The Cardinal Sins of Writing (And Why You Should Give Them Up)
You see, there are a number of blistering blunders that keep us from getting writing work. There are some mistakes that are so egregious that an agent, editor, or publisher will immediately pass on whatever we’ve offered, no matter how brilliant the concept, pitch, or query may be.
What are these epic errors? I thought you’d never ask.
The Worst Spelling Mistake Ever
You have spell check; you never have to worry about a spelling error. Except every writer knows that’s not true. Misspelled words often slip through, but I’m not talking about “food” when you meant to type “good.” That’s not exactly fingernails-on-the-chalkboard bad.
But when you write “their” and the sentence calls for “there” or possibly ‘they’re”, then you have just made my eyeballs bleed. Basically, you have signaled—nay, you have sent up a flaming flare—that says, “I’m not a professional writer!”
Always check your there/their/they’re! And you might also want to check yourself on the use of “lose” and “loose.” For some reason, this, too, is a common writing error. It’s definitely wince-worthy, but I don’t think you’ll lose a job over it. On the other hand, there is one punctuation error that you shouldn’t let run loose.
But It Was Only One Apostrophe
Ah, the poor apostrophe. Yes, you can talk about your commas all day long, but for my money, it’s the apostrophe that can really grab one’s attention and say, “Whoa! You have no idea how punctuation works!”
First, let’s make this point clear: its’ is never correct. If you want to show possession of an it, then it’s its.
Secondly, an apostrophe is not something to be thrown around willy-nilly, just to be on the safe side. If you are not sure how to make a plural or show possession with numbers or abbreviations or whatnot, then look it up. Because plenty of editors will let a misplaced comma go on its merry way, but an errant apostrophe will always stand out in a sentence.
The Grammar Thing
I’m not going to go into a long preamble here. I’m just going to say do not use a subjective pronoun in an objective phrase because you think it “sounds right.”
“I brought sandwiches for you and I” is never right.
No, it’s not.
I am so tired of hearing broadcasters say “I” when they should say “me.” I’m tired of reading it in the paper or hearing it at a conference. To be honest, I don’t know how editors, agents, or publishers feel about this particular wrong. But I am on a mission to stop it in its tracks before it becomes common usage.
So please, think before you write. Give up those cardinal writing sins once and for all, and may your workbasket be ever flowing!
~Cathy C. Hall