Words That Get In The Way

April 2, 2008 at 11:41 am | Posted in Bria, editing, writing | 3 Comments
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Being able to tell a great story is only part of succeeding as an author. It’s those pesky words and mechanics that get in the way. Here’s a quick run down of some of the most common word errors.

Don’t be that guy.

In to/Into AND Onto/On to – Into/Onto are prepositions, so they need an object.  For example: Into the house, Onto the table, Into the car. . .

Tina Blue has a great example of how to keep them straight. Just remember these two examples:

1. She turned her paper in to the teacher.
2. She turned her paper into the teacher. POOF – Her paper is now a teacher!

Its/It’s AND Who’s/Whose –  I struggled with this one when I was young. Which word gets the apostrophe? In both cases it’s the contraction – remember, the apostrophe replaces the missing letters. IT’S it’s.

Affect/Effect – Affect: To influence. Effect: A result. Check out Grammar Girl for great guidelines.

Farther/Further – Farther is a distance. Further is a greater degree.
She drove farther to get here than I did. This matter will take further investigation.

Who/That – Remember, a person is a “who” – Jessica, who is on the blog with me, writes great posts.

Often a mistake commonly made is writing how we speak. For example: could of, should of, would of. These should actually be could/would/should have.  “I should have checked my spelling before handing in my paper.”

A typical new writer mistake are homonyms, words that sound alike but are spelled different and have different meanings. When I’m writing on auto-pilot, my biggest homonym error is Thrown/Throne. My hero is not going to claim his ‘thrown’ – no matter how many times I type it.  Check out Alan Cooper’s “All About Homonyms” page – he has an amazing list!

So there are the basic mistakes I struggled with when I began writing. Let’s hear yores – I mean yours.




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  1. I love compliment and complement. I was so proud of myself when I finally figured out the difference (since I’m a copy editor by day, I probably shouldn’t admit that…) Now if I could only figure out that pesky right/left problem!

  2. Great post, Bria! I really enjoyed Jessica’s yesterday too. Unfortunately, I feel like mechanics are the least of my problem. =(

    Now, writing how you talk. Oh, my. It’s not bad for contemporary dialogue, but definitely not historical and not in the narrative. My biggest one is “I’ve got to” or “I’ve gotta”. One of these days, I will beat that out of my writing patterns, probably not my speech patterns though. Not writing in first person seems the easiest way to avoid this one 😉

  3. Thanks ladies – my list could have been far longer, but that seemed like a good place to start from the “formative years” – or formative MSs.

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