I know that I'm somewhat deviating from the purpose of this blog, but I've read over 30 first chapters this past week and I figured I should share some of the most common mistakes I've seen. I'd suggest taking a look at these five points and then taking a look at your manuscript again. I just did and I caught some things that have been missed for over fifteen rounds of edits. So, without further ado, here I go:
1. Semicolon Usage
(Wait, but wouldn't this make life so much easier?)
If anyone's ever gotten a critique from me, you probably know that my biggest pet peeve is semicolon misuse. There's a distinct possibility that you've heard me say this phrase at least 5 times: semicolons can only be used when they're followed by a complete sentence (assuming that the sentence before is also complete). Furthermore, the two sentences need to be linked by a common topic or idea. Here's an incorrect and a correct example:
Correct: I wasn't sure which dessert I should pick; they all sounded good.
Incorrect: All the desserts were wonderful; luscious, sweet, and yummy.
2. Commas. Commas everywhere.
Commas are wonderful things. And sometimes, because they're so wonderful, we like to go comma happy.
"You get a comma! And you get a comma! Everyone gets a comma!"
Sometimes, though, we have to accept a terrible fact: we can't always use commas. We especially can't always use commas in place of periods. If we do, we end up with run-on sentences.
Incorrect: With my eyes glued to the trees in the distance, I didn't notice that the stairs outside the courthouse were right in front of me, my sneaker caught on the lip of the first step and gravity took hold, dragging me forward, my toes curled as I made a last ditch effort to hang onto the marble stone, my chest dipped forward, my feet slipped, I was staring at the lump of half dried bird crap my arm would definitely land in, it would be a long tumble to the ground.
General rule of thumb: keep your sentences to a length that makes it easy for them to be spoken in one breath. It's very difficult to say the previous example all in one breath, is it not? On top of that, it doesn't flow very well without periods. Which is odd, because periods usually break up the flow. But, it's true, right?
New version: With my eyes glued to the trees in the distance, I didn't notice that the stairs outside the courthouse were right in front of me. My sneaker caught on the lip of the first step and gravity took hold, dragging me forward. My toes curled as I made a last ditch effort to hang onto the marble stone. My chest dipped forward. My feet slipped. I was staring at the lump of half dried bird crap my arm would definitely land in. It would be a long tumble to the ground.
Isn't that much easier to say? This is one of the reasons why reading your manuscript out loud is a great suggestion. It'll draw attention to sentences that possibly go on for quite too long.
It would take a while to go into how to correctly punctuate dialogue, and this post is more about pointing the mistakes out, so I'll just list a few incorrect/correct examples.
Incorrect: "I really want some chocolate," She says.
Correct: "I really want some chocolate," she says.
Incorrect: "I really love cats." She says.
Correct: "I really love cats," she says.
Incorrect: "Am I punctuating this correctly?" My friend asks.
Correct: "Am I punctuating this correctly?" my friend asks.
Incorrect: "Semicolons are awesome," my mom gives me a thumbs up.
Correct: "Semicolons are awesome." My mom gives me a thumbs up.
4. Their, There, and They're; To vs Too; It's vs Its.
Their: shows ownership
They're: they are
To: toward, reaching as far as, until
Too: additionally, excessively, very, extremely
It's: it is
Its: belongs to it
5. Exclamation points
Yes, exclamation points aren't grammatical mistakes. Okay, fine, I admit it. However, I see them a lot. They're used most often to tell when a character is upset, mad, anxious, etc. Notice how I used the word tell and not show? I know everyone's probably tired of hearing the whole "show don't tell" thing. But, it's true. Exclamation points tend to tell the reader that the character is feeling some form of emotion. Which is fine. But, wouldn't it be better to show that the character is feeling that way?
Example 1: "I can't believe it!"
Example 2: "I can't believe it," I said, shoving a hand through my hair. I placed my other hand against my chest, trying to slow my heartbeat.
Sorry for these crappy examples; I kind of just wrote the first thing that came to mind.
And that's that! Thanks for reading! To those of you entering #PitchWars, best of luck! I hope this post was somewhat helpful. I'll have a post on Teens and Texting up within a few days.
If you haven't watched this yet, do it. Do it now. Here's the link if it doesn't show up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gv0H-vPoDc
P.S. I'm figuratively quaking in my boots as I post this because I know for certain there has to be at least one grammatical mistake in this post...