Author Topic: The most common mistakes of craft, or "Come on, folks, this is your profession!"  (Read 5280 times)

David VanDyke

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There was a pretty lively thread on The Other Place about this. As we can't import whole threads from there, let's recreate it.

So what are the most common errors of craft you see?

Include basics such as punctuation, grammar and word use, all the way up to plotting, use of tropes, cliches and other such issues.

Unless prohibited by forum policy, this specifically includes posts, not just books. That's where the "Come on folks, this is your profession!" comes in.

Share your pet peeves about any writing you see!

Some of mine:

Confusion of its and it's. Its is possessive. It's is a contraction of it is. "It's always happy to eat its food."

Occasionally I see even other possessive pronouns acquire an apostrophe. (incorrectly): Their's, her's, etc.


Similarly, any use of apostrophes when trying to create a plural. Except in specific cases, plurals never take apostrophes. Not even for names, or for words ending in vowels, which seem to be where the biggest confusion comes in.

Plurals: How many emojis are in this sentence? Let's have dinner at the Murphys.

Possessives: That emoji's color is too bright. Joe Murphy's dog is is annoying.


Comprise or compose: Compose means to make up. Comprise means to contain. The most common error with these words I see is to write "comprised of." Substitute "contain" and you get "contained of," which makes the error quite clear.


Never listen to people with no skin in the game.

I'm a lucky guy. I find the harder I work, the luckier I am.
 
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Max

There was a pretty lively thread on The Other Place about this. As we can't import whole threads from there, let's recreate it.

So what are the most common errors of craft you see?

Include basics such as punctuation, grammar and word use, all the way up to plotting, use of tropes, cliches and other such issues.

Unless prohibited by forum policy, this specifically includes posts, not just books. That's where the "Come on folks, this is your profession!" comes in.

Share your pet peeves about any writing you see!

Some of mine:

Confusion of its and it's. Its is possessive. It's is a contraction of it is. "It's always happy to eat its food."

Occasionally I see even other possessive pronouns acquire an apostrophe. (incorrectly): Their's, her's, etc.


Similarly, any use of apostrophes when trying to create a plural. Except in specific cases, plurals never take apostrophes. Not even for names, or for words ending in vowels, which seem to be where the biggest confusion comes in.

Plurals: How many emojis are in this sentence? Let's have dinner at the Murphys.

Possessives: That emoji's color is too bright. Joe Murphy's dog is is annoying.


Comprise or compose: Compose means to make up. Comprise means to contain. The most common error with these words I see is to write "comprised of." Substitute "contain" and you get "contained of," which makes the error quite clear.

So question.

If you say, Let's have dinner at the Murphys, aren't you really saying at their home? Home being implied, I think? So would it be Murphys's? Murphy's? Mur—oh, the heck with it, you know what I mean. lol

I mean it's different than saying Let's have dinner with the Murphys.

I remember hearing a conversation about this long, long ago.
 

Ginny

I don't have to look all that far for errors of craft. (the calls usually come from inside the house on that one)  :afro:

gerund

Been using and abusing those. I had to google it. Had no idea what the heck that was.

 

Eclectic Dan

When writers say that forum posts, tweets, eMail and other online communications "don't count" in terms of properly using the English language, I cry foul.  There's no argument that there is a difference between formal and informal use of language.  A forum post, for example, may be less formal.  I mean, I probably wouldn't toss out an emoticon of an animated banana riding a green llama in a novel.

 :banana-riding-llama-smiley-em

Okay, maybe I would if I could but most writers wouldn't.

But there's a difference between formal vs. informal use and not using the language properly at all.  i mene if u start riting stuph in fourahm posts lyke u just dont kare dat's not gonna leeve a good impreshun wid potenshal reeders, u no wut i mene?  n arguin its just a fourahm post aint gonna kut it.  prubublee.

