COMMON WRITING FAULTS

As I have mentioned elsewhere, writers should never submit their work for editing or proofreading, until they have gone through their first draft carefully and made as many corrections as possible to it themselves. The first draft is the beginning of the writing process and needs to be honed carefully before anyone else sets eyes on it.

It is not my job to correct errors of fact, only errors of grammar, spelling, consistency, sentence construction and style.

I have found the following general errors in many pieces of writing, and I dare say there are many other errors which could be included in the list :

1. Inconsistent use of tenses, such as writing one sentence in the present, the next sentence in the past.

2. Writers who do not correct their work often write a sentence then add something to the end of it as another thought occurs to them. This makes life difficult for the editor, for it means that sentences have to be rearranged and rewritten in order to make sense of them.

3. Padding. Expressions like “to be honest,” “frankly and honestly”, “for me”,  and “in my honest opinion”. It is unnecessary to use any of these phrases at all. You are obviously expressing your own opinions (and I hope they are frank and honest) so phrases like these are superfluous padding and hold up the action of your story. Use of  words such as “just” and “also” are often superfluous.

4.  Inconsistent use of personal pronounswe, I, it, they, you, and one which often change within a sentence.

5.  Avoid frequent use of words like nice and get.

6. Frequent dashes do not make for good reading.  Punctuate each sentence properly and make sure each sentence contains a verb.

7. Difference between “its” and “it’s” .  “It’s” is short for “it is”. “Its” without an apostrophe  is possessive.

8. Be consistent. Either use litres or gallons; kilometres or miles; numerals or numbers in writing. Don’t change these terms from chapter to chapter.

9.  Unnecessary capitalisation of words like brother, father, visa, war.

10. Spelling should follow British or American rules – not both in the same article.

I’m sure I will find many more faults as time goes by, so this article is a work in progress. I will be glad of your suggestions.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Philip Wood
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 23:49:44

    I wouldn’t have put a comma between ‘proofreading’ and ‘until’. [This is meant to be taken light-heartedly; your list of common writing faults is spot-on. I’d add the use of a comma when a full stop or semicolon is needed.] P.S. Well done for making the work of Webster Booth and Ann Ziegler so accessible.

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Good Reads Book Reviews

The Moon And SixpenceThe Moon And Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Apparently Strickland was based on the artist Paul Gauguin, but if this was the case, there is a very loose connection between the two for this in not a novel a clef. The book held my interest while the narrator had personal contact with Strickland and his wife. Almost from the beginning of the novel, before Charles Strickland had appeared, I thought him a thoroughly reprehensible character.

Admittedly his wife was not an imaginative woman and used her established position in society to cultivate the society of writers and artists although she appeared to be devoid of any artistic talent herself. She obviously regarded her "dull" husband as nothing more than a meal-ticket and she had never encouraged his artistic inclinations. It is only after he leaves her to her own devices that she manages to pull herself together, fend for herself and look after her children without being dependent on a man any longer.

The portrait of a completely self-centred, inarticulate Strickland, who does not care about the opinion of others was well-drawn but after the narrator is no longer in personal contact with Strickland and the rest of the story of Strickland's life is related to him by a third person the story is less satisfactory. I have to admit that I did not finish the last fifty pages of the book. Although I like Maugham's work, this was not my favourite Maugham novel.

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