It’s the little
things that make my eye twitch when I run across them in a published
book. These are mistake such as misspelled words or wrong term usage (clinched instead of clenched when referring to a tightened fist or jaw, for example), and
a myriad of tiny errors that can be and sometimes are missed even in the best
of edits.
In a perfect
world every book would be published without an error or two. We’d all like to
say we could catch every missing comma in a manuscript, but if you think about
it, the average novel consists of 60,000 words. Those words translate into approximately
272,000 characters. What are the odds? Authors can beat the odds if they take a
proactive stance.
That’s why
self-editing is so important. The job can’t be left only to the “professionals.”
Any author who has submitted what they believe to be a near-perfect manuscript
can attest to the fact that an editor will most likely find something to
nitpick on every page of the story.
Authors who sweat
those small thing are a great asset to an editor. No, they aren’t expected to
catch everything in a novel, but when they do their best, that helps to produce
a cleaner product, which helps eliminate reader eye twitches.
Here are some
common mistakes that should be on every author’s style sheet or check list:
The aforesaid
mentioned clinched versus clenched along with other difficult
words, such as affect/effect, then/than, assure/ensure/insure, desert/dessert, hoard/horde, setup/set-up/set up, underway/under way
and the one I struggle to grasp: further/farther.

Words that can be
compounded but are not always so: a
part/apart, a while/awhile, any more/anymore, every day/everyday.

Words that are
often written as two words when the correct form is a compound: backseat, seatbelt, backyard.

Words that are
always two words, unless hyphenated. For example, it is never goodnight, but good night or when used as an adjective describing a noun, good-night kiss. Also, it’s always good-bye.

Words that are
often misspelled. For instance, it’s not hairbrained
but harebrained. The word is tell-tale not tale-tell, tell-tell, or tale-tale, espresso and not expresso, and
no matter how much anyone insists that it is working its way into the English
language, it is never alright but all right.

Words that are
often confused, such as anxious vs. eager, as vs. like, among vs. between.

Also, publisher
preferences are good to note. Pelican Book Group prefers OK instead of okay
Because I personally prefer okay, I
have to be very cautious about this. Noting it on my style sheet or checklist
helps me to remember to check my edits when I’m working on a review or an
acquisition. Other preferences might include blonde/blond and the various ways it can be used. Internet terms
are also publisher preferences. Internet vs.
internet, online vs. on-line, and e-mail vs. email.

I find collecting
this information fun and useful. What I don’t collect, I make sure to look up
in the Chicago Manual of Style. When
I do look them up, I usually place them on my list.
These are just some of the
ways that authors can help eliminate that eye twitch. Mine never twitches more
than when I find a mistake I missed in my own work.
Happy editing.

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