Early on in my career, I learned a painfully difficult lesson: an editor will NOT catch all my errors. Having been trained in journalism, I was accustomed to the concept of editors cutting out the “deadwood” in a piece, and I made the assumption that those hired in the publishing business had practiced their craft and had earned their positions. I was such a publishing virgin!!! Little did I know that finding an “experienced” editor, especially one well versed in the Regency Period, would be an ongoing issue. I am not here to complain. If anything, I am laughing at my “selective memory.” Life has blessed me, and if I have to be more proactive in the editing process, then so be it. I, too, was once a college graduate, sporting my degree in English and journalism, and seeking a job opening.
What I wish to highlight are some language lapses – those I commit, but try to rectify. What do I mean by “language lapses”? It is a term I have blatantly stolen from my dear friend George Arnold, who is preparing his sixth edition of the Media Writer’s Handbook: A Guide to Common Writing and Editing Problems. Arnold says, “[Language lapses] result from brains idling in neutral, not because writers and broadcasters do not know better.” Notice in the previous paragraph that I boldfaced the words try to. One should use try to, not try and. Likewise, be sure to, not be sure and.
*** A double negative occurs when one says “cannot help but.” Instead, say, “I cannot help thinking Mr. Darcy is too proudful.” Do not say, “I cannot help but think that Mr. Darcy is too proudful.”
*** Remember that “precede” means to go before, while “proceed” means to continue.
*** “Last” should refer to the final week, month, or year, and “past” should be used to refer to the previous week, month, or year. I must say this rule in my head as I write. Unfortunately, I often make this mistake. Sometimes the editor finds it; sometimes she does not.
*** One should use “because” to indicate a cause or a reason. “Wentworth says he cannot return to Kellynch Hall because of his previous relationship with Anne Elliot.” The word “since” refers to time, meaning between then and now. “Since her time at Pemberley, Elizabeth held a better understanding of Mr. Darcy.”
*** “Beside” and “besides” is a sore point in my editing experience. “Beside” means by the side of. “Besides” means in addition to.
*** “Blond” is used as an adjective in all references and as a noun to refer to males. “Blonde” is a noun to refer to females.
*** One item repeatedly irritates me. Often I use a pen to correct it in the books I am reading. I apologize if others find this offensive, but please recall that I spent four decades making this correction on countless papers. Exclusively, use “different from,” rather than “different than.”
*** “A lot” is two words. Never use “alot.”
*** “Altogether” means wholly or entirely, while “all together” means every person or thing in the same place.
*** “Amount” is an indefinite quantity and cannot be counted. “Number” consists of a quantity of people or things that can be counted.
*** “All ready” means everyone or everything prepared or available. “Already” means previously and refers to time.
*** “All right” should be used exclusively. Do not use “alright.”
*** “Farther” refers to distance. “Further” refers to degree or extent.
*** Use “proved” as a verb. “He proved to be a true gentleman.” Use “proven” as an adjective. “Her proven methods…”
*** The proper word for a reminder of the past (a souvenir) is “memento,” not momento.
My list, dear Readers, could go on forever. I make these mistakes also, but as a writer, I must be more diligent. I just finished another round of editing for my latest book in the Realm Series, A Touch of Honor.
My list has grown each day. Do you have pet peeves when it comes to word choices? Leave your comments below.