Articles tagged "grammar"

Common Grammar Mistakes

We all make mistakes. That’s what first drafts are for (and second…and third).

Being a self-published author, you might not have the desire or the resources to hire a professional editor or proofreader, so you’ll have to comb through the file yourself with an eye for grammar, spelling, and usage mistakes. Believe me, you should NOT be the only one looking over the file for these kinds of things. But in the end, the responsibility to ensure your book looks clean and professional falls on you.

Here’s a few grammar mistakes that get made often, particularly in early drafts, and are important to  keep an eye out for while reviewing your drafts:

1) Subject / Verb agreement

This one is usually pretty obvious, as the difference will stand out when you read the sentence. If the subject is singular, the verb must also be singular, and likewise, if the subject is plural, the verb must be plural.

Example:

Incorrect: Proofreading have been the most difficult part of editing.

Correct: Proofreading has been the most difficult part of editing.

2) Commas

We’ll cover two common problems that arise from comma use: the dreaded Oxford comma, and missing commas.

The Oxford is subject to much debate. It is the last comma found in lists, series, and compilations (see the comma after ‘series’ in this sentence? Oxford comma). In general, it is acceptable to use it or not use it as you see fit stylistically, with the exception being any instance when the meaning of the sentence is questionable without it.

Example:

With Oxford Comma: Our book is about music, dance, and culture in the 1980s.

Without Oxford Comma: Our book is about music, dance and culture in the 1980s

The Oxford comma is only critical in a sentence that needs it to make sense:

For breakfast I had eggs, toast, and orange juice – this sentence is a list of what I had for breakfast.

For breakfast I had eggs, toast and orange juice – the meaning may still be clear enough, but this is me telling toast and orange juice that I had eggs for breakfast.

Missing commas are much clearer, and are another little bit of formatting easy to miss in an early draft. Most often it is added after an introductory phrase, to break the rhythm of the sentence, and clue the reader in to the meaning, so confusion is avoided.

Example:

Incorrect: In case you didn’t notice I covered that in chapter three.

Correct: In case you didn’t notice, I covered that in chapter three.

3) Pronoun Reference

Pronoun is defined as: “a word that can function by itself as a noun phrase and that refers either to the participants in the discourse (e.g., I, you ) or to someone or something mentioned elsewhere in the discourse (e.g., she, it, this ).” Because of its use to replace a noun, it is critical that the pronoun reference be clear, lest the sentence cause confusion for the reader.

Example:

Incorrect: When Fred read Jim’s assessment of the draft, he didn’t like it.

Correct: Fred didn’t like Jim’s assessment of the draft.

4) Split Infinitives

Split Infinitives refer to any phrase or sentence with “to” and the associated verb separated by another word. This will usually be an adverb. In general, there is no rule against split infinitives, but it is smart to try rewriting the sentence without the extra word (or with the extra word relocated) to see which reads better. Often times a split infinitive can break a reader’s cadence or throw them off when reading.

Example:

Split Infinitive: I’ve got to quickly read this book.

Non-Split Infinitive: I’ve got to read this book quickly.

5) Correct Words/Forms

English is a tricky language sometimes. There are numerous words that sound the same, but have different spelling and meaning. Be careful to look at these closely to be sure the correct word and form are used in all instances.

Example:

Incorrect: There taking they’re book over their!

Correct: They’re taking their book over there!

Don’t let these and other grammar pitfalls hurt your marketing plans! A clean, correct manuscript is critical to keep readers invested in your book. Readers will forgive a mistake or two, but if your book is riddled with problems that can be caught and corrected in the proofreading process, they may not be willing to buy another of your books.

 

 

 

6 More Grammar Mistakes Writers Need to Avoid

There have been a lot of great showdowns throughout history: David vs Goliath, Yankees vs Red Sox, and…To vs Too?

We’re back with more simple grammar mistakes you should never make in your writing, featuring a whole host of matchups between similar-but-not-quite-the-same words. Take a look at the list – and our previous set of tips – and then give your book an edit to make sure you haven’t made any of these slip-ups!

Don't be like Fry. Know the difference between affect and effect.Affect vs Effect

Are you one of those people who writes “impact” because you aren’t quite sure whether you should be using “affect” or “effect”? Here’s a quick tip that will get you through most scenarios: affect is a verb – so one thing affects another – and effect is a noun. Just don’t get tripped up on “effecting change,” where you’ll use an “e” when you mean “to bring about” something.  Isn’t the English language fun (and sometimes aggravating)?

Insure vs Ensure

This one’s pretty simple. If you’re talking about insurance – as in limiting financial liability – use insure. Both start with an “i.” Ensure, when you’re guaranteeing something, is always with an “e.”

Then vs ThanCan proper grammar make you not sound like a crazy person?

Use then when something follows another thing: “I’ll learn these great grammar tips, and then I’ll proofread my books.” Than is used in comparisons: “Since I fixed all of my grammar mistakes, my book is selling better than it was before!”

I.e. vs E.g.

