Tag s | Editing

Littered with Errors: Can Typos Kill You?

We’ve all done it – typed “here” for “hear” or “you’re” for “your” – especially when we’re dashing off a quick email or meeting a deadline. I don’t know of an agent or editor who’ll reject a submission based on one or even a few typos, particularly if the material is so compelling the reader can’t resist losing the afternoon in your book.

However, not all errors are typos. This becomes apparent as a manuscript progresses. Some of us, never dreaming we’d be professional writers one day, slept through the “it’s vs. its” lesson in English class – or Language Arts if you’re under 30. And speaking of generational differences, grammar was one of my favorite subjects all through school. However, my daughters’ teachers insist that much of what I was taught is now considered to be wrong. Mrs. Hamilton and Mrs. Powers (who also taught my mother) would beg to differ!

Some grammar rules don’t change, though, and these are the errors I see the most frequently:

It’s versus its:

It’s means it is. It’s is not the possessive of it. Its is.

It’s strange that the turtle carries its house on its body. (How do you like the bonus its?)

Plural Possessive:

When you have two parents who own a house and you are visiting them, the apostrophe is after the “s” in parents.

We went to my parents’ house.

If you are just visiting Dad, you can say:

We went to my parent’s house.

Affect versus Effect:

“Affect” is usually a verb and “effect” is usually a noun.

An error-filled manuscript will affect the editor’s impression of you.

The effect of a perfect manuscript is immeasurable.

A writer no longer needs to be a grammar maven to succeed in presenting a pristine manuscript to agents and editors. For instance, when I was writing books for publication, I read the manuscripts aloud before submitting. And now, I always run the review program on work leaving my office. While no computer program is perfect, running every manuscript through yours should greatly reduce the number of errors.

Better yet, make friends with grammar. Then writing nearly flawless manuscripts will be second nature to you. My cousin once asked me, “Do you proofread your emails before you send them? They never have any errors.”

Still, perfect grammar won’t save a manuscript the editor doesn’t want. I once earned a rejection letter stating that my work was “technically flawless.”

The above statements guarantee that I will send out a batch of letters with a glaring grammar error in the very near future.

“Enough about you,” you say. “What about me? How do I make friends with grammar?” I suggest you purchase and buy a copy of the 4th edition of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style (originally published in 1918).

Since they recommended Strunk and White many moons ago, Mrs. Hamilton and Mrs. Powers would approve.

Your turn:

What is your biggest grammar bugaboo?

What errors do you see most often?


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Why I Don’t Critique Your Work

A fantastic blog post from Ramona Richards reminded me why I, as a literary agent, don’t offer critiques on rejected proposals. Believe me, as someone who used to write books, I understand the disappointment of the unhelpful rejection letter. So much that I blogged about it (click to read it). …

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A Day in an Editor’s Brain

How’s that for a terrifying blog title? Okay, so we won’t spend a whole day there. But as I pondered how to give you a glimpse into what freelance editors do, it occurred to me that the easiest, and best, method would be to just let you live in this …

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The Worst Proofreading Error of All-Time

Take a close look at the picture above. Read it out loud. The word “not” is missing. As in “Thou shalt ___ commit adultery.” It is from an edition of the Bible published in 1631, now affectionately known as “The Sinners Bible” or “The Wicked Bible.”  Adulterers of the realm …

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Proofreading: Tips and Tricks

Since I have regularly displayed my lack of proofreading skills in past blog posts I thought it might be appropriate to look at some ways we can effectively proof our work. At every conference I’ve ever attended there is at least one person’s proposal, pitch page, or sample chapter that …

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What An Editor Does–Phase 2

Next week, I promise, we’ll jump into the nuts and bolts of editing. But today I want to talk about what editors don’t do. Why do I bring these things up? Because I’ve encountered each and every one of them as a freelance editor. I’ve had clients say, “While you’re …

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What An Editor Does –Phase 1

As we saw from the comments last week, editors have many tasks. As do copyeditors and proofreaders, but for the next few blogs we’re focusing on editors. I’ve been an editor for over 35 years, both in-house and freelance. And I’ve worked with all categories of books except Children’s books …

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What Does an Editor Do?

When I tell people I’m an editor, I get some interesting comments… “Wow, you must really know how to spell great!” “So, what, you fix commas and stuff?” “An editor, huh? Don’t you get tired of rewriting other people’s stuff?” “Don’t you get tired of reading?” “Wow, so you get …

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