7 Deadly Writing Sins

Okay, so they’re probably not all that deadly, but as you know I read a lot of stuff off the Kindle top 100 free list, and I’ve noticed that a lot of them tend to have the same mistakes (ones I hope I don’t have in my own manuscripts!).  Granted, a lot of the  mistakes make it to print because it is just so easy these days to publish a manuscript, and self published authors may not have the time or the money for an actual editor for their manuscript.  Sure, traditionally published books may still have errors–we’ve all found them and rolled our eyes, I’m sure–but the presence of so many more eyeballs on that manuscript helps to weed them out and keep them to a minimum.

So, here are my “7 Deadly Writing Sins” in no particular order:

1.  Comma mistakes–by far the most common Deadly Sin I come across in the books I’ve read is comma errors.  They run from the author appearing to be allergic to them to misplaced to way too many.  The book I’m currently reading probably misses 15 commas per page, and some of those are in the wrong place.  The former makes the manuscript feel rushed, while the later makes you feel breathless.

2.  ‘s to show plurality–say it with me folks, ‘s NEVER EVER EVER makes a word plural.  EVER.  Similarly it’s means it is, its is possessive.  I know, confusing, but the English language is contrary like that.  This is my biggest pet peeve when I see it happen.

3.  Word misuse–encompasses both homonyms and I Picked the Wrong Word in Spellcheck.  Nothing pulls you out of a story faster than the author using the wrong word.  Using to instead of too, here instead of hear, or substituting a similarly spelled word because you just didn’t pay close enough attention to what spellcheck was doing.

4.  Word repetition–we all know that the word “murmur” shows up about 5 times a page in a certain novel.  Of course, using your thesaurus too much makes your manuscript sound pretentious and obnoxious.  It’s a delicate balancing act!

5.  Stilted, clichéd dialogue–someone can only flip their hair, be frustrated, make eyes at, or pout so much before all your conversations start to sound the same.

6.  Sentence fragments/short choppy sentences–don’t start a sentence with “and”, and make sure you have a subject and a verb.  There are times when sentence fragments work–such as making a point or as a literary device.  However, if you’re not doing either of those things…

7.  Punctuation errors (separate from comma errors)–this mostly is using the wrong punctuation mark within quotation marks.  Generally, it’s using a period when you should have a comma, and not using a question mark when the character asked a question.

What drives you crazy when you come across it in the book you’re reading?

Published in: on February 25, 2013 at 4:39 pm  Comments (5)  
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  1. I am not a writer and I can only imagine how difficult it would be to write a self-published book without anyone else to help with the editing, but all of these things would drive me bananas! We all slip up now and then, but if you’re going to publish it, you might want to clean it up a bit more before you put it out there. I can’t imagine that publishing these kinds of errors would do anyone any favors toward getting their work more recognition.

    • It could be that I’m a bit pickier than a lot of readers, since I do write my own novels, so I’m sure that’s some of it. And a lot of us self-pub authors just don’t have the time or the money to hire an editor, or even try to get beta readers to help us out.

      What astounds me, though, for a lot of these books with the rampant errors, they have 4 and 5 star reviews as the majority on Goodreads and Amazon, so it makes me wonder what the heck is wrong with me!

      • I wouldn’t take it too personally — I think if there are really that many issues, there’s something fishy about all those stellar reviews — call me cynical, but I don’t buy it!

      • I have a really bad habit of going on Goodreads and reading the 1 star reviews…which i really shouldn’t do til AFTER I finish the book. but a lot of these self pub books *don’t* have any 1 star ratings…so who is reading and reviewing these books? them on sock accounts? their moms? LOL!

      • I do believe some of those reviews are from their moms!

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