Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Be a Better Writer: Avoid These Common Mistakes!

In my last blog I discussed the difference between proofreading and editing—both very important elements of writing. Understanding the difference is great, but what can you look for that goes beyond the basics of punctuation?

Incorrect word usage is something that often grabs my attention when I am reading an article. When words are used improperly, the writer automatically loses credibility. You must be vigilant about choosing the correct words and using them in the correct context.

As a writer, you must thoughtfully choose the words you use—whether it’s for a short story, poetry, or writing a cover letter. The following examples are some of the most commonly made mistakes that I see, but should be avoided at all costs.

(1) Anxious vs. eager - I see this mistake all the time. Anyone who has ever had anxiety knows that there is an extreme difference between being anxious and eager. If you are looking forward to meeting your favorite author, you would not say, "I am anxious to meet Stephen King." Instead you would be eager to meet him--unless you are afraid he might act out a gruesome scene from one of his books. Then you might be anxious.

(2) Center on vs. revolve around – Often writers will combine the two and instead write “center around.” Well, you can’t be in the center and around at the same time. I might say that I want you to center your attention on my blog right now.

(3) Concerted effort - one person cannot make a concert but he can make a concentrated effort.

(4) Accept vs. except – accept means to take, and except means to leave out. Try to remember that the “x” in except means to exclude. Please accept my advice on word usage--except when I make mistakes!

(5) Criterion vs. criteria - Some words with Latin or Greek roots have plural forms that end in “a.” These words are commonly mistaken for singular words. Remember you have one criterion and many criteria.

(6) A lot vs. alot – ok, so this one is very basic and not really about meaning, but I see it misused so often, I think it’s worth mentioning. Remember that “a lot” is always two words—not one. But you can allot a job to a friend.

I hope these suggestions will help you when working on your writing project—whatever it may be. Choose your words carefully, and remember it’s the simple things that add up to make you an expert in the writing world.


Betsy Henning said...

Very helpful!

Michael Schaffner said...

Excellent comments. My personal favorites are affect vs. effect. I've found the it is helpful to go to the "bible", Strunk and White: "The Elements of Style"


Paige said...

Thanks for your entertaining post! Grammar and editing really make a difference when it comes to writing an article. Keep up the good work!

Lisa Vella said...

Thank you so much, Paige! I'm glad you enjoyed my post and hope you'll come visit me here again! Have a wonderful Friday!