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

Super Duper, Extremely Lengthy Sentences

I am studying the book, The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing, by Bonnie Trenga.  These are my notes on long sentences and how to correct them.

Long Sentences and How to Correct Them

  1. Instead of using and or but, create a new sentence by substituting the following words:
    1. And: “in addition,” or “also,” (also should be added within the sentence)
      1. Incorrect:  The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together, and he dusted off the twigs.
      2. Correct:
        1. “in addition”- The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together.  In addition, he dusted off the twigs.
        2. “also”- The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together.  He also dusted off the twigs.
    2. But:  “however
      1. Incorrect: The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together, but he forgot to pick up some more twigs.
      2. Correct: The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine and began stitching it together.  However, he forgot to pick up some more twigs.
    3. What out for use of these words often:
      1. Incorrect:  The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of twine which was so big he had a hard time flying because he was a small bird, when realized after he began stitching together his nest that he forgot to pick up some more twigs.
      2. Correct: The small bird had a hard time flying to his nest with his mouth full of heavy twine.  After he began mending his nest he realized he forgot to pick up some more twigs

Long Sentences

  1. Find the MAIN IDEA and make it your 1st sentence.
  2. An em dash announces a break in thought.
  3. Keep the subject next to the verb, separated by no more than one extra thought.
    1. Incorrect:  The bird, with a mouth full of twine, who was small, had a hard time flying to his nest.
    2. Correct:  The small bird, with a mouth full of twine, had a hard time flying to his nest.
  4. Place no more than three ideas in a sentence.
    1. One Idea:  The small bird flew to his nest.
    2. Two Ideas:  The small bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of heavy twine.
    3. Three Ideas:  The bird flew to his nest with a mouth full of heavy twine and he barely made it to his nest.

More Writing Resources

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

6 Ways to Identify Passive Voice

cookies

I love cookies, correction, I love cookie dough, but I do not love my passive voice.  I am currently reading the book The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing by Bonnie Trenga, a copy editor, to learn how to change my passive writing into words that jump off the page.

What is a passive voice?
A passive voice is a sentence in which the recipient of the verb’s action is the subject instead of the object. Let me clarify with the following sentence:

The cat spilled the bowl of milk.
Verb:  the action happening in the sentence (spilled)
Subject:  the person or thing performing the action (cat)
Object:  the person or thing receiving the action (bowl)

If we gave each part of the sentence a symbol:
Verb: = (spilled)
Subject: x (cat)
Object:  y (bowl)
We would create this equation x=y, or cat spilled bowl.

I know the equation doesn’t make sense mathematically, but I like how is shows the = separating the x and the y, or in other words, how the verb separates the subject and the object.

In a passive sentence this equation is flipped:  y=x (object verb subject)

Example:  The bowl of milk was spilt by the cat.  (bowl spilt cat)

By making this sentence passive we shift the focus from the cat to the bowl.  Please note that not all passive writing needs to be corrected, but it should be used sparingly.

6 Ways to Identify Passive Voice

I.  Weak Verbs
Weak verbs are a common indicator of passive voice, especially the verb forms of “to be” (see chart below).

Example:

  • Passive Sentence:  The bowl of milk was spilt by the cat.
  • What is the “to be” word used? (was)
  • Let’s get rid of the offending word and rearrange the sentence.
  • Active Sentence:  The cat spilled the bowl of milk.

Weak Verbs

Weak Verbs to be.jpg

II.  Past Participles
Past participles are a past tense form of a verb that usually end in -ed, -d, -t, -en, and -n.  They can be used as either verbs or adjectives.  Here is a nice resource of irregular past participles.

Example:

  • Passive Sentence:  The cat was washed by the boy.
  • What is the past participle word used? (washed)
  • We can keep the past participle, but by getting rid of the “to be” verb and rearranging the sentence we can create an active sentence.
  • Active Sentence:  The boy washed the cat.

III.  The Word “by” In a Sentence with a Past Participle
If the word “by” is in a sentence with past participle, you might have a passive sentence.

Example:

  • Passive Sentence:  The boy was scratched by the cat.
  • Do you see the word “by“?
  • Let’s get rid of the offending words and rearrange the sentence.
  • Active Sentence:  The cat scratched the boy.

IV. The Word “that”
When the word “that” is used with a form of “to be” you might have a passive sentence.

Example:

  • Passive Sentence:  The cat that scratched the boy was hissing.
  • We see the word “that,” so what is the “to be” word used? (was)
  • Let’s get rid of the offending words and rearrange the sentence.
  • Active Sentence:  The cat hissed as he scratched the boy.

V.  Nominalizations
A nominalization is a verb that has been turned into a noun, generally ending in -tion or -ing.  A nominalization can occur at the beginning of a sentence or can be hidden within a sentence.

Example 1:  Nominalization That Starts a Sentence

  • Passive Sentence:  Loathing was evident on the cats face after the bath.
  • What is the nominalization (or verb turned into a noun)? (loathing)
    • loathing is now a thing we can see on the cat’s face
  • Let’s get rid of the offending word and rearrange the sentence.
  • Active Sentence:  The cat loathed the boy for giving him a bath.

Example 2:  Nominalization Hidden Within a Sentence

  • Passive Sentence:  A loathing of the boy was evident after the bath.
  • What is the nominalization? (loathing)
    • The phrase structure “a loathing of” or “the loathing of” often idicates the use of a nominalization in the middle of the sentence.
  • Let’s get rid of the phrase a loathing of and rearrange the sentence.
  • Active Sentence:  The cat loathed the boy for giving him a bath.
    • Do you see how we gave this sentence a subject.  The passive sentence didn’t let us know it was the cat who loathed the boy, the active sentence brings the cat into the scene.

