Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
We agents read a great many manuscripts, proposals, and of course, published books. I think I can speak confidently for all of us when I say that we find poor grammar and misused words less than impressive. When the error occurs in a published book, it’s a serious *facepalm* moment.
So I’ve been thinking about the words I commonly see misused in manuscripts, and I wanted to give you a brief list and some tips on correct word usage.
This list is taken from my own notes on mistakes I’ve seen lately, but obviously there are many more confusing words! A book I highly recommend is 100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses and Misuses. It’s fun reading and a great resource to keep on your shelf. (I do).
So here are some commonly confused words, and hints for using them correctly:
You can lead a horse to water. (verb, present tense)
She led the class in a song. (verb, past tense)
Pencils used to be made of lead. (noun)
Time to lie down for a nap. (verb, present tense)
Yesterday she lay on the grass and daydreamed. (verb, past tense)
If you are going to use “lay” as present tense, it’s only if you are going to lay something down. The present tense verb “lay” needs to have an object.
Will this post affect the way you write? (verb)
If so, I hope it has a positive effect. (noun)
I’m trying to effect a change in the way writers use grammar. (transitive verb meaning to cause or bring about)
I passed by Starbucks and didn’t stop! (verb, past tense)
I can’t drive past Starbucks without being tempted. (preposition)
The one-dollar cup of coffee is in the past. (noun)
It’s time for a lesson in grammar. (contraction for “it is”)
Choosing the appropriate word has its difficulties. (possessive form, adjective)
The only time you use an apostrophe is when you want a contraction meaning “it is.” There is no apostrophe in the possessive form.
Help – I need some advice! (noun)
Please advise me on my publishing journey. (verb)
They stood in front of the altar to get married. (noun)
Before the wedding, she had to alter her dress. (verb)
When you’re on a horse, you should hold the reins. (noun)
Please try to rein in your feelings. (verb)
The king reigns over his country. (verb)
(Note that when you “rein in” your feelings or you try to “rein in” your kids, it’s a metaphorical use of the original “rein” which pertains to horseback riding.)
This blog has several discrete parts. (adjective meaning separate or distinct.)
Please be discreet when discussing details of your contract. (adjective meaning to be prudent or use discernment; or to be unobtrusive or unnoticeable)
All you grammar police out there: Obviously I’ve given simplistic examples here, and I haven’t covered all uses of each word. Feel free to add your two cents (and good sense).
What words do YOU have trouble getting right in your writing?
Attention grammar police! What commonly misused words drive you crazy? Click to Tweet.
Can you correctly use lie & lay? Affect & effect? Lead & led? Here’s help. Click to Tweet.