The more I read--and I read a lot--the more discouraged I get about the use of English by today’s writers. I posted a similar article on this blog some time ago, but it bears repeating because those same “boo-boos” keep`showing up.
With all the self-publishing going on these days--and the authors not having their books professionally edited--I suppose it was bound to happen, but, please, fellow authors, try not to make the following mistakes.
1. could’ve - could of. There is no legitimate reason to use “could of.“ I’ve seen it even in traditionally published books, and it apparently stems from the author--to say nothing of the editor--missing an English class. He/she means “could’ve” a contraction of the two words “could” and “have.“ Example: “I could’ve been a contender.“ or “I could have danced all night.”
2. doctors - apple’s. Plural words don’t get apostrophes. Example: “The apples were ripe and the doctors ate them.“ If you put an apostrophe before the “s” you have turned the word into a possessive. Example: “The doctor’s time was limited.”
3. Try to - try and. Technically there is no “try and” (or almost none.) If your character is going to try to do something, use “try to,” not “try and.“ Example: “I will try to help you.“ After all, if you say “try and” you imply you’ll succeed. But what if you don’t succeed? You’ve told a lie.
4. I couldn’t care less - I could care less. Once again, the second construction should never be used. After all, if you could care less, then you must care somewhat. But you’re trying to say that you care so little that it would be impossible for you to care any less than you do.
5. lose - loose. Stop putting the extra “o” in “lose.” Look them up in the dictionary. To lose something is to no longer have it. Example: “I don’t want to lose the lovely watch you gave me.“ Something which is loose is of an unstable consistency. Example: “The watch slipped off my wrist, because the band was too loose.”
6. incidents - incidentses. The latter is not a word. One event is an “incident.“ Two or more events are “Incidents” (add an “s” to make a plural). There is no such word as “incidentses.”
7. roll - role. As a noun, a roll can be a small pastry you eat. As a verb, it means moving or turning over or around. Example. “He let the car roll down the incline into the ditch.“ Role is a noun which describes a part you might play in a film or in life. Example: “The role required him to exit the stage.“ or “I’m tired of playing the role of your wicked stepmother.”
8. I hope I don’t have to tell you that--unless you’re writing dialogue in the voice of an illiterate character--you should never write, “Me and my brother,” “Her and I,” “we was,” or “She don’t.“ But I often see “myself” instead of “me. “ Don’t try to get fancy. Wrong: “She gave the book to John and myself.“ Right: “She gave the book to John and me.“ If John were gone, you’d say, “She gave the book to me.“ Wouldn’t you?
9. breath - breathe. Breath is a noun. Example: “He took my breath away.“ Breathe is a verb. Example: “It’s so hot, I can hardly breathe.”
Well, I see my Top Ten list dwindled into only nine, but these are the ones that make me cringe. There are lots more I could have included. What about you? Are