VI.  Vague -ing Words
A vague -ing word is often associated with a sentence that is difficult for a reader to follow.  It can often be changed as the sentence is rearranged, creating an active sentence.  Vague -ing words often occur after one of the following words:

Vague -ing Words

Example:

  • Passive Sentence:  The cat walked away while shaking off the water.
  • What is the trigger word and the vague -ing word? (while shaking)
  • Let’s get rid of the offending phrase and rearrange the sentence.
  • Active Sentence:  The cat shook off the water as he walked away.

More Writing Resources

Perfect Pitch: Chapter 4

I Am Willing to Be Seduced, Amazed, Charmed, or Moved

Share your enthusiasm with beautiful writing.

  1. Write, don’t call.
  2. Do a little research first.
  3. No gimmicks.
  4. Be confident, not boastful.  Be Personable
  5. Seek the wonderful one-liner.
    1. Crafting Your Novel’s Pitch Line
    2. Pitch Please
  6. Be authentic.
  7. Be honest.

“You can be as provocative, outrageous, sentimental, cynical, vulnerable, or humorous as you choose–whatever reflects who you are and what you have to say.” -Sarah Jane Freymann

Agent:  Sarah Jane Freymann with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency

baseball-pitch-1940x900_35208

 

 

Perfect Pitch: Chapter 2

Five Questions to Ask Before Sending Your Query Letter

  1. Is it polished, error-free, & professional?
  2. Does the tone of your query letter reflect the tone of your book?
  3. Are you sure that the agent you’re pitching works on this type of project?
  4. Do you know your market?
  5. Are you emphasizing the best aspects of your project?

co3qgmmuiaavy_b-jpg-large

Agent:  Kristen Auclair (I am unable to find current information on Kristen)

Perfect Pitch: Chapter 1

A Morning in the Life of a Literary Agent

Your agent has received 100 queries in her inbox, she has 1 hour and will only consider 2 pitches.

What to Do:

  1. First Sentence:  establish main character & central conflict
  2. Next sentences: reveal complications & plot
  3. Entice your agent to contact you for more…

What Not to Do:

  1. Ramble
  2. Please Don’t Be Sardonic
  3. Avoid Irrelevant Personal Revelations
  4. No Pictures

coffee

Agent:  James C. Vines (no longer a literary agent)

 

First 250 Revisited…Thoughts?

My goal on this blog is to share the process I am going through as I travel the road to authorship.  Is that even a word?

I put my first 250 words out there for the Twitter, Blog, and Facebook world to critique…talk about scary.  Can I just say, you writers are some of the coolest people.  I got some amazing feedback, which I will share with you now.

Suggestions:
1.  The intro is a bit confusing, maybe start with the last paragraph.
2.  The word “had” is overused (I need to revisit my post on Crutch Words)
3.  Avoid backstory and start in the heart of what’s happening in Sarah’s life.

Drum Roll Please…here’s the revision.  FYI, I am still open to feedback.  You writers ROCK!

Under Western Skies
Inspirational/Sweet Romance

With each bend in the canyon road I expected it to appear, and with each bend I was disappointed.  I’d been waiting for this moment since fifth grade when I’d given a report on California as part of a history unit.  Two other kids had chosen California, but the teacher wanted each student to report on a different state.  She jotted our names on a piece of paper and dropped them into a coffee cup.  Mine was the one pulled out first…I may have done a happy dance in my mind.

“It’ll be a minute,” Brian said, noticing my tapping foot.

Brian, my oldest cousin, lived in San Luis Obispo.  He’d been bugging me to visit him for the last three years, knowing how much I wanted to see the ocean.  It wasn’t until now the opportunity to visit presented itself, which was good because he would be graduating from Cal Poly in June.

After picking me up from the airport he suggested we go to Pismo for dinner.  I was hungry from a long day of travel, and when he told me the restaurant was on the beach he had me sold.

I felt a tinge of excitement at the prospect of seeing the ocean for the first time, despite how things had been going over the past year.  It felt good to look forward to something.  Turn after turn I waited for it appear.  It wasn’t until we reached the top of the canyon that it popped into view like a gigantic blue jack-in-the box. ­­

Pardon the Interruption

index

What does an interruption cost?  According to an article written by Steve Pavlina, even a small interruption can:

      1. Delay work by 20-30 minutes
      2. Increase stress
      3. Create greater room for error
      4. Can even kill a task completely

My family is constantly interrupting me when I write, no wonder I can only finish one paragraph in 45 minutes.  I want to become  a more effective writer.  My time is precious and I want to make it count, so how do I do that?

“Highly productive people know the importance of working in uninterrupted blocks of time with good focus and concentration.  Consequently, they take steps to guard against interruption…” -Steve Pavlina

I want to become an author one day, I want my romantic story to sit on a shelf at the local bookstore, and to have people lose themselves in its pages for a a few hours of their lives.  But, unless I continue to write, that dream will never reach fruition.  I can no longer afford to wait for “writing time” to present itself, I must become proactive, this is my Third Act.

1.  When will I write?
1:00-2:30 Monday-Thursday

2.  Where will I write?
My living room recliner, I like to write with my feet up.

3.  How will I cancel out noise?
I have a playlist of Piano Guys songs, yummy.  I will plug in my earphones and hit play.

4.  What steps will I take to guard against interruption?
The time slot I have chosen is when I have only one kid at home, and it’s her nap time.  Happy dance!

Tell me your plan.
How will you guard against interruption and get your book written?