I recently started a revision on what I thought was a very good first draft of my novel. I was totally flabbergasted at what I found. While I guess I should have been grateful that the errors were leaping off of the page at me, I was very disappointed and frustrated at the number I was finding. How could I have made so many mistakes?
When we think of grammatical errors, we think of the obvious : missing or overused punctuation, the wrong tense of a verb, mixing singular and plural, run-on-sentences or simple misspelling. All of these are grammatical errors that have to be corrected before your manuscript is submitted for publishing, but what about the other common mistakes that we make everyday?
‘Who’ or ‘Whom’– Who is used for the subject of a sentence and whom for the object. If you can substitute “he”, “she”, or another noun, ‘Who’ should be used. If instead you would use “her” or “him” then ‘Whom’ should be used.
‘Lay’ or ‘Lie’– This is a common error because the past tense of “lie” is “lay”. In the present tense, “Lie” is something the subject of the sentence does, and it does not require an object. “Lay” in the present tense is a transitive verb, however, and this is used to describe an action done to someone or something. I lie on my back. I lay my purse on the table.
‘Like’ or ‘As though’– These two are not interchangeable, but ‘like‘ is often used in place of ‘as though’. Like can only be followed by a noun or pronoun. ‘As though’ only precedes a verbal clause, because ‘as though’ creates the expectation of an action based event. She looks like my mother. I cried as though I had lost my bestfriend.
‘I’ or ‘Me’– Use ‘I’ only when it is the subject of the sentence, not the object. ‘I’ is the doer of the action. I went to the store. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. ‘Me’ is the object of the sentence. It is the receiver of the action. She handed me the purse. The doctor gave the medication to me.
‘Who’ or ‘That’- Use ‘who’ for people and ‘that’ for things. She is the one ‘who’ gave me the purse. This is the purse ‘that’ I wanted.
Dangling modifiers-The clause that begins a sentence has to have the same subject as the sentence itself. ie Walking down the street, the trees were battered by last night’s storm. Wow, I didn’t know trees could walk. It could be corrected to read: Walking down the street, I noticed the trees had been battered by last night’s storm.
I’m not sure if this is my top 10 grammar peeves list, but I am familiar with and have observed most of these in my writing as well as the writing of people I critique. Thought I would share them. There are just so many. It would be impossible to cover them all in one blog.
What do you think? What are some of the common mistakes that you make or have observed?