Common Errors Pt. 1

Once upon a time, I wrote for my city newspaper. The day I went into this amazing place called the Star-Banner I was super young. Nineteen, in fact. And so, so excited.
My new editor showed me around then took me back to the office and explained things. Then he handed me a sheet of paper with common errors correspondents make.

I thought I'd share them.

1. A person should be referred to as a "who," not a "that." A "that" is an inanimate object. A "who" is a person. (LOL Just fixed a few of these in my manuscript)

2. Why is every "majority" a vast majority? Are there no longer any simple majorities?

3. Erstwhile, discreet, discrete, fame, infamy, compliment, complement, principal, principle: Make sure you know what the words you are using mean. *input from me> Watch out with the thesaurus. It shows words that are similar but they don't always mean the same thing. A dictionary is a great tool.*

4. "As follows" is, in most cases, empty verbiage.
Poor: The new officers are as follows: John Smith, president; Jane Doe...
Better: The new officers are: John Smith, president; Jane Doe...

5. Desert, Dessert- I'll bet I've read about literally hundreds of functions where hot, dry sand was served after the main course (LOL, I can totally hear my editor's dry humor here)

This wraps up lesson 1. I studied this paper many times during the beginning of my writer days.
Have you ever made any of these boo-boos? Do you have a cheat sheet like me? What's it say?


Kristen Painter said…
Can I just add loose and lose to that list? People screw those up all the time and it drives me nuts!

I'm actually giving a workshop at my chapter today on Writing Tight, so this is a good post!
Sarah said…
I definitely have trouble with number three. I use words incorrectly all the time, and I'm addicted to my thesaurus. It's probably just laziness that I misuse so many words but the more I write, the more I learn to take the time and tighten up my work. A little editing goes a long way.

Thanks for the great tips Jessica!
My critique partners are constantly catching my wrong use of words. I'm so bad for using the wrong spelling for a word that sounds the same.

I can't say that I've ever referred to a human as a "that", though, unless I have a character purposely being sarcastic and nasty.

Good list. Thanks for sharing.

P.S. Jessica, are you aiming your writing toward Steeple Hill Love Inspired at this time? If so, please e-mail me at eileenastels[at] rogers [dot] com if you have any interest in swapping final read throughs before submitting. I'm trying to find someone well versed with the LI line who can help me with the final draft after I've ran it through my crit group. If you're at all interested, let me know. If not, I totally understand, just thought I'd ask.
Hi Jessica -

Oops, I'd better check out what "erstwhile" means. I used that word in a review for Amazon and for my blog (scheduled for 12/3/08).

Thanks for an informative post.

Susan :)
Anonymous said…
Great post as always, Jessie. :-)

As for the that / who debate ... I read somewhere a while back that said they were interchangable. Jeeps. So confusing.

Oh, and my pet peeve? "I could care less." URG. Well, then you must care somewhat, to be able to care less. Hmmm.

Everytime I hear/see that, I want to say, "NO! You couldn't care less! Couldn't, okay?"

So that was my vent for the day. Teehee.

Oh, and Sara, I love my thesaurus, too. But I've found an even better tool that is actually more accurate in that they take into account the nuances of words and give you alternatives accordingly. It's called a flip dictionary, and here's a link to look at it on Amazon:

Mine is indispensable. And I totally had to look up indispensable to spell it right, BTW. Heh.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Kristen
I see those mixed up too. For some reason, I'm usually able to not mix up words. Note the word *usually*.
Hey, don't you live in FL? What chapter are you a part of?
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Sarah!
But maybe once you look them up you'll remember them? Heheee Good luck!
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Eileen,
It happens to everyone. Normally I don't have that problem but recently, while revising a manuscript that's been through a few contests, I realized I'd been spelling "where" as "wear". Or something. I actually only realized it when a friend pointed it out. And I'd read that section a ton of times! It's amazing how our eyes play tricks on us.
Jessica Nelson said…
I'm not sure what erstwhile means! LOL
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Anita,
You know, I've heard the "care less" rant before. It's so funny because before I heard it I'd never realized that the phrase makes no logical sense.
Sarah said…
Thanks for the link Anita. I'm adding that book to my Christmas wish list!
Anonymous said…
You're welcome, Sarah! I think you'll be very pleased with it. :-)
Kasie West said…
Yes, I've made all of those errors. :) I'm glad I caught them during editing. Great post.

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