Make editors happy by avoiding these common mistakes
Use spell check. Please.
Proofread your work. Pretty pretty please.
Better yet, read your work aloud to yourself, or someone else. Your voice will almost always catch something you hadn’t caught with your eye.
Subject/verb agreement. This simply means that the subject and verb must agree in number – both need to be singular or both need to be plural.
Make sure your possessive pronouns agree with your subject. “A child expresses her joy” versus “A child expresses their joy.”
The active voice is preferable. I mean, we prefer the use of the active voice. (See what I did there?)
Use the right preposition for the right instance. Check out the Preposition Song (http://www.english-grammar-revolution.com/list-of-prepositions.html) because it’s fun, but here’s the full list: https://www.englishclub.com/grammar/prepositions-list.htm.
Don’t forget to punctuate.
Don’t overuse exclamation points!!!!!!!!!
Single – not double – space between sentences.
We use the Oxford comma. You should, too. Note the little red guy in the following sentence: “I feel annoyed, frustrated, and discouraged when authors leave out the Oxford comma.”
If parentheses encase an entire sentence, the period goes inside the end parenthesis. If only a portion of the sentence rests inside the parentheses, the period goes outside the end parenthesis.
When quoting a speaker or citing an article, use quotation marks.
Period goes inside the quotation marks, except when quoted material, like a book title, doesn’t involve a period, e.g. Phillip Pullman wrote a trilogy called “His Dark Materials”.
If directly quoting three full sentences or more, set the cited material off from the text body by starting a new line and indenting the full quote. No quotation marks necessary.
Semicolons can almost always be replaced with periods. Then again, sometimes semicolons are perfect. If you’re not sure, default to a period; shorter sentences are easier to read. (But that there was a good use of a semicolon, FYI.)
Which reminds me, only use acronyms if you’re sure everyone will understand what you mean, LOL.
Which reminds me, text shorthand only works if the context of the piece supports it, and if everyone will understand what you mean. If you’re you talking about important parent stuff that has nothing to do with our digital lives, for example, write out your meaning.
Buy yourself a copy of “Strunk and White”: http://amzn.to/2lhmcs2 Use it. Learn it. Love it. Live it.
Per AP Style Guidelines, all book, song, movie, TV show, poem, video game titles should be in quotation marks, not italics. For reference: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/735/02/
Sub-heads should be styled as Heading 4 and capitalized like sentences, without the period at the end.
If a piece contains both sub-heads and sub-sub-heads, style sub-heads Heading 3 and sub-sub-heads Heading 4. (If your writing platform doesn’t give you these options, don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of it on this end.) Try to reduce the amount of text styling that you select – we have to manually remove all of your styling. Differentiate headings using type size only, please.
Numbers: spell out one through nine; use numerals for numbers 10 and higher, unless they start a sentence.
Use “more than” instead of “over” when referencing quantity: e.g. “We took more than 12 runs down the mountain that day.”
Write out “percent” instead of using the symbol: %.
Write out “versus” instead of abbreviating to vs.
Write out “and” instead of using ampersands (&).
Write out “okay” instead of ok or OK.
Write out “to” when indicating a range: e.g. “…from ages 12 to 14.”
So yeah, just generally don’t use abbreviations aside from the obvious ones, like Mr. or Mrs. or Dr., etc.
Opt for giving actual examples instead of writing etc., like I just did.
Banned: “For me,” “Personally,” “In my opinion,” “You see,” “Listen,” and the like.
Also banned: “As parents,” “As adults,” or “As a mom/dad…” We know you’re a parent, and we know we’re parents, otherwise, we’d probably not be reading this digital mag.
Know when to use “me” and “I.” For example, “Elmo and I went to the grocery store,” versus “My little brother insisted on going to the grocery store with Elmo and me.”
Know when to use “who,” “that,” and “which.” If referencing a person always use “who,” e.g. “Moms who wear heels at the playground must either be masochistic or have wicked strong arches.” If referencing a thing, use “that” or “which.”
Add a comma before clauses beginning with “which.” This is not necessary if the clause begins with “that.” E.g. “I made a batch of molasses cookies, which tasted delicious.” Or “I made a batch of molasses cookies that tasted delicious.” Yes, this is a thing.
Know when to use “who” vs. “whom.” Use “who” if “he” or “she” could take its place. Use “whom” if “him” or “her” could take its place. Why? Because who refers to the subject of a sentence. Whom refers to the object of a verb or preposition. Find handy examples here.
Know the difference between i.e. and e.g.
Which reminds me, use Grammarly (https://www.grammarly.com/) when you’re not quite sure or need a brush up on your grammar skills.
Always hyperlink your text in the body. Do not list sources at the bottom of the text, or full URLs in the middle of your (www.longlink.com/itsannoying/dontdoit) sentences because we have to guess which words to hyperlink.
Hyperlinks, part 2: Don’t link to a resource more than once in an article. That said, it’s good practice to credit the author and/or source in subsequent references, especially if you’ve quoted the article directly. E.g. “In her article about sexual longevity referenced above, Dr. Ruth offers sage advice.”
“My daughter is two years old” is far preferable to “I have a two-year-old” or worse “I have an almost-two-year-old.” We know she’s special, but please just round up or use months for kids up to age two.
Use contractions where appropriate to make your piece read more informally.
Don’t use double dashes in the place of em-dashes. Em-dash format: Use option-dash (or alt-dash) flanked by one space on either side – like that.
Don’t alienate a potential reader. Sara G. said it best: “Speak to the audience you want, not to the one you assume you have.”
Use simple sentences when you can – one subject, one verb – without too many extra clauses, (and parenthetical asides) to muck it up; unless you can’t help yourself, if you know what I mean. Always, always, always ask yourself, “Can I make this point more simply/clearly/directly/in fewer words?”
Adverbs are words that modify verbs and answer the question “How?” The car drove past quickly. How did the car drive past? Quickly. The adverb can often be replaced by a more colorful, and muscular verb. The car flew past. Active, colorful and muscular verbs make writing more powerful and vivid.
Avoid starting sentences with “and,” “or,” and “but.” They are conjunctions, which join two thoughts together: “I like to snowboard, but I occasionally like to ski.” You could also let them stand as two separate thoughts: “I like to snowboard. I also occasionally like to ski.”
So, starting a sentence with “so” is also suspect. “So” is a conjunction as well, but it has become common parlance as a way to start sentences. It functions as a tool to invoke familiarity with a subject or person, or to start a new idea or line of discussion. It can also weaken your writing if the reader perceives you as being too informal. So, use it intentionally, or find a different way to start a sentence.
Avoid all caps unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. Better to use italics to emphasize a word or phrase.
Avoid starting too many sentences with dependent clauses such as: As a superhero, I find it hard to fit into normal clothes. Or: While I was asleep, the moon exploded. Put the subject and verb front and center in your sentences. It adds to the clarity and readability of what you are trying to convey. More often than not, the clause can be moved to another place in the sentence. Wait… what I meant to say was: The clause can be moved to another place in the sentence more often than not. Finally, There are many times when you can drop the clause altogether without changing the meaning of the sentence at all. If so – drop it.