Editing is one of the least favorite activities for writers, but it is a necessary evil. We all miss items in our writing – no matter how often one revisits the piece. The mind reads what SHOULD be on the page, not necessarily what IS on the page. These are some my favorites…ones I tend to seek out when I am writing/editing.
LAST should not be used before a period of time (week, month, year). Last refers to the final week, month, or year. One should use PAST to refer to the previous week, month, or year.
This one is usually a spelling, rather than a meaning mistake. PASSIBLE refers to being sensitive or capable of feeling (Although I disagree with his politics, I find the candidate is passible.) On the other hand, PASSABLE refers to being able to be passed or to be barely satisfactory/adequate.
FOREGO refers to going before or preceding, while FORGO means to refrain or to give up.
ANY BODY, when written as two words, refers to a body such as a corpse, a body of water, etc. ANYBODY as a single word, refers to a group of people, but not to any particular individual.
This next one drives my “gentleman friend” a bit bonkers. He has been known to point out the mistake to more than one shopkeeper. EVERYDAY, refers to days in general, without emphasizing any particular day. (Winning the lottery is not an everyday experience.) EVERY DAY emphasizes the individual day, with the word “every” acting as an adjective to describe the noun “day.” One way to know which is correct is to substitute “each” for “every.” (Every day is a learning experience.)
Likewise, EVERYBODY and EVERYONE refer to several or many people, but not to one particular individual, while EVERY BODY refers to a specific body, as in a corpse, body of water, etc., and EVERY ONE refers to a particular individual.
FAMOUS means to be well known for exemplary reasons, while INFAMOUS and NOTORIOUS are for unfavorable reasons.
PRECEDE means to go before, while PROCEED means to go on or to continue.
The past tense of PLEA should be PLEADED, not PLED. [The criminal pleaded guilty (not pled guilty).]
RESPECTFULLY is a dutiful manner. RESPECTIVELY means to refer to two or more people, places, or things in the order in which they are listed.
The same rule applies to both RARELY (or RARELY IF EVER) and to SELDOM (or SELDOM IF EVER). An action may occur rarely or rarely if ever, but rarely ever (or seldom ever) is inaccurate. In fact, it is best to use rarely (seldom) or never. It would be incorrect to say “Editors rarely ever make mistakes.” The sentence should read “Editors rarely make mistakes” or “Editors never make mistakes.”
IRREGARDLESS is not standard English, REGARDLESS of how many times one sees it in print.
BECAUSE should be used to indicate a cause or a reason, while SINCE refers to time, meaning between then and now. It would be incorrect to say, “Since she knows the truth of the circumstances, the prosecutor sought the death penalty.”
NUMBER refers to a quantity of people or things which can be counted. AMOUNT refers to an indefinite quantity that cannot be counted.
Although I generally use this distinction correctly, for this one, I must always pause to say the rule in my head before I continue to write: IN BEHALF OF means for the benefit of, while ON BEHALF OF means in place of. (The attorney speaks on behalf of his client.)
AMONG is used when the number is three or more, while BETWEEN is used for two people, places, or things.
Finally, for today, this is one I often see misused in many published books: DIFFERENT FROM is the acceptable form, not DIFFERENT THAN.
Thank you Regina. It is always good to get a refresher course. The meanings so easily slip from the mind.
They do, Eileen. I am forever checking “on behalf of” and “in behalf of.”
Great analysis, Regina! I’ve been called a “grammar nazi” on more than one occasion (OK, make that lots of occasions) in the past, as I’ve corrected people in the use of more than one of the words or phrases you’ve listed above. Spelling and punctuation are two other things I’m a stickler for (preposition in the wrong place, I know).
The one that really gets me is the final item in your list. I think it’s usage is commoner in the US than it is in the UK and I see fairly often in works by some writers from the US writing historical novels set in the UK.
I have an author friend, Anji, who always uses “different than.” Each time I cringe.
I say “behind of me” instead of “behind me” – but I’m positive I’m right!
How about the past tense of “sneak” — it’s “sneaked,” right? Because “snuck” just does NOT look right!
June, “sneaked” is the standard past tense and past participle form of “sneak.” Last night I sneaked into the movie theater. Unfortunately, the ticket taker sneaked in right behind me and tossed me out on my rear. What this means is that “sneaked” has always been accepted as the past tense of “sneak.” So if you use it, you will be abiding by the long-time language rules preached by most of our high school English teachers.
Of course, the rules of the English language are always evolving, and “snuck” has sneaked its way into our American lexicon. It’s considered the nonstandard past tense—basically meaning that “sneaked” is the preferred word-choice, but “snuck” is also acceptable. (English teachers across the nation just united against me—though if any start a “We Support Sneaked” Facebook page, I promise I’ll join.) I snuck into the meeting a few minutes late hoping no one would notice. The next week, my boss snuck a few dollars out of my paycheck. Even Merriam-Webster, who calls itself “America’s foremost publisher of language-related reference works,” doesn’t make the distinction in its online definition and fully recognizes “snuck” as a past tense and past participle of “sneak.”
In another 10-to-20 years, “snuck” may even become the preferred past tense form of “sneak”—who knows? But until then I suggest using “sneaked.” It will not only make you sound smarter, but it’ll also keep the English teachers from hunting one down like a movie-theater ticket-taker.
As to “behind of me,” grammatically, it is acceptable to say “in front of me,” but not “behind of me.” Yet again, who knows how the language will next change. However, that being said,
“Don’t walk behind me: I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me: I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”– Attributed to Albert Camus
“If you walk in front of me, I may not follow.
If you walk behind of me, I may not lead. (The Camus quote says “behind me.”
Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
In 2009, this was seen on Facebook as a member’s daily quote.
Anyway, despite the internet’s love of this alleged Camus quote, no one is able to cite the book or letter from which it came. Chances are though, if you went to a Jewish summer camp, you’ve heard the quote in song form, probably at a Havdallah ceremony or a really intense campfire. The summer camp version of the song has one more crucial line.
Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend
And together we will walk in the ways of Hashem.
Something makes me think this isn’t the work of Camus.
“The words appear in the lyrics, although I’m not sure if the lyrics predate Camus’ misquotation or vice versa.” The irony :>