You might think these are interchangeable when you’re using an example, but there’s a very subtle difference between the two. I.e. mean “that is” or “in other words,” from the Latin “id est,” and you use it when you’re clarifying something. E.g., from the Latin “exempli gratia,” means “for example” and is used for just that – providing an example!

Everything you know is a lie - the fast checkout line at your store uses incorrect grammar.Fewer vs Less

As a rule of thumb, you use fewer when you can count the subject in question individually and less when you can’t. So I can have fewer cups of water than you, but your cups might have less water in them than mine do. And yes, that means your grocery store sign is probably incorrect.

To vs Too (vs Two)

Last but not least, one that you probably know but can slip your mind when you’re writing. Most of the time you’ll use to when you’re talking about a verb or going toward a place, e.g. “I’m going to write” or “I went to the mall,” but when you mean to say “as well” or “also,” or something in excess, use too – “Sally went going to the mall, too, and she ate too much.” And just in case, two is always the number 2. Seems obvious, but you can never be too careful!

That’s it – for now! The English language is a wonderful, complex thing and even the best writers get tripped up from time to time. If you’ve got a favorite tip or a “this word or that one?” that seems to always get the best of you, share them in the comments!

7 Simple Grammar Mistakes You Should Never Make

Don't make these grammar mistakes

There’s no easier way to lose readers – and sales – than by publishing a book full of simple mistakes. After all, if you don’t care enough to catch basic errors, why should readers care about your book? Spellcheck can go a long way, but it won’t always save you from grammar mistakes that might go overlooked.

A good editor is never a bad thing if you’re serious about building your audience. But whether you’re hiring an editor or striking out on your own, you can make life easier by making sure these simple mistakes don’t pop up in your book.

Your vs You're

Your vs You’re

Your is possessive – as in, “That’s your dog.” You’re is a contraction of “you are.”

Its vs It’s

Along the same lines, its is possessive, and it’s is a contraction of “it is” (or “it has”).

Who’s vs Whose

Whose is possessive. Who’s is a contraction of “who is” or “who has.” Are you sensing a trend?

There vs their vs they're

Their vs They’re vs There

Ready to throw in a third option? Their is possessive, and they’re is a contraction of “they are.” There will cover pretty much everything else, from “There goes the bus” to “Put that box over there” to “There aren’t any cookies here.” (Note: pirates may be inclined to throw in “thar.”)

Lose vs loose

Lose vs Loose

This is best with a few examples. You can lose your dog if he gets loose from his leash. Your clothes will be loose if you lose a lot of weight. If you have loose change in your pocket, you might lose it. If all else fails, read your sentence aloud; if the word sounds like it ends with a ‘z’ then it’s lose; if it sounds like an ‘s’ then it’s loose.

Compliment vs Complement

The only difference is an ‘i’ and an ‘e’. So what’s the real difference? Compliment – with an ‘i’ – means you’re saying something nice to someone. Or, as an easy way to remember, “I am saying something nice to someone.” If you complement something, you’re adding to or improving it.

Farther vs Further

Farther refers to a physical distance – long distances are always far. “His house is farther away than mine.” Further is more figurative and means an extent of time or degree, as in “Tom wanted to talk further about the plan.” Farther and further are more readily accepted as being interchangeable than other examples in this list.

Do you have your own grammar pet peeves, or any tricks you use to keep words straight? Share them in the comments below!

Top Web Resources for Writers (Part 1)

There’s a reason why the Internet was called the “information superhighway” in the 1990s. Although the term itself is somewhat out of date, the significance is not. Today’s search engines pull up thousands of web pages in seconds, so which sites should you be visiting and why? Here are some of our suggestions:

Publishers Weekly: Whether you know you’re going to self-publish or not, you should always keep an eye on the pulse of publishing. It’s helpful to know what genres are hot, how authors got their start, and what self-publishing phenoms did to market their titles. Although technically a trade journal, Publishers Weekly presents everything from industry news and deals to author interviews and the latest on the expanding digital market.

Absolute Write: First, check out the blog, which includes helpful articles such as: how to write good web copy and how to handle feelings of frustration. Then head over to the forum, where you can connect with thousands of writers about anything and everything. Engage in discussions on grammar and syntax, specialty genres, e-publishing, and even the freelance market. The site also serves as a place to take, or teach, writing classes.

Critique Circle: If you’re looking for honest feedback on your work then look no further than Critique Circle, which is a forum to help writers connect with one another. This free service allows writers to submit their work to a select few and garner feedback in a private exchange. According to the site, stories receive on average between 7 to 10 critiques each. If that’s not enough there are other handy tools that will help you bring your characters to life (and come up with their names), track your own progress, and write a paragraph a day thanks to the Paragraph-A-Day tool.

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We Hereby Proclaim…

A Gift from Our Grammar Geeks

There, their and they’re… it’s almost as intimidating as lions, tigers and bears! But no worries – Lulu to the rescue! Consider this poster a gift for our lovely writers. It’s just a few helpful grammar reminders.


A Gift from Our Grammar Geeks

Click on the image for the downloadable PDF version. Be sure to “fit to page” when you print.