Littered with Errors: Can Typos Kill You?

We’ve all done it – typed “here” for “hear” or “you’re” for “your” – especially when we’re dashing off a quick email or meeting a deadline. I don’t know of an agent or editor who’ll reject a submission based on one or even a few typos, particularly if the material is so compelling the reader can’t resist losing the afternoon in your book.

However, not all errors are typos. This becomes apparent as a manuscript progresses. Some of us, never dreaming we’d be professional writers one day, slept through the “it’s vs. its” lesson in English class – or Language Arts if you’re under 30. And speaking of generational differences, grammar was one of my favorite subjects all through school. However, my daughters’ teachers insist that much of what I was taught is now considered to be wrong. Mrs. Hamilton and Mrs. Powers (who also taught my mother) would beg to differ!

Some grammar rules don’t change, though, and these are the errors I see the most frequently:

It’s versus its:

It’s means it is. It’s is not the possessive of it. Its is.

It’s strange that the turtle carries its house on its body. (How do you like the bonus its?)

Plural Possessive:

When you have two parents who own a house and you are visiting them, the apostrophe is after the “s” in parents.

We went to my parents’ house.

If you are just visiting Dad, you can say:

We went to my parent’s house.

Affect versus Effect:

“Affect” is usually a verb and “effect” is usually a noun.

An error-filled manuscript will affect the editor’s impression of you.

The effect of a perfect manuscript is immeasurable.

A writer no longer needs to be a grammar maven to succeed in presenting a pristine manuscript to agents and editors. For instance, when I was writing books for publication, I read the manuscripts aloud before submitting. And now, I always run the review program on work leaving my office. While no computer program is perfect, running every manuscript through yours should greatly reduce the number of errors.

Better yet, make friends with grammar. Then writing nearly flawless manuscripts will be second nature to you. My cousin once asked me, “Do you proofread your emails before you send them? They never have any errors.”

Still, perfect grammar won’t save a manuscript the editor doesn’t want. I once earned a rejection letter stating that my work was “technically flawless.”

The above statements guarantee that I will send out a batch of letters with a glaring grammar error in the very near future.

“Enough about you,” you say. “What about me? How do I make friends with grammar?” I suggest you purchase and buy a copy of the 4th edition of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style (originally published in 1918).

Since they recommended Strunk and White many moons ago, Mrs. Hamilton and Mrs. Powers would approve.

Your turn:

What is your biggest grammar bugaboo?

What errors do you see most often?


Leave a Comment

Creativity Sparks

Thank all of you for the blessing of your shared thoughts, encouragement, and condolences on my blog last week. As I suspected, many others have been in this place of struggling to wrench creativity from the jaws of emotional/spiritual/physical fog. Your suggestions echoed my own, from giving yourself time to …

Read More

Real Life is Edgy

A major topic of discussion among writers of all types of Christian books is the issue of how far is too far when showing someone’s life before they surrendered to Christ, and how real you show their journey of sanctification once they exit the broad road. It’s called the “edge.” …

Read More

Lyrics as Literature

I normally steer away from controversial topics in this blog but the announcement that Bob Dylan, the popular musician, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature gave me pause. My first thought was “What?” To place Dylan alongside previous Nobel laureates like Solzhenitsyn, Steinbeck, Kipling, Hemingway, Camus, Faulkner, T.S. Eliot, and Churchill? …

Read More

An Alternative Candidate

Friday October 14th was Winnie the Pooh’s 90th birthday. (I wrote about his birthday a few years ago here.) Below is what greeted me at the dinner table on Friday night. It brought hilarity and sudden clarity. I think I know how I should vote… Winnie-the-Pooh for President Piglet for Vice …

Read More

How to be a Woman?

This will be our last trip down Memory Lane for a while. I hope you have fun with today’s post and think about how your female characters live. We’re bombarded with ads today and we were yesterday, too. How to be a woman? I was trying to figure all of …

Read More

Writing through the Fog      

You may have noticed I haven’t had a blog posted here since losing my dear dad a few weeks ago. I want to thank all of you for your kind expressions of sympathy and your encouragement. You blessed me a great deal. God has held me close, granting me wondrous …

Read More

Book Publishing Before the Internet

When I first started working in book publishing, Amazon was a river in Brazil and social media was a radio DJ holding a dance party at the local mall. The word “internet” either didn’t exist or was possibly some sort of technical term known only to commercial fishermen. Did the …

Read More

Prayer is Not a Transaction

Recently I was teaching on Luke 18:1-5 (verses are below) about the parable of the persistent widow and developed some thoughts that might be pertinent for you today. In our world, commerce is based on the idea of a transaction. I give you something (like money) and you give me something …

Read More