My Various and Amusing Mistakes: the Benefits of a Proof Reader

We all make mistakes. What has been your most stupid/funny/embarrassing typo?  Have you ever had anything published and then – too late – spotted some terrible mistake?

I’ve had my novel proof-read, and it was worth every penny. The proof-reader, Michael Jarvis, was excellent, and spotted dozens of tiny mistakes that I had missed time and time again. Most of these were because of ‘automatic typing’, many are due to the vagaries and subtleties of the English Language.

The main fault I had was over-use of a passive construction using a gerund e.g. ‘she was trembling’. This is much better as an active sentence: ‘she trembled’. I know this by now, but it was a prevalent fault in much of my early writing and the odd one still hangs around.

Internment not interment:  I wasn’t even aware there was a difference until my mother pointed this out.

Using ‘thank-you’ not ‘thank you’:  I find I automatically put the hyphen in, but there is a difference. For example: ‘He said a quiet thank-you’,  ‘He whispered, “thank you.”‘

Discrete instead of discreet.

Alter instead of altar.

Dammed instead of damned.

Queueing or queuing:  there seems to be some controversy here. I prefer ‘queueing’ but neither look correct.

Split instead of spilt:  not an easy mistake to spot.

Using a name of a real organisation and then discovering that, six months after I wrote that section, it has rebranded with a completely different name that is unsuitable for my purposes. I have had to invent an organisation instead with a slightly different name.

And finally:  when my protagonist got chocolates, he got ‘Diary Milk’!

In conclusion, my recommendations are: don’t trust your spellchecker, read your work out loud, and, better still, fork out for a professional proof-reader if you are considering publication.

red pen

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