Practice makes perfect or at least better and every communication outlet is an opportunity for practice.  Plus you have a tendency to absorb what you read, so if you're reading badly written forum posts by other writers, that may affect your own writing.  So, really, people who write poorly in forum posts are hurting others as much as they are hurting themselves.*

I should probably write this stuff anonymously.   :hug:

Anyway, that's my opinion and I reserve the right to change it when convenient for me.   :icon_think:




*As an example, I apparently misuse the heck out of commas so by reading this post, I have just subtly made your own command of commas slightly less correct.  Also, I have overused the word just and that's gonna hurt you too.  And I double-space between periods and start sentences with prepositions and make frequent use of run-on sentences, so you are now a worse writer than when you started reading this post.  All your readers are belonging to me now.  You're welcome.
     
 
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guest390

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If I had to narrow it to one: Thinking an editor isn't a necessary part of the process. Writers who have the "it's good enough" attitude set indie back. Since the first wave of indies  - 2010-2012 - until this day we've struggled to be taken seriously. And we've made a lot of headway. For years we've done our best to produce books that are comparable in quality to what the Big 5 produces. It's why we get pissy when we see people shoving an unedited, unproof read, mess onto the market. Particularly now that there are so many wonderful, and affordable, resources available. There's really no excuse for it.
 
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David VanDyke

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So question.

If you say, Let's have dinner at the Murphys, aren't you really saying at their home? Home being implied, I think? So would it be Murphys's? Murphy's? Mur—oh, the heck with it, you know what I mean. lol

I mean it's different than saying Let's have dinner with the Murphys.

I remember hearing a conversation about this long, long ago.

Possessives of plurals that become plurals with S take only an apostrophe.

Possessives of plurals where the singular already ends in an S take an apostrophe-S.

If the family name is Murphy, and they are the Murphys (plural), then it's the Murphys' house.

If the family name is, say, Robbins, then it's the Robbins's house.

http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/grammar-rules-and-tips/english-grammar-rules-for-possessive-plurals.html

That one's pretty esoteric, and doesn't bother me terribly, personally. It's the really common, obvious ones that get my eyerolls going.

Never listen to people with no skin in the game.

I'm a lucky guy. I find the harder I work, the luckier I am.
 
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elleoco

Well, since there's an invitation....

My pet peeve in homophones, since I have a horse background, is rein vs. reign. The entire world, indie and traditional, has great difficulty with those two for some reason. Sometimes it's correct in one place and wrong in the next within the same book.

As to editing, I remember the days when Amanda Hocking posted that she had had her books edited as often as three times, and readers still complained that they needed editing. To be fair, I think in those days some readers just slapped "needs editing" in any review of an indie book, with or without grounds. A real problem for indies was, and I think remains, that if you don't knows this stuff yourself, you can't judge an editing job.

From my own reading, I believe editing is still a problem, not that authors aren't sending books to editors, but in results. When I try new-to-me indie authors, I often find a book that has few or no technical problems of the typo/homophone/possessive sort. It sure looks as if it's had editing, and definitely has had proofreading, but still lacks something. What if an editor does a careful job on a work that is just not that well written to start with?

I've been reading some of Janice Hardy's articles on her Fiction University blog about more nuanced things such as rhythm of language, and trying to up my own game, which isn't that easy since there seems to be a fine line between learning such things and throwing up one's hands.

Max


Would of being used instead of would've/would have. Any of the '-ould' words.
 

Shoe

So what are the most common errors of craft you see?

Include basics such as punctuation, grammar and word use, all the way up to plotting, use of tropes, cliches and other such issues.

Years ago, the Paris Review featured final drafts from great authors once their editors brought out their red pens. The grammatical errors, misspellings, etc., were abundant. We're talking seas of red ink on final drafts by Hemingway, Henry Miller, Steinbeck, even Nabokov.

This points to the essential need for good editing, even for iconic authors. But what else does it point to?

Perfect grammar and spelling matter less than the quality of the prose beyond the essential mechanics.
Publishing since May 2017. Writing full time since January 2018 general fiction and satire.
 

LD

A real problem for indies was, and I think remains, that if you don't knows this stuff yourself, you can't judge an editing job.

