Commanding the English Language: Common Mistakes

My students here in Japan can’t form basic sentences without skipping a few verbs and nouns. It’s something I’ve learned to tolerate since they are learning English as a second language. When it comes down to native English speakers–people who are fluent in English–and people aspiring to become writers, I have no tolerance for them.

I’ve found many works, especially self-published works, that “read[…] like elementary school,” agreed the blogger from the Bijou Annie blog. Why? There are very common, very fixable grammatical errors, in them and you don’t need an editor to do it for you.

#1: Text or Chat Speech

Example: “i rlly like u.”

Correction: “I really like you.”

This is my top pet peeve.  It shows how much a writer does not read or write on a regular basis. It does, however, show they use their reading and writing time to text on their cell phone or chat on Facebook. Readers can’t read a writer’s thoughts. Instead, they must rely on the writer’s good command of the English language to understand the story. Without it, readers have to swim through obscure ideas, lackluster depictions, and unrealistic dialogue.

If this is you, please hit that “Spelling & Grammar” button or adhere to the callings of the red underline.

#2: Punctuation

Example: “I really like you.She said.

Correction: “I really like you,” she said.

Writers should be mindful of grammatical points learned in elementary school. Periods stop a thought completely while commas pause a thought. These kind of grammatical errors include capitalization (“i” versus “I”), fragmented sentences (“She said. Playing with her hair.”), and run-on sentences.

If this is you, please go through your work, find all of the dialogue, and change your punctuation. Also, the “Spelling & Grammar” function has a grammar-checking feature.

#3: Tenses

Example: “I really like you,” she says. She played with her hair.

Correction (simple past tense): “I really like you,” she said. She played with her hair.

Correction (simple present tense): “I really like you,” she says. She plays with her hair.

Being that tenses are more difficult to catch–even if a writer is armed with the “Spelling & Grammar” feature–correct and consistent tenses are important. When the tenses aren’t consistent, reading any work is like wading through a river with no embankment in sight. Writers who cannot stick with a tense, bouncing between the present and the past, show how much they do not read or write on a regular basis.

If this is you, please read your work aloud. If it sounds strange or you stumble across sentences, look at the tense and change it. Also, if you’re using Word, you can go under “Word Options” and add the “Speak” function in “Customize Ribbon”. This function reads any highlighted text, providing you with someone else’s voice rather than your own to catch mistakes.

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