My Favorite Mistakes

The sequel to Entropy is in the hands of my beta readers, and the feedback is starting to trickle in. One of my most clever betas noticed that I wrote “a while” when I should have written “awhile.” I had to look that one up! She was absolutely right. I’m adding this to my list. I’m learning from my crowd of brilliant editors that there are a lot of grammar mistakes I’ve been making. Here’s the list, and rules I found on the web for how to know what’s right.

“on line” or “online”

It used to be two words and now it’s one. I hate change, and I resisted adopting this, but the world has decided that “online” is always one word. So deal with it.

“awhile” or “a while”

If you can substitute “for a while” then you mean “awhile.” Otherwise go with “a while.”

“into” or “in to”

If the word after “in to” answers the question “Where?” then you should be using “into.”

“someday” or “some day”

If you can substitute “a day” then use “some day.” Otherwise use the stuck together version.

“lying” or “laying”; “lay” or “laid”

Just fucking give up and choose a different word. You’ll never figure this fucker out.

“alright” and “anymore”

Those aren’t actually words at all. Don’t use them.

“just” “very” “pretty”

I use these adverbs too much. So do you. So does everyone. What I do is search my manuscript and if I see these in dialog, I leave them. Because that’s how people talk. But otherwise, they almost always get deleted. Sometimes if they are emphasizing a verb, I’ll tweak the verb’s power a little. “Very warm” becomes “hot” for example. But mostly I just delete them. I mean, mostly I simply delete them. (Sometimes I replace “just” with “simply” or something like that, if deleting it changes the meaning of the sentence too much.)

“we are” or “we’re” (and any other contractions)

Clearly this is just a judgement call. What I’ve determined is that whichever one I use, my proofreader thinks I should have used the other one. So do the opposite of your natural instinct and you’ll be fine. I mean you will be fine. I have no idea if you will or won’t or will not be fine.

commas

These are like contractions. Give up. You’ll never get them right. Find someone who really knows their comma rules, and beg them to fix them for you. And just blindly do whatever they say, because everything you think is wrong.

semicolons

Just. Don’t. Use two sentences, or use a long dash. If your editor puts one in, that’s okay, because I think they have to clear those with the Pope or something. But don’t put them in yourself, because you aren’t licensed to mess with that particular piece of punctuation.

dashes

Dashes are great because they let you avoid using a comma. Always use the super long dash (called an emdash) and do not put spaces around it.

I think that’s all of them. Disagree? I don’t fucking care. But feel free to gripe at me in the comments anyway.

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