From my own reading, I believe editing is still a problem, not that authors aren't sending books to editors, but in results. When I try new-to-me indie authors, I often find a book that has few or no technical problems of the typo/homophone/possessive sort. It sure looks as if it's had editing, and definitely has had proofreading, but still lacks something. What if an editor does a careful job on a work that is just not that well written to start with?


This.  I know an "editor" who says the one thing she knows is grammar. Yet the majority of her posts have errors in them.  Of course, these are Facebook posts and maybe she would argue that she doesn't edit those posts, but I would think as an editor it would be second nature to you to know the rules without needing to correct them to begin with.  These are not spelling errors or typos, but grammatical errors, like the "would of" and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.  Then she always has people commenting on her posts, singing her praises. 
« Last Edit: September 24, 2018, 01:40:25 PM by LD »
 
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Crystal

TBH, my posts are often full of errors because I write them on my phone. A lot of this stuff is auto-correct/predict related.
 

PJ Post

The Murphys didn't make it out of the inter-dimensional transport in time, now, when we want to have dinner at the Murphy's, we have to ask which half.
 

LD

TBH, my posts are often full of errors because I write them on my phone. A lot of this stuff is auto-correct/predict related.
But wouldn't you (general, of course), as an editor, want to fix it?  Not only because it doesn't put you in a good light, but  because it would bug you?
 

elleoco

The Murphys didn't make it out of the inter-dimensional transport in time, now, when we want to have dinner at the Murphy's, we have to ask which half.


I hope that was supposed to be a challenge.



The Murphys didn't make it out of the inter-dimensional transport in time. [Comma-splice was here.] Now, [I'd leave out the comma after "now," but that's not wrong, just style.] when we want to have dinner at the Murphys', [Needs plural possessive, not singular.] we have to ask which half.


Dennis Chekalov

Some authors just don't underdstand how the society works. And they don't want to understand. That's why some imaginary worlds are shallow and unconvincing. Think about The Phanthom Menace. The world, where people like Jar Jar Binks become senators... Oh.
 
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David VanDyke

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Perfect grammar and spelling matter less than the quality of the prose beyond the essential mechanics.


Depends on how you view that polish. Would those iconic authors have made it if their stuff had been released with all those problems?


Are you (general) impressed by a classic car that's not been restored well?


Is a pretty girl nearly as pretty with no deodorant and bad makeup?


Does the lack of editing ruin an otherwise good story? It does for me.


***


Another pet peeve:


Echoes. Reusing the same significant work in the same paragraph, sometimes several times, sometimes throughout a book. Characters nod hundreds of times, or they always "look" a certain way, over and over and over.

« Last Edit: September 25, 2018, 01:19:35 AM by David VanDyke »
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.

I'm a lucky guy. I find the harder I work, the luckier I am.
 

David VanDyke

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[size=78%]  I know an "editor" who says the one thing she knows is grammar. Yet the majority of her posts have errors in them.  Of course, these are Facebook posts and maybe she would argue that she doesn't edit those posts, but I would think as an editor it would be second nature to you to know the rules without needing to correct them to begin with.  These are not spelling errors or typos, but grammatical errors, like the "would of" and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.  Then she always has people commenting on her posts, singing her praises. [/size]


The blind leading the blind--and the related Dunning-Kruger syndrome, which means someone is so inept, they can't actually tell how inept they are.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.

I'm a lucky guy. I find the harder I work, the luckier I am.
 

Dennis Chekalov

Quote
and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.


Really? I'm Russian, I've studied German (not English) in school and in college, and I still know the difference.
How is it possible that a native speaker doesn't?
 

RCoots



My pet peeve in homophones, since I have a horse background, is rein vs. reign. The entire world, indie and traditional, has great difficulty with those two for some reason. Sometimes it's correct in one place and wrong in the next within the same book.



THIS.  So much this. I've also got a horse background and every time i see this i imagine the character as a horse.


