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Look for Four Writing Errors When You Revise

Out of ten articles that list major errors of writers, I focused on four to look for when you revise your manuscript.

1. Commas in all the wrong places or missing completely.

We ate lunch, and went swimming.

Jane, Susie, Todd and Mary are the best readers in the class.

Did you know, Susie that Todd is absent today.

Here is a link to Blue Grammar Book with rules for commas and examples:


2. Misspellings

a. Words that sound alike but are spelled differently (homonyms) with different meanings: their, they’re, there; it’s, its; and whose, who’s. Horror of all horrors! I found two homonym errors in one of my manuscripts. I added a third to clarify the possibility of another mistake. Here is a list of Alan Cooper’s homonyms with definitions to help you choose the correct word: http://www.cooper.com/alan/homonym_list.html/. Can you find my errors in the following three sentences?

I turned it’s pages quickly.

They took off they’re coats.

Whose at the door?

b. Words that don’t sound alike but are still used incorrectly. Your mind may  fail to recognize the need for a different word.  Waylink English has a list of words that may confuse you: http://www.waylink-english.co.uk/?page=11500. In the following sentences, find the errors using these words: further, farther; lie, lay; and idol, idle.

I cannot walk any further.

Lie the book on my desk.

James is the idle of my life.


3. Main Character with No Fatal Flaw-fatal flaw comes from the opposite of what the good quality the protagonist acquires by the end of the story.

The protagonist lies all the time. During the course of the manuscript, he learns the value of truth.  Lying and telling the truth are opposites. If you know what they learned, then the opposite of that is the main character’s flaw.

If the protagonist learns to be dependable, the flaw is he is irresponsible and not dependable at all.

If the protagonist finally gets up enough nerve to stand up for himself, he gains courage. The opposite of that is fear or cowardice for his fatal flaw.

Thinking about the theme(s) of your story will help you determine the flaws of your protagonist.

4. Repeating pet words or phrases numerous times within the manuscript with no purpose for emphasis, such as: just, real, very,what’s up, what do you know,  and it’s a shame. Use your search and find tools in your word processing software to find words you know you usually repeat.  Replace with a better word or delete it. Here are examples of words or phrases that might be repeated:

The box is very flat. The hills are very steep. Her veil is very long.

I just don’t know what I’m going to do…repeated on page 10, 13, 19, 21, 25, and 32.

What do you know?…repeated on page 6, 7, 8, 9, 15, and 17.

Here are links to the ten articles about a writer‘s errors. Use them if you want a thorough, intense study of possible errors. If you know a problem that has shown up in your work, ask your critique group to help you find them. The first link has hilarious errors in it. Enjoy it.

1. On the University of Minnesota website, Gordon Silverstein edited Humorous Reminders of Common Writing Mistakes: Advice from generations of Teaching Fellows at Harvard Universityhttp://writing.umn.edu/tww/grammar/self_humorous.html

2. Dara Marks, The Writer’s Store: The Fatal Flaw, The Most Essential Element for Bringing Characters to Life


3. Pat Holt:  Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do)


4. Amanda Patterson: The Five Most Common Problems First Time Writers Share-


5. Alfonso Coley:  Common Writing Problems New Writers Can Face


6. Judy Rose, Writing English: Ten Common Writing Mistakes Your Spell Checker Won’t Findhttp://writingenglish.wordpress.com/2006/09/18/ten-common-writing-mistakes-your-spell-checker-won%E2%80%99t-find/

7. Laura Spencer, Free Lance Folder: 20 Writing Mistakes That Make Any Freelancer Look Bad


8. Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, Illinois State UniversityCommon Mistakes of English Grammar, Mechanics, and Punctuation


9. Tom Walker, writer and designer from the UK, Ten Most Common Writing Mistakes: http://www.getpaidtowriteonline.com/common-writing-mistakes/

10.  E.H. Williams, Hamilton College, Biology Department, Common Writing Mistakes-


I hope these ideas help you keep going, even when you feel like giving up.

Please share your comments, questions, and/or resources below. I’d love to hear from you.

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Joan Y. Edwards, Author/Illustrator
Flip Flap Floodle on Amazon.com

Copyright © 2010 Joan Y. Edwards. All rights reserved.


10 Responses

  1. Joan,

    #4 reminded me of something I’ve heard before: Readers who are familiar with a writer’s works can often recognize their manuscripts by the sentence structure, word choice, etc. I had never heard the expression “pet words and phrases” but we all have them. I’m sure those appear more frequently than we realize. Perhaps we should make our own “pet word” list to remind ourselves to use them less. Having a critique group look for them is a great idea too.

    Personally, I have some difficulty with 2b. I ask myself, “Which word do I use?” Even after studying which is correct, I still tend to stumble the next time I am trying to decide. It’s like I have a mental block sometimes.

    Great job with this one. It was very helpful! You have been one busy blogger! I don’t know how you do it.

    Linda A.


    • Dear Linda, I’m glad my blog pointed out things to look for in your own writing. Thanks for writing to let me know. I hadn’t read the expression “pet words and phrases” before I wrote this blog. However, I searched online and found three other people used it before I did. You’re right. Many of the words are tricky. Even after studying them, we might not be sure of which one to use. In a case like that, it would be prudent to choose a different word entirely. I researched the links before the conference. Then I had my blog simmer in my mind. I’m trying to get more readers. I am also getting ready to go through a revision stage and wanted to know what to look for in my own writing. Do something good for yourself today. You deserve a royal treat.

      Joan Y. Edwards

      You are a flower waiting to bloom Never Give Up Joan Y. Edwards website: http://www.joanyedwards.com


  2. Joan–This is GREAT information! Thanks for posting such useful tips. Your blog is always so helpful and encouraging!

    It was so nice to see you at the conference this weekend!

    = ) Becky


    • Dear Becky, Thanks for stopping saying my blog is always helpful and encouraging. That is one of my goals. I really enjoyed sitting with you at the conference. You’re fun and upbeat! I’m very glad I know you.

      Joan Bubbles of Creativity are within you. Dream! Love! Laugh! They’ll find their way out. Never Give Up. Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com


  3. Excellent article, Joan. I’m a horrible self-editor and miss some of these when I go. It’s not an issue when I revise the manuscripts of others. I guess I need more practice.

    Thanks for sharing this advice.



    • Dear Cheryl, Thanks for stopping by for a minute or two. I appreciate your saying it was an excellent article. We know these things and it’s hard to believe that we could actually have these errors in our manuscript. We pick up a manuscript that we let rest a month. We scour it for errors. We read it out aloud. Then we take one more look for one of these “error babies.” It is horrifying when we see one staring us in the face. Yikes! Thank goodness for finding them before we submit. Do something good for yourself today!

      Hop right to it

      Write – Draw – Explore – Dream – Research – Check out the lily pads of life Don’t Give Up Joan Y. Edwards


  4. great blog. I posted in on FB and will mark it as a favorite. thanks for putting this all together!


    • Dear Carol, Wow! Thanks for posting my blog on your Facebook page as a favorite. I appreciate it. I’m bowing humbly. There are a million links online. I like to look at them and I only use them if I think they’re meaningful to me. Thanks for dropping by Carol. Do something good for yourself today and tomorrow!

      Hop right to it

      Write – Draw – Explore – Dream – Research – Check out the lily pads available for you Don’t Give Up – Read my blog – http://www.joanyedwards.wordpress.com/ Joan Y. Edwards


  5. Wow, Joan, lots of info here! Keep up the good work.


    • Dear Niki, Thanks for stopping by and leaving me such an uplifting compliment. I appreciate your reading my blog. I enjoyed being able to see and talk with you at the SCBWI-Carolinas conference. Good luck with your “Gumball” story.

      Like a Frog – Hop right to it Write – Draw – Explore – Dream – Research – Check out the lily pads available for you Don’t Give Up – Check out my website: http://www.joanyedwards.com/ Joan Y. Edwards


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