You don’t want to send an overworked and underpaid editor a manuscript with glaring grammar and punctuation errors. Especially if the editor decides whether your piece runs or not. Send in a poorly edited piece, and you will end up in the slush pile. No editor has time for drastic rewrites.
If you’re paying an editor to review your manuscript, you don’t want him or her spending hours finding easy-to-correct grammar and punctuation mistakes. You want a thoughtful review of the substance of your manuscript so your editor can help you make it better.
Here are 7 grammar rules your editor wants you to know to make his or her life better and to make sure your piece ends up in publication.
1. Run-on sentences
A run-on sentence is two complete sentences joined by a simple comma. This is different from a really long sentence. We have an excellent article that discusses the differences to help you understand.
You need conjunctions to fix a run-on sentence. Here’s an example:
- Incorrect: Practice is over at 5pm, you need to pick John up in time.
- Correct: Practice is over at 5pm, so you need to pick John up in time.
You can also replace the comma with a semi-colon or a period to make two complete sentences correctly.
2. Bad pronoun usage
Some pronoun errors are easy to make. Consider the following example:
- Everybody must bring their own lunch.
The pronoun that agrees with "everybody" is actually "his or her." There are some who argue "their" is proper to avoid using sexist language. And some argue correct grammar is correct grammar. We have a fun article about this issue here.
3. Irresponsible apostrophes
Apostrophes show possession or denote contractions. Don’t use apostrophes any other way.
- Incorrect: My brothers bicycle is sleeker than her’s.
- Correct: My brother’s bicycle is sleeker than hers.
- Incorrect: The flower bloomed it’s last petals in October.
- Correct: The flower bloomed its last petals in October.
- Incorrect: Its time to head up the trail to base camp.
- Correct: It’s time to head up the trail to base camp.
4. Subject/verb disagreements
This is a sneaky one that creeps into posts when writing conversationally. Consider the following:
- Incorrect: There’s some amazing books being published this week.
- Correct: There are some amazing books being published this week.
- Incorrect: Here’s guidelines on how to treat grammar issues.
- Correct: Here are guidelines on how to treat grammar issues.
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You want to get the most out of any editor you hire. An editor can help you shape your story by focussing on characterization, story arc and tone of voice. They can't do this, though, if they have to fight their way through a sea of simple grammatical errors first.
Finding these mistakes in your work before you send it to your editor will help you get a more polished piece of writing in return. But spotting all of these errors on your own isn't easy!
ProWritingAid is one of the best grammar checkers out there - but it’s far more than that! The Editing Tool also looks at elements of structure and style that have an impact on how strong and readable your writing is. You’ll not only see where you’ve used a semi-colon in the wrong place, but also which words you overuse, where your pacing is slow, where you've used clichés and more.
More, it helps you learn as you edit, making you a better writer every time you use the program.
The best way to find out how much ProWritingAid can do is to try it yourself!
5. Dangling modifiers
These can be funny when you find them during your self-edit. Take these doozies I found in an article recently:
- Incorrect: At age 16, my teachers became mentors rather than instructors.
- Correct: When I was age 16, my teachers became mentors rather than instructors.
Those 16-year-old teachers are hard to take during your senior year, right?
6. Lazy lists
Don't get lazy when listing several thoughts in a sentence. Make sure your items are covered the same way. Here's a great example:
- Incorrect: I made Snickers blondies, artichoke dip, and bought a vegetable tray for the party.
- Correct: I made Snickers blondies and artichoke dip and bought a vegetable tray for the party.
7. Save the semi-colon
Really, don't use the semi-colon. It's easier and cleaner.
But if you must, know there are only two proper uses for this snarly punctuation. In the first, you use a semi-colon to separate two complete sentences, such as:
- Correct: He knocked on the office door; no one answered.
The second proper use is when using a list with commas:
- Correct: We drove through Toledo, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; and Windsor, Canada, on our trip to the lake cabin.
Finally, never, never, never use a semi-colon in place of a colon. Here's a perfect example:
- Incorrect: There's only one way to slaughter a sentence with a semi-colon; using it as a colon.
So be kind to an editor. Find and fix the above mistakes before submitting any work. While other grammar and punctuation mistakes make an editor’s job harder, these are the big no-noes.
You’re better off running your content or your novel through ProWritingAid before sending it out to an editor. The online editing tool or the add-ons will catch each of the above errors for you. And you'll make your editor happier and learn proper grammar and punctuation along the way.
What grammar goofs trip you up every time? Let us know in the comments below.