How NOT to WritebyCornishBabe©
How not to write -- A look at the common, and not so common errors on the internet
Please note, I can't tell people how to write, nor can I ever hope to cover all the possible mistakes people make. This is just a little piece I put together a few months back for my college's e-magazine.
Thanks for reading!
With the internet information sharing has never been easier, we have online magazines springing up everywhere, and Yahoo Groups, and forums and sites such as this where amateur authors get chance to shine. Newsletters can be transferred by e-mail on simply posted on a company website. Getting news, stories, jokes and poetry to people has never been easier but has the new information age taken away our ability to use correct spelling and grammar? Are we becoming dependent on our flawed spelling checkers and forgetting how to proofread our work?
I plan to take a look into the darkest corners of the internet, largely my friends' bedrooms and the forums I often frequent, and unearth the most deadly typing errors that have tried to hide and to drag these errors kicking and screaming into the harsh light of day, namely this web page you are now reading, and hopefully I'll try and work in a little humour as well, but I wouldn't get your hopes up!
One of the most common mistakes I see is the misuse of homophones, words that sound the same when spoken aloud, but which are spelt differently. Now, if you were giving a speech the spelling of the word isn't important, but if you are trying to write a news article, or a piece of fiction, or even a blog entry that you want to be taken seriously then you need to spell things properly.
Let's take a look at an example that I unearthed whilst reading an amateur story posted on a forum that I moderate.
"Their she lay, left for dead in the grass; her lips blew with the cold as the night wind chilled her to the bone. She knew in her very sole that if she did not move she would freeze."
Need I say anything more? Although I can make sense of what is being said from the sounds of the words, the story lost a lot of credibility as those who offered constructive criticism found it difficult to see past the spelling errors.
It should read:
"There she lay, left for dead in the grass, her lips blue with the cold as the night wind chilled her to the bone. She knew in her very soul that if she did not move she would freeze."
After the author had corrected these errors, and the numerous others we were able to offer her more ideas of how to further improve the story because we were no longer struggling to see past the errors. Over time, what had begun life as a misspelt disaster evolved into an absorbing piece of short fiction.
My next piece of advice follows on directly from homophones and the comment I made in my opening about blindly following a spelling checker. The crucial thing to remember is that your spelling checker will not detect homophones, as they are spelt correctly, they just don't make sense. A great example of this would be in the poem 'owed to a spelling chequer'
Eye half a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
The complete 'owed to a spelling chequer' can easily be found by Google, or any other search engine you would prefer to us.
So, you have a piece of writing, you've been very careful about your homophones, and you've used a spelling checker, which handily also tries to help with grammatical errors, and you have tried very hard to tell your spelling checker that you write using English, not American English, or vice versa to be sure that you get everything right, what more can you do?
There is one more thing that so many people forget to do, even myself and that is to proofread your work, this will help you in many ways. By looking at your writing with a more detached view point than you had while actually writing it you may be able to notice things that don't work so well plot inconsistencies and such like that you didn't notice when absorbed in the world you were writing, while your hero was fighting off hordes of undead, or having some of the best sex of his or her life.
It should also allow you to notice simple typing errors that again your spelling checker may not have noticed because they are actual words. A good example of this is one I often do myself, writing 'tome' instead of 'tone' because m and n are right next to each other on the keyboard.
One memorable mistake I made, in a completely harmless setting thankfully, was while talking to a friend via IM, we were in a group conversation and someone asked "How is everyone?" to which I promptly replied "I am god." Now as much as I would like to think I could be God, I just don't think I would be very good at it, and it is rather a lot of responsibility. Needless to say I have never lived down my mistake, and I have learnt to always proofread and slow down a little sometimes.
Of course, things can't always be perfect and I frequently find that if I have been working on something for a long time I can often overlook mistakes in my own proofreading because I automatically know what they should say. As such, it is always a good idea to ask another person to proofread your work before you submit it for intense public scrutiny.
Now, how many mistakes have I made? That would be ironic.