Another thing that bugs me is voice. Quite often, I'll pick up a book and every single character has the same voice. Stilted, no contractions, no verbal tics (either in dialogue or as they narrate) to make me go "OH, this is Character A speaking." And quite often, they all use the same vocabulary. I drop a fifty cent word without thinking about it in conversation, half the room has to stop and figure out what I meant. (This has actually happened. It's a bit awkward)
 

LD


Perfect grammar and spelling matter less than the quality of the prose beyond the essential mechanics.
I'd have to disagree with this.  It's not likely to be PERFECT, but those guys had editors go over their work too before it was released, which shows it IS important.  It's not like their books were printed as is and they were still a huge hit.
 

Lysmata Debelius

When a writer doesn't differentiate between the narrator's voice, and a character's way of talking. You know, when a character describes something, but they suddenly start talking like a written description. You know :


Susan turned to Mary. "What did you do last night ?"
"I was walking home," said Mary, "with the snow crunching crisply under my boot-heels and the wind tugging my hair away from my face..."
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy and Science Fiction


Blog
 

Llano

Quote
and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.


Really? I'm Russian, I've studied German (not English) in school and in college, and I still know the difference.
How is it possible that a native speaker doesn't?

Apparently our education system sucks.

Before the Internet few people wrote things that other people could see. As long as they could speak somewhat properly they could be completely illiterate and nobody would notice. Now everybody writes and shows it to the world, and the level of semi-literacy is shocking. In the past people were embarrassed when called out on their grammar and spelling. Now they get defensive, even aggressive, insisting it doesn't matter because everybody knows what they mean.

I see they're/their/there and its/it's misused so often that I now have to stop and think myself before writing. For those who don't know the proper usage, or are unsure, this avalanche of misuse will eventually win out and we'll all be illiterate.
 

DrewMcGunn



Apparently our education system sucks.

Before the Internet few people wrote things that other people could see. As long as they could speak somewhat properly they could be completely illiterate and nobody would notice. Now everybody writes and shows it to the world, and the level of semi-literacy is shocking. In the past people were embarrassed when called out on their grammar and spelling. Now they get defensive, even aggressive, insisting it doesn't matter because everybody knows what they mean.

I see they're/their/there and its/it's misused so often that I now have to stop and think myself before writing. For those who don't know the proper usage, or are unsure, this avalanche of misuse will eventually win out and we'll all be illiterate.

Hey, I'm not illiterate... I know who my parents are.  :Grin:


Drew McGunn
 

guest390

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A trend I'm seeing in the comments are grammar issues that an editor would catch. I know there have been heated arguments about the need for editing. And I guess you can tell which side I'm on. But here's the thing...Early in my career I struggled to find a decent editor; not an uncommon problem in 2011. I was getting dozens of reviews complaining about it. It hurt my rankings and the overall standing of my work. When I found a good editor (two in fact) those complaints all but ceased. Instead of being judged for the quality of the grammar, I was judged by the quality of the work.
Another thing writers can do is look into a developmental editor. I know indies are wary of this, but I'll make my case, nonetheless. With my most recent book (not to be released until 2020), I worked with a completely new process. I've been an indie for seven years and have total control over content. My editors chime in, but not often. With Tor, I was in a position where I had to listen. I could argue my perspective on the matter. And I could fight it if I was determined enough. But in the end, I was wrong nearly every time. How do I know this? Beta readers. The reaction was consistent. After making the suggested revisions, the book was at a whole new level. One of the readers has read almost everything I've put out. He said what started as a good book turned into the best work I've produced to date.
Much of what indies stumble through can be fixed with a sound editing process. It's so important to understand your own limitations. I, for example, do not have a background in English. So for me, editing is crucial. Also, I tend to write flat secondary characters. Through the editing and beta reading process, I've greatly improved on this. I have "writing ticks" that are hard for me to catch. It's when you over use words like very, every, or whatever little thing you do that you don't notice. Even repetition of phrases throughout a manuscript can be removed through editing. For example: if you have a character "blink hard" or "flick his wrist" a bunch of times.
Anyway, a good book is certainly about the story. But if you can't get past the lack of editing, readers will never know how good it is. They'll get frustrated and stop reading.