Words & Scribbles From Mark's Writing Desk
grammar

My Grammar Do’s & Don’t’s Checklist – The Definitive Edition

As an editor, I often come across a lot of frequent grammar mistakes that irritate the hell out of me. I’m a bit fanatical about good grammar. That annoys some people, but I love the English language and that’s what makes me a good editor, I think — the fact I’m prepared to get really picky about things that others may pass over because they think it’s unimportant to them. I personally blame mobile phone texting for the deterioration in language.

I’ve been asked by some people to write a list of the common problems I see, but till now I haven’t done it. Mainly because I didn’t have the time, and also because….well, who would care what I thought? There’s plenty of grammar fanatics on the internet giving their opinions. But recently I’ve thought a lot more about doing it and directing certain people to the list (hint, hint).

So here goes, for what it’s worth….

  • UK English is superior to US English. No arguments. I’ve a lot of American friends so I absolutely have nothing against American people. But US English is just….ewwww.

queens english

  • Don’t mix contractions and non-contractions in an article. Pick one and stick to it. I personally prefer contractions as it sounds more like how people speak. Non-contractions sound like how a robot would speak.
  • It’s “your dog”, not “you’re dog”. ‘You’re’ means ‘you are’. It’s not difficult.
  • Don’t say “one can do this”. You’re not the Queen or Prince Charles. Say “you can do this” or “I can do this.”
  • Don’t say ‘ton’ to indicate a lot of something. Ton indicates weight, not amount. Also, using the word ‘plethora’ should be a hanging offence.

plethora

  • Don’t use big words when little words will do. So instead of ‘purchase’, say ‘buy’. No need to reinvent the wheel.
  • Be as concise as possible. Avoid long-winded explanations and keep the dialogue flowing and snappy.
  • Be aware that some words have changed their meaning over the years and may not mean the same anymore. At a basic level, a word like ‘gay’ used to mean ‘happy’. Now it means ‘homosexual’. One amusing one is in the Sherlock Holmes books where Watson would say ‘”But Holmes!” I ejaculated.’ Er….’ejaculated’ isn’t used in that context anymore….and yeah, I’ve seen it used recently, in place of “I said”.

holmes watson ejaculated

  • Don’t use exclamation marks. We can tell from the way you’re writing if an exclamation mark is needed.
  • Don’t use all upper-case. You don’t have to shout. We’re not deaf.
  • Don’t start a sentence with ‘and’ and ‘because’. Just because.
  • Don’t use ‘thus’ or ‘hence’. You’re not writing the next Shakespeare play.
  • ‘That’ and ‘so’ are the two most overused filler words in the English language. 99% of the time you can leave them out and your prose would be all the better for it.
  • ‘Irregardless’ is not a word. No, seriously.

irregardless

  • Please don’t use the word ‘literally’. When someone tells me they’re ‘literally frying to death’, I can’t help but roll my eyes.
  • Don’t abbreviate words. ‘Info’ should be ‘information’ for example. Also, don’t overuse acronyms.
  • The ‘word’ “etc” stands for “I’m too lazy to think of anything else so I’ll just leave this meaningless three-letter word here.”
  • Avoid filler sentences and phrases like “let’s dive right in!” or “let’s get started!”. I instantly get started nuking those.
  • When writing fiction, avoid all the usual tropes — the weary cynical detective three days away from retirement, starting the story with heavy thunderous rain at night, and any English romance story which takes place in Cornwall starring a mysterious stranger called Troy.

Of course, we can’t end without this famous meme…..

uncle jack ecard

I’ll keep coming back and updating this list as and when I think of others to add. In the meantime, why don’t you give me your grammar pet peeves in the comments?

No Comment Yet

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: