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Lost and Found - Error Hotspots by Joan Selby

You would think that the Internet would diminish the necessity for writing on a daily basis, since people can communicate through video chats. If you observe your daily routine, you’ll notice that’s not the case. You regularly express yourself through social media status updates, blog comments, messengers, and emails.

We can safely say that, due to the increased use of the Internet, people are writing more than ever. Nevertheless, they don’t pay much attention to the way they write. They don’t think it’s important to proofread a text message before sending it, which is why we can see so many screenshots of autocorrect madness.

Imagine this situation: you’re sending a message to your boss and you misuse your for you’re You might not think that’s a big deal, but such a mistake would immediately affect the impression your boss has for you as a person. Clean writing is important, and practice makes it perfect. You need to start reading not what you think is on the screen, but the words that are actually there.

We have some tips that will help you identify and fix the most common mistakes in writing.

Common Mistakes in Writing – How to Spot and Fix Them

1. Mistakes in Spelling
How many times have you felt bad about spotting a misspelling too late? The recipient has already read the message, so there is no chance to fix that mistake. The only way to prevent these situations is to proofread before sending a text message, email, social media status update, blog comment, or any other kind of text.

Before you can fix the mistakes, you need to recognize them, right? Autocorrect can be great in some situations, but don’t rely on it completely. Check out the most Most Common Spelling Mistakes in English and notice if you’re misspelling particular words without being aware of the errors, and use spelling strategies including memory tricks to help you remember the spelling - check out this lesson Using Memory Tricks.

These are a few examples of common misspellings:

  • tomorrow – people often write it as tommorow, tomorow or tommorrow.
  • a lot – you would be surprised to see how many people write it as alot. (Check out the video and lesson on a lots of vs. lots of)
  • truly – don’t write truely; it’s wrong. (Check out the 20 Most Commonly Misspelled Words book)
  • receive – you don’t spell it as receive. (Use the spelling rule trick "i before e except after a long c" receive, believe, ceiling, receipt)
  • professor – you can often see it written as proffesor, proffessor or profesor.
  • abdominal – many people write it as abdominal. (Use syllable breakdown ab/dom/in/al)
  • restaurant – don’t write it as restorant. Remember the tricky -au- pattern, and the other -au- words: autumn, August, beautiful. Make up a sentence I always go to an outside restaurant in August because its beautiful weather
  • assignment

    – there is a common misspelling as assingment. To help remember the -sign- word family: sign, signal, signature, assignment, designer...

  • 2. Using Commas instead of Full Stops
    As the Center of University of Wisconsin suggests, you should always aim for clear, concise sentences. The rule says you should use commas to set off non-restrictive modifiers, but you should not use then for setting off restrictive modifiers. What do these mean?

    If you can remove a certain part from the sentence without affecting its meaning, then you have a non-restrictive modifier and you should separate it with commas. Here is an example: Arthur Conan Doyle, 1859-1930, is mostly famous for creating the character of Sherlock Holmes.

    A restrictive modifier, on the other hand, cannot be removed from the sentence because it would lose its clarity. Here is an example: The waiters in red jackets serve in the coffee shop; those in white jackets serve in the main dining room. You can either separate these sections with a semicolon or a full stop. It would be wrong to write the sentence as The waiters in red jackets serve in the coffee shop, those in white jackets serve in the main dining room.
    Check out the lesson on the Importance of Punctuation

    3. Mistakes with Apostrophes
    It’s amazing to see how many people are challenged by the right use of an apostrophe. You can often see your or youre instead ofyou’re; its instead of it’s, childs instead of child’s; students instead of student’s or students’, and so on.
    Check out these lessons:
    you're and your
    they're, there, their

    The pamphlet Proofreading for Common Surface Errors: Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar by Indiana University Bloomington gives you nice tips for using apostrophes the right way.
    Also check out these video lessons:
    Apostrophes for Contractions
    Apostrophe for Possession

    4. Incomplete Comparisons
    My car is much faster. Faster than what? When you’re using comparative, you have to compare two or more entities in degree, quality, or quantity. In this case, you can say my car is much faster than yours, for example.
    I prefer reading comics. You prefer comics to what? That’s another incomplete sentence that doesn’t express the whole idea. You can say I prefer reading comics to novels – that’s a small fix that creates a whole other impression for the reader.

    5. Passive Voice
    You don’t use passive voice unless you’re completely sure it fits in the given sentence. Passive voice is confusing, since the reader can’t understand who is doing the action. Here is an example: A message was put on the fridge ?) – that’s an unclear statement because we don’t understand who put the message there. Here are few examples with active that sound better than passive:
    Someone put a message on the fridge. active
    Maggie put a message on the fridge. active
    A message was put on the fridge. passive

    Needless to say, passive voice is not grammatically or stylistically incorrect when you use it in the right place. But if you're a novelist, editors and readers don't like it. Check out these useful tips to improve your writing and a little bit about the passive voice from the Australian College of Journalism

    6. Using the Wrong Words
    How many times have you used affect instead of effect? It’s important to know the meaning of all words you use. You use affect when you talk about the way a certain phenomenon influences another; and you use effect to indicate the change itself.

    Did you know that Mike Tyson once said he would “fade into Bolivian,” when he meant oblivion? That’s an embarrassing statement he surely wants the world to forget.

    Proofreading Is Not as Tough as You Think It Is
    You just wrote an important email message? Proofreading will take only a few moments: you go through the text and fix the mistakes you spot. You may not identify all misspellings at once, but practice will make you better!

    Joan Selby is an ESL teacher and blogger from sunny California. Former CalArts graduate and fancy shoe lover. A writer by day and reader by night. Giving creative touch to everything.
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