Thursday, May 30, 2013

A tip a day to keep the rejections away

Welcome to my marathon of writing tips—one tip a day to make you a better writer.


What are my qualifications? For several years, I’ve written the Pet Vet column for the Post Bulletin newspaper. I’ve had articles published in RunMinnesota, DVM360 journal, and The Wagazine. I’m in a wonderful critique group that meets weekly to tell me everything I’ve done wrong.


Save yourself some time by learning from my mistakes.


Abbreviations as follows:

MS = manuscript

CP = critique partner

WIP = work in progress





These words are really not that confusing, if you pause to think them over. But sometimes we’re writing way too fast to pay close attention. When editing, watch out for the following:


1) alright vs. all right

- One of my CPs has a favorite saying: “alright is not all right”.

- Get it? “All right” is the correct spelling.


2) OK/okay/O.K./Okay

- Everybody sure seems to have a different opinion on this one. Some say all four are fine. Others find only the first two acceptable.

- To be safe, I’d recommend only using “OK” or “okay”, and then stay consistent throughout your MS.


3) your/you’re

- “Your” is possessive:  “That is your booger-brained brother.”

- “You’re” means “you are”:  “You’re a booger-brain.”

- Try your best to keep them straight. I find these two misused everywhere—magazines, newspapers, and WIPs.


4) their/they’re/there -

- “their” is possessive:  “That is their problem.”

- “they’re” means “they are”:  “They’re the problem.”

- “there” is a location or place:  “Over there lies the problem.”


5) whose/who’s -

- “whose” is possessive:  “Whose awesome car is that?”

- “who’s” means “who is”:  "Who’s going to drive that awesome car?"


6) its/it’s -

- “its” is possessive:  “That dog likes its bone.”

- “it’s” means “it is”:  “It’s a nice dog.”


7) t-shirt/tee shirt/T-shirt/tee-shirt -

- Although T-shirt and t-shirt are the most commonly accepted spellings, if you look long and hard enough you can find people who accept any of these options.

- To be safe, I’d recommend using T-shirt or t-shirt, and then remain consistent throughout your MS.


8) affect/effect -

- “Affect” is a verb meaning to influence.

- Used as a noun, “effect” means the end result. Used as a verb, “effect” means to bring about.


9) than/then -

- "than" compares items, things, or people:  “High school friends are better than grade school friends.”

- "then" denotes time:  “Once you get to high school, then you have fun.”


10) two/too/to -

- “two” is a number: “I’ll have two scoops of ice cream.”

- “too” means “also” or “excessive”: “I want to eat ice cream, too.” or “I ate too much ice cream.”

- “to” is used for everything else, basically: “I went to the ice cream shop.”


11) who/which/that -

- use “who” to refer to a person

- use “that” to refer to things or a group of people

- use “which” to refer to things


12) I’ll link this group together -

- “supposed to” NOT “suppose to”

- “used to” NOT “use to”

- “toward” NOT “towards”

- “anyway” NOT “anyways”

- Although I avoid writing “anyways”, I’m very naughty about using it when I speak. While I’m at it, I’ll also confess to using the terms “totally awesome” and “gag me with a spoon” on special occasions.


13) desert/dessert -

- A very long time ago (when cavemen dragged cavewomen around by their hair until they discovered the Pixie hairstyle and started kicking butt), I attended grade school with a wise English teacher.

- She explained the difference between these two words in a way I’ll never forget: “Deserts are hot and horrible. Desserts are tasty and wonderful. Desserts has two s’s in it because everyone wants seconds of birthday cake, and no one wants seconds of crossing a desert.”


14) all together/altogether -

- “all together” groups people or things together: “We went to the movie all together as a group.

- “altogether” means “entirely”: I am altogether pleased with the recent superhero movies. Robert Downey, Jr. is the bomb.  For example...


See what I mean?
Once you're done ogling, it's back to our regular scheduled programming...only one more to go!


15) Accept/except-

- “accept” means “to receive”: “I accepted the package.”

- “except” means “to exclude”: “I want everything except that package.”




And, finally, an example I found highly amusing:


Use “all walks of life” not “all WOKS of life” when you’re not talking about oriental cooking.


See you tomorrow for Mile 6!



1 comment:

  1. This blog on tricky words was BY FAR the "trickiest" one for me to write. Please tell me if I messed something up, and I'll be MORE than happy to fix it! Thanks!