I make many writing mistakes even if you excluded all my amazing typo errors. For everyone who followed my blogs and Youtube channel, you know that I did not formally study literature or writing. I picked it up along the way, paid money to get verbally abused by an editor and ate many bitter criticisms from strangers over the internet who are mostly toxic and narcissistic.
Yet as I improve, I continue to find myself making some rather jarring mistakes ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ I know I shouldn't be making while editing. It's annoying how my subconscious mind never registers all the bad habits. Unlearning is often harder than learning.
If you are also a writer, you might share some of my common writing mistakes.
Patreons to credit: -This could be you. Join now.-
#1: "That", "Really", "Just"
These words are the fillers of writing. when we write, we think. When we think, we pause. When we pause in a speech we use "Uh", "Um", and "Er". When we write, the fillers become "that", "really" and "just".
Of course, this list is not comprehensive. There are plenty of other filler words depending on the writer and the country they come from. Different countries and regions use English differently but my point remains.
Filler words exist when we write. Sometimes, I see as many as twenty of these filler words easily in a 3,000-word chapter. By the time I finish editing, it usually cuts the word count by 200 words after removing redundancies and rewriting them into more concise sentences.
#2: Wrong Preposition
Honestly, apart from verb tenses, I think prepositions are the hardest.
I'm an English tutor (as well as Piano teacher) so I know where many of my students stumble. English is not very accurately used in many Asian countries that teach the language. Being bilingual (or trilingual in my case) has its pros and cons especially when the mother tongue is stronger than the secondary language.
Even as a teacher and writer, I sometimes struggle to find the most accurate preposition to convey what I want to my readers not because I don't know the preposition used but because I keep rewriting my sentence and the forms of a certain word that the preposition used before becomes irrelevant.
Original sentence: Lying on the bed.
Ideal edit: Lying in bed.
What I write when I'm blind: Lying on bed.
This is where Grammarly usually points it out and asks me if I want to keep the sentence the way it was written and I say "Hell, no!" before smacking my forehead and wondering when the coffee juice ran out.
#3: "Would be [verb]ing" & Perfect Tensing
It's a common mistake to make and I don't believe I'm the only one. I can say that with certainty because I know a certain co-author also suffers from this.
The sentence: He would be going to the theme park if it did not rain.
the better sentence: He will go to the theme park if it did not rain.
many times I see blue lines that Grammarly offer suggestions and accept them when I see "would be", "should be" and "could be" because I know that's terrible phrasing. It's overly wordy with no clear perspective. Simple is still best but our minds are complicated. Check the example below for passive perfect tensing and ask if you're one of those writers who try to sound smarter by over-complicating the things you write unnecessarily.
The sentence: She had eaten dinner before her shower.
The better sentence: She ate her dinner before showering.
The sentence: I had been writing when the doorbell rang.
The better sentence: I was writing when the doorbell rang.
As you can see, while none of the sentences above was grammatically wrong, I'd say the clarity resonates better in the second version. It feels lighter to read and easier to understand at first glance. The only reason why they were considered mistakes in my books despite being grammatically accurate was due to the lack of clarity.
Let's face it. Unless your readers are pompous professors who like sounding more important and educated than they really are, the majority of readers who pick up our fiction books only want a good time. Why make things difficult for them?
#4: Oxford Commas (General Hatred for Comma)
This rule about oxford commas is highly debatable. Some people claim it is unnecessary while others say that it is mandatory. I like to think to my convenience that less is more. However, I write following the British English and Grammarly is my biggest nagger when it comes to throwing commas out the window.
I hate commas with passion. I admit. It's a personal flaw when I write because I'm impatient and have many words to convey. More importantly, I don't type using all ten fingers all the time. Finding the comma and the full stop is a huge pain sometimes that I leave it to my spellchecker. I don't think this is a common problem with many other writers so it's specific to only me.
(Even typing this paragraph, I failed to use commas 5 times, full stops twice and missed the apostrophe twice. You can thank Grammarly for correcting them because I gave up.)
#5: Adverbs in a Sentence
Adverbs are tricky and even the most experienced editors can make mistakes. If this is you, do not feel bad. It's possibly the most abstract part of grammar that not everyone understands.
Generally, we use an adjective to describe a noun and an adverb to describe a verb. However, that's not the only use of adverbs. They can sometimes describe adjectives, another adverb (yes) and be used as an indicator of circumstances/time. Read this post if you want to learn more about it, I'm not going to explain because it's too painful.
However (this is an adverb), I think you can understand why this is part of my common writing mistakes.
#6: Em Dashes and Hyphens
This was a problem in my early days as a self-published writer before Grammarly was available. When I wrote essays, the length of the dash didn't really matter as long as I applied it correctly. However, on word documents, it started becoming a big deal when I could not differentiate between them.
I think my second freelance editor was the first person to explain the difference to me when she was editing my Liberal Assassin manuscript. however, I had no chance to apply them for a few years because I moved to write Webnovels and there wasn't much differentiation for them either when publishing them on Inkstone. I write on Google Docs and the auto-correct option for em dashes vs hyphens never appeared either. Grammarly doesn't check that properly and only Scrivener or Microsoft Words has that checking option.
To date, this is still one of the biggest writing mistakes I'm trying to correct. Editing E-Ghost was a learning experience but I will need more time to unlearn my mistakes.
#7: Passive Arrangement
This passive writing style was evident in my fan fiction days as well as my first self-published work Fons Vitae. Back then, I had no idea what it meant. However, I started to understand better what this looks like whenever I wrote so it is reducing but still not completely gone.
I think I mentioned this in previous blogs so I won't explain it here again. If you have no clue and want examples, read this link. I can guarantee that 99% of authors who first start out will be guilty of this.
I don't know if I can live without Grammarly Premium at this point. There are many mixed reviews on the internet about the software but I think it is more consistent than a human editor who might miss these bad habits in writing.
There's nothing wrong with deliberately breaking the rules if you knew the purpose. However, most times, writers write without filtering the terrible fillers or style in a draft and that's when the beauty of editing comes in. If you want to read about editing, check out my free writer e-course!
Also, how many of my common writing mistakes did you spot while reading this blog? I deliberately left them around :)