Tips for Writing and Common Mistakes

I think we have an innate drive to teach others what we know. Parents constantly teach their children how to walk, talk, say thank you, and in general how to live as a good human being. By sharing what they know, mentors at work prepare others to do their job. Of course, the most important teaching is the story of salvation. Everyone who is privileged to know about the Good News is required to spread it to others, in other words, to evangelize.

One way I do this besides writing books is through this website. But today I am departing from the topic of religion and spirituality to share knowledge I’ve acquired as an editor and proofreader.

For several years I’ve proofread our church bulletin every week. And lately I’ve been editing other people’s books. Not everyone is aware of the customs of the English written word, which sometimes change. So here are a few points that you may have forgotten or that might be new to you. Hope you don’t find a mistake in them!

• Underlining is old-fashioned. Titles either are italicized or embraced by quotation marks.

• In a series of words, a comma is now required before the “and.” This is known as the oxford comma.

• In the United States (unlike in Britain) after a closing quotation mark, the period or comma goes inside, but not a semicolon, question mark, or exclamation point.

• “Is,” “be,” and “are,” although small, are verbs and should be capitalized in titles.

• When typing on a computer, only one space is needed between sentences. Two spaces was the rule in the era of typewriters.

• When dates are within a sentence, a comma is needed after the year: On July 29, 1957, the school was founded.

• When cities and states are within a sentence, a comma is required after the state: Cleveland, Ohio, is a good place to live.

• According to the Chicago Manual of Style (a publisher’s Bible), it is now permissible to split an infinitive and to end a sentence with a preposition. Hooray!

• For some words, two spellings are acceptable (such as benefited/benefitted, traveled, travelled, acknowledgment and acknowledgement). If unsure about a spelling, Google the word.

• When joining two complete sentences by “and,” “but,” “or,” “so,” “nor,” or “yet,” insert a comma before this conjunction.

• When a pronoun is the object of a verb or of a preposition, the objective case is correct, even though some people think the subjective case sounds more intelligent! So it’s “He gave the book to him and me” not “to him and I.

• Apostrophes are not used in plural nouns.

Spelling is another matter. Is it “receive” or “recieve,” “neice” or “niece”? I’ve collected numerous devices to master spelling demons, mostly from the days of teaching English to freshmen. They are in my book Conquering Spelling Demons: Tips and Tricks, available from me or Amazon for $7.00.

It is so easy to make mistakes. As a young teacher I played a prank on another sister who raved about a book she was reading. I took the book from her desk and hid it. Then I created an elaborate treasure hunt with clues leading to the book. One night I overheard her say, “I know the person who did this wasn’t an English teacher because ‘your’ was misspelled!”

What is your pet peeve regarding writing?

1 Comment

  1. Allison on August 13, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    Please, show examples. Thank you!

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