The Common Mistakes Solution


Alright, so I’ve decided to do something new with the way I write–or edit, actually. And I think this is a good idea for a lot of writers to do. Here goes:

We all make mistakes, and some of us make the same mistakes over and over. Mostly I’m referring to spelling and grammatical errors, even errors that don’t seem like errors, but really are. Sometimes you catch them; sometimes you don’t. It’s when you don’t that it’s a problem. See, sometimes you write a word and it’s actually correct…according to the dictionary. But that word isn’t really correct, because the context is wrong. Take for instance the word “breathe”. Sometimes I screw up and use “breath” instead. You can’t take a breathe. You take a breath. It’s one of those strange British things that never went away, and while it might be silly, that’s just the way it is and you have to deal with it. I imagine a lot of people don’t even realize it’s a mistake too (I didn’t for a while, and that’s because I’m sometimes an idiot about such things).

So, here’s a good idea to solve this problem. If you start noticing you make a mistake, and you make it repeatedly (even just two or three times every other story or something), write it down and take note. Put it in a word document or something and then the next time you go to edit you can start doing search and kill procedures to find all the little mistakes. In fact, that breath/breathe thing should be a standard, because many of you may make that mistake and not even realize it’s a mistake.
I’m doing this now. I’ve started putting a list together of things I can search when I edit in hopes that I can catch more of these mistakes and kill them before they end up going to a crit buddy or to a publisher (I made a mistake with one of my last submissions and left some errors in there, and I’m a bit miffed, because I didn’t see it for some reason).

So that’s my recommendation for solving this issue.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

7 thoughts on “The Common Mistakes Solution

  1. I’m actually doing the same thing, only for a different sort of mistakes. When I’m done, I’m going to go back and look for things like “there was”, “seemed like”, “…”, or “suddenly” because I overuse all of them.

    Where did you learn that “took a breath” is grammatically incorrect? I’ve always thought that breath is a noun, breathe is a verb, and that breaths is the plural form of breath.

  2. Take for instance the word “breathe”. Sometimes I screw up and use “breath” instead.

    Are those supposed to be switched also? And aren’t you going to give them my awesome explanation about nouns and verbs (versus your previous one about singular and plural, which seems to have vanished)?

    I don’t think I ever made the breath/breathe mistake, because I read rants about it long before I ever started writing enough to make many mistakes.

    But you know — I still can’t figure out how to spell “opportunity”, and I don’t remember what “arbitrary” means, but I throw it around anyway. Sometimes I mix up there/their, but I always catch it when I read the second-time-through. At least … I hope I do. And I didn’t learn about the piqued/peaked thing until just recently.

    There are bugs in my hair (yes, literally), so I’m going to take this as a sign to go to bed.

  3. Haha. Okay, breath is a noun, breathe is a verb. You breath or take a breath. He breathed, she breathes, and they all breathe. Everyone took a breath or takes a breath. Everyone breathes.

    There :P. Yes, I had a complete idiot moment earlier, which is my exact point regarding that darned word. It’s a weird word that I just screw up on for some reason.

    I don’t make the mistake on purpose usually. This post aside, I generally will write and leave out the e, or just tack it on randomly, and if I’m not paying close attention during editing I won’t catch it.

    Arbitrary = based on individual preference (such as an impulse). So an arbitrary decision, one based on an individual preference rather than one decided by the collective :P. Which is how everything apart from politics is generally decided.

  4. Thanks. -definition slips out of head-

    I’ll just keep on using the word arbitrarily and hope I’m using it right. Because that’s what I’ve been doing.

  5. I don’t know what’s wrong with you people – I never screw anything up 😉

    Kidding! My biggest problem is who/whom and I’ll probably never actually figure that one out because the explanation is so convoluted that it hurts. Even when I thought I had gotten it, I hadn’t. Some editing sites will have lists of common errors. A Writer’s Reference, by Diana Hacker, is also a fantastic resource for common screw-ups/switch-ups.

  6. Common error lists are good reference points, but I think it’s useful to be aware of which errors you personally commit the most. Those are ones you can weed out in the editing process quickly with a simple search through your document. Hopefully with practice the errors would disappear…or not.

    But who/whom is certainly one of those annoying word conjugations.

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