Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wednesday Writing Tips: Naughty and Nice Lists

Santa isn't the only one who keeps lists of the naughty and the nice. Editors do it too (or at least, good editors do). But editor lists are about words, not children. The words or phrases that we most commonly spot as incorrect, so know we need to check for in every book. And each editor's list is different, has not only generally common errors but those words that the editor knows are her weak points or blind spots. Our copy editors are invaluable in helping with this. ("OMG, the copy editor flagged this same thing twenty-seven times in the last three books from me. I better put this on MY LIST.")

So here's a present from Santa for all you nice writers, and for you naughty ones who want to be nice--a list of some common errors you should look for in your writing. Do a Find in your document for each of these.

"could care less" - Think about it. What you mean is "couldn't care less".

"criteria is" - 'Criteria' is plural. If you just have one, say "criterion is"; if there are several, "criteria are".

"hone in" - Hone means to sharpen; you hone a blade or hone a skill. If you are pinpointing or locating something, you "home in" on it.

irregardless - This is a double negative, and means the opposite of what you want. Regardless means without regard, so irregardless means "without without regard"--in other words, with regard. So say "Regardless of the consequences" if you mean doing something without caring about the consequences.

kudo - There's no such word. Kudos means approval or praise; it is singular.

lightning/lightening - That bolt of electricity in the sky is 'lightning'. If you are making something lighter (in weight or color), you are 'lightening' it.

"off of" - Get rid of the 'of', just use 'off'. Go jump off a bridge.

"person that" - (Or substitute any category of people.) People are always 'who'; 'that' refers to a thing. Let's not argue about animals; do it whichever way your editor will allow.

"reason is because" - Redundant. Use "reason is", or if introducing a noun clause you may use "reason is that".

"road to hoe" - No, please don't dig up the road with a sharp farm instrument. That would be a difficult "row to hoe".

"those kind"/"these kind" - 'Those' and 'these' are plural and would modify plural nouns. So say either "those kinds" or "this kind".

"try and (action)" - This should be "try to" do whatever. 'And' is a conjunction used to join two actions or things. "Try and call the grammar police" means you are going to do two different actions: you are going to "try" something (what?) and you are going to "call the grammar police". What you mean is that you are going to attempt to call the grammar police - "try to call". Hey, we're right here!

undoubtably - No such word. This is a misspelling of 'undoubtedly'.

"would of" - This is based on sloppy mispronunciation. The term is "would have".

Happy holidays. Hope you enjoyed this gift list.


Angelia Sparrow said...

Tow the line.
It is "toe the line." In the 19th century, a fight was begun by drawing a line in the dirt. If you stepped over it, the fight was on. If you just toed it, your were obeying the other person's wishes.

Another thing coming.
It's "another think coming." If you think that, you have another think coming. "Think" is used colloquially instead of "thought."

Beyond the pail.
The spelling is pale. It means a sharpened stake used in a fence. Things that were "beyond the pale" were terrifying in olden days.

My favorite editing error of all time is "Light the censors." (they meant censers)

ECPI Editors said...

Excellent ones, Angelia! Yes, I frequently have to point out and explain "another think -- not thing! -- coming".


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becbeq said...

My hubby always rolls his eyes because I use "I could care less, but it would be difficult".

Unknown said...

Thank you, thank you, for:
'who' is for people, 'that' is for things"...
I am SO tired of hearing this mistake in the media. I had begun to think I was just old fashioned, and that the rules had changed.

Anonymous said...

How about "supposably" instead of "supposedly"? (You might take issue with my quotation mark to the left of the question mark.)

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