — This one is so common lately. The correct usage: I took a deep breath because I was finding it difficult to breathe.
There has to be away. — Really? When will There be back?
There is away — Yes, you said that. When will There be back?
Proper usage: There has to be a way. There is a way.
Your stupid — My stupid what? (Thanks to a friend’s LJ icon for giving me this one)
Proper Usage: You’re stupid. (You are stupid.) Your pertains to something owned by the other person. You’re pertains to making a statement about the other person.
Walk a way — Sure, which way should I walk? Do you know any good ways around here?
Proper usage: Walk away.
Confusion of present and past tense: This one is difficult to give an example of, because sometimes, confusing them works, but as a general rule, if you use had in a sentence the other word to use with it is was. Otherwise you get a change of tense from present to past and vice versa. This error is often committed by writers whose first language is not English. The following link contains some good examples. http://www2.actden.com/writ_den/tips/sentence/tense.htm
Confusion of Our/Are: This one occurs a lot with younger writers. eg: We got into are car and drove to the beach. Correct usage: We got into our car and drove to the beach.
Sew/Sue/Sow confusion: I have had some of the best laughs when seeing these words confused. It can really be hilarious to see someone threaten to “Sew” someone else. Sew them what? Sew them TO what? LOL! If you wish to take someone to court over something then by all means, sue! It’s amusing to wonder what would grow if one were to sow a person. (sow means to plant. It could also refer to a female hog)
it’s/its confusion: I am guilty of this one, quite often. Especially when I am in a hurry, or lost in the creative flow of writing a story.
Incorrect: The horse fell to it’s knees.
Correct: The horse fell to its knees.
It’s pertains to being — it is there.
Its pertains to having — it has a place.
These are only a few of the mistakes I have seen recently in published works, and I know I have left out quite a few.
There are things a writer can do in order to keep these common mistakes out of their work.
- Invest in a good book on the subject. My personal recommendation is Strunk and Whites The Elements of Style. This book has become known as the writers’ bible.
- Use a beta reader: Software and game developers all use what they call beta testers. These are people who use and test a game or program to look for bugs before the application is released for wider use. A writer can use a beta reader in the same way. This is often someone that the writer knows well and who has a good command of english and grammar, who reads the story and comments about mistakes, or things that don’t work. You need to be careful in the selection of this person, however and not use someone who will try to write the story for you. A beta/editor/proofer is there to improve the story, not recreate it.
- Read your own work out loud. You’d be surprised how the errors will stick out to you when you do this. When writer’s read what we have written we tend to only see what we intended to write, so the error can go unnoticed. Reading aloud causes us to slow down and notice what is on the page, rather than what was intended to be on the page.
I personally use a program called “Text Aloud” to read my stories to me. It sounds as monotonous as hell, but because the program reads the WORDS and not the STORY you will immediately pick up such errors as breathe/breath confusion because of the way the program says the word.
Well, I think I have gotten this off my chest now. I feel better anyway. I hope that this article will be helpful to some of my readers.