No matter how good technology gets, you’re always going to need an editor’s eye – -yours or someone else’s — to polish your writing. Spell-check won’t catch these glaring grammar mistakes and typos.
Spell-check will catch a lot of typos, because they result in misspellings. But what about when you accidentally typo a real word? The most common I see in published writing is and instead of an, but typos come in many varieties. Be careful what your hands do when you’re not paying attention.
2. Using the wrong homonym
Nothing gets under a writer’s skin more than seeing these common mistakes:
- there instead of their or they’re
- your instead of you’re
- to instead of too or two
- it’s instead of its
- by instead of buy
3. Using the wrong word
affect is usually a verb.
effect is usually a noun.
BUT affect does NOT mean “to bring about” or “to cause (something) to happen”. That’s effect.
Ex: The effect of four years of experience was that I was able to effect progress in any organization, ultimately affecting my ability to gain further employment.
Others include then instead of than; and I often see pluralization mistakes like woman instead of women.
4. Misspelling a name
Spell-check doesn’t know all of the people you write about, but many of your readers will. Be sure to double-check the spelling of your subjects’ names, including the preferred capitalization and spacing for names like MacArthur or da Vinci. Don’t guess; it’s rude, and getting it wrong will annoy your subjects and your readers, and cut into your credibility.
5. Punctuation Errors
My spell-check is still uncomfortable when I use an em dash without surrounding spaces (OK by Chicago style); it gives me that glaring squiggly red line that forces me to search hard for a spelling mistake that isn’t there. I haven’t had any better luck with grammar-check for punctuation, so I’ve had to rely on real knowledge and a keen eye to ensure correct usage.
What common mistakes get under your skin as a writer or editor?
This post originally appeared at danasitar.com. Image by Matt Hampel (Creative Commons)