List of Common Writing Errors and How to Fix Them

I am studying, The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing, by Bonnie Trenga.  This are my notes from her “Top Ten Writing Misdemeanors.”

it’s vs. its
The only time it’s should be used is if you can substitute the words “it has” or “it is” in the sentence.

who’s vs. whose
who’s means “who is” or “who has”
whose is possessive:  Whose book?  Whose car?

Cliches:  Here’s a list of cliches to avoid like the plague (see what I did there)

Similar Sounding Words
similar words-2.jpg

Hyphenated Compounds
A hyphenated compound come before what it is describing.  It doesn’t need to be hyphenated if it comes after what it describes.
1.  Example: The red-haired children jumped on the trampoline.
2. Example:  The children who jumped on the trampoline were red haired.

Fewer vs. Less

  1. Fewer is used when an item is countable.
    1. Example:  There were fewer pencils in the drawer than before the party.
  2. Less is used when and item is uncountable.
    1. Example:  There were less stars visible in the city sky than the country sky.

Generic Vocabulary & Phrases the Bore Readers

Generic Phrases:
is able to
there is
it is
this is

Generic Vocabulary
people
man
thing
good
interesting
different

More Writing Resources

Microsoft Word - VagueWordsList.doc

Wordy Writing

I am studying The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing by Bonnie Trenga.  These are my notes from her chapter on Wordy Writing.

How to Tighten Up Wordy Writing

Take the wordy phrase and convert it using the formula below.

More Writing Resources

Wordy Writing Subs-2

Modifier Placement-Help Please!

Did you know modifiers can be misplaced, dangle, and squint?  Writing is hard.

In the book, The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier:How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing, Bonnie Trenga provides a lesson on how to make sure our modifiers are utilized correctly.  Here are my notes from that chapter.

Modifier Placement

Beginning of a Sentence:  Keep the noun next to the modifier.

  1. The noun should come right after the comma
    1. Dressed in a purple gown, the elephant walked onto the stage.
      1. Noun:  elephant
      2. Modifier:  dressed in a purple gown
    2. Clues that a misplaced modifier begins a sentence:
      1. a past participle (past tense verb) begins the sentence
        1. Incorrect:  Dressed in a purple gown, the stage was bright that the elephant walked onto.
        2. CorrectDressed in a purple gown, the elephant walked onto the bright stage.
      2. as, like, or unlike begin the sentence
        1. Incorrect:  Unlike the ring master, the elephant walked onto the bright stage, who waited in the shadows.
        2. Correct:  The elephant walked onto the bright stage, unlike the ring master who waited in the shadows.
      3. if, it, or there occur after the comma
        1. Incorrect:  The ring master raised his arms, it was quiet.
        2. Correct:  The ring master raised his arms, the room became quiet.
        3. Better:  The room quieted as the ring master raised his arms.
      4. an -ing word begins a sentence or is the 2nd or 3rd word following a word in the chart below:
        1. Incorrect: After snapping his whip, the elephant bowed.
        2. Correct:  After snapping his whip, the ring master got the elephants attention and she bowed.
        3. Better:  The elephant bowed when the ring master snapped his whip.
          Words that Often Precede a Misplaced Modifier that Ends In

Middle/End of a Sentence

  1. Clues that a modifier has been misplaced within a sentence:
    1. a phrase begins with that or who
      1. who: describes people
        1. Incorrect: The ring master directed the elephant, who was wearing a top hat.
        2. Correct:  The ring master who was wearing a top hat, directed the elephant.
        3. Even Better:  The ring master, wearing a top hat, directed the elephant.
      2. that: describes things and animals
        1. Incorrect:  The elephant followed the ring master’s directions, that was wearing a purple gown.
        2. Correct:  The elephant that was wearing a purple gown, followed the ring master’s directions.
        3. Even Better:  The elephant, wearing a purple gown, followed the ring master’s directions.
    2. a phrase that could start with that or who, but doesn’t
      1. Incorrect: The ring master the elephant followed was tall and handsome.
      2. Correct:  The ring master who the elephant followed was tall and handsome.

Other Resources

More Writing Resources
Grammar Girl:  Misplaced Modifiers
Grammar Bytes:  Rules for Finding and Fixing Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers

Responsibilities of a Beta Reader

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“You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book.”

-Margaret Atwood

A “beta reader” is a person who will read your story to see if it is a fit for the market, and they will also provide valuable feedback to fix problem areas in your manuscript.

How to choose a Beta Reader:

  1. Find a person who reads your genre…a lot.  It doesn’t hurt if they are writers, but it is not a requirement.
  2. Find a person who is opinionated, but also knows how to express their thoughts without killing your dream.
  3. Find a person who is close, but not too close…we want them to speak their minds.
  4. Find a person who understands that this is still a book in process.
  5. Fina a person who might be able to offer insight into setting, ways of life, or technical terminology.

Guidance for your Beta Reader:

  1. Provide a Clear Deadline
    1. I usually contact my beta readers a month before I send them my manuscript.  I don’t want to burden them if they don’t have time.  I usually ask that their critique be returned withing a month.  I also send a reminder a week before the deadline.
  2. How does the Beta Reader want your manuscript?
    1. Paper Copy
    2. Electronic Copy (Microsoft Word, Google Doc)
    3. Both
    4. Note:  I like to mail some fun office supplies with my manuscript, gel pens, highlighters, sticky notes, etc.
  3. How will the critique be returned?  (Provide Reminders)
    1. About a week before the deadline I send out a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) if I sent a paper copy of my manuscript.
    2. A good gentle reminder is to send a thank-you card with maybe a small gift card or thoughtful message a week before the deadline.
  4. What your Beta Reader doesn’t need to do:
    1. Line Edits (grammar, sentence structure, spelling, etc. unless something is obvious…this will take place once every piece of the manuscript it in place)
  5. Things for your Beta Reader to address:
    1. How is the Title of the book?
    2. Is the main character likeable?
    3. What are your thoughts on the other characters?  Who stuck out and why?  Is there anyone that needs work?
    4. Are there places where the story drags?  Are there parts of the story where you forgot you were supposed to be editing because you were so caught up?
    5. Where did you laugh, cry, feel anger…etc?
    6. Where did it sound more like a journal entry rather than a story?
    7. What things do you remember from the story?  Was there a favorite part?  A least favorite part?
    8. How did you feel about the ending?  Did you feel like everything was resolved?
    9. Did you have questions about certain things?  Or maybe there were things that didn’t make sense.
    10. How did you feel about the book’s length?
    11. Did the story keep you guessing or was it predictable?  Please use examples.
    12. Any other thoughts or suggestions?