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Edit and Proofread My Writing: Top Errors to Watch For

A Catastrophe of Apostrophes

Possessed Plurals

To form plurals:

  • Add “s” or “es”

NO APOSTROPHE!

To form possessive plurals:

  • Add “s’s” or “es’s”

Contractions and Pronouns

Pronouns indicating possession DO NOT take apostrophes:

  • “Its,”“yours,”“hers”: NOT “it’s,”“your’s,”“her’s”

Contractions DO take apostrophes, which indicate a missing letter:

  • “It’s” = “It is”
  • “We’re” = “We are”

Widows & Orphans of the Storm

"You Complete Me..."

A complete sentence has:

  • A subject
  • A predicate
  • A complete thought

A sentence fragment lacks one of those components.

Sentence fragments can be used for effect stylistically…but usually just in fiction, & then sparingly.

Which Witch Is Which?

Horrendous Homonyms

By no means is this a complete list of easily confused words, but these are very commonly confused:

  • “They’re,” “their,” & “there”
  • “Two,” “too,” & “to”
  • “Your” & “you’re”
  • “Compliment” & “complement”
  • “Principal” & “principle”
  • “Sight,” “site,” & “cite”
  • “Wear” & “where”
  • “Plain” & “plane”
  • “Affect” & “effect”

Comma-Law Marriage

The Dreaded Comma Splice

  • WRONG: I think grammar is really cool, it’s so interesting how all the parts of a sentence work together.
  • RIGHT: I think grammar is really cool. It’s so interesting how all the parts of a sentence work together.
  • RIGHT: I think grammar is really cool; it’s so interesting how all the parts of a sentence work together. 

The Geography of Punctuation

How American English Declared Its Independence

Unlike in British English, commas & periods go INSIDE closing quotes:

  • “I really don’t understand why,” she remarked.

All other punctuation goes OUTSIDE closing quotes, unless the punctuation is part of what’s being quoted:

  • One of the newest teen expressions is “facepalm”; it means “to place one’s face in one’s palm as a signal that something embarrassing or untoward has occurred.”
  • Did someone say “ice cream”?
  • “Did someone say ‘ice cream’?” she asked.

Note the usage of both the single and double quotes in the last sentence...the double quotes indicate that this is dialogue. The single quotes around "ice cream" indicate that this is a quote within the dialogue. The question mark refers to the dialogue as a whole, not to the words "ice cream"; this is why the ending single quote doesn't include the question mark, but the ending double quotes do include the question mark.

Miscellania

Fewer v. less: Use “fewer” with discrete quantities; “less” with uncountable quantities.

  • There were fewer people at the fundraiser than last year, so the organizers collected less money. (People can be counted as individual units; money is a collective noun. If "money" was replaced by "dollars," then the last part of the sentence would read "...the organizers collected fewer dollars." Dollars can be counted as individual units.)

Capitalization in titles: All important words in a title should be capitalized; this includes forms of “to be,” even though they're "short words."

  • “Everything Is Illuminated”
  • “We Are the World”

Spacing between sentences: One space, please!

Before the advent of word processing back in the early 1980s, two spaces between sentences was the accepted norm, because each letter or character used the same amount of space, and two spaces were needed to emphasize the "break" between sentences. Once computerized word processing came in, letters and characters could be moved closer together ("kerned," in typesetters' terminology) if there was a lot of space between them, and two spaces between sentences now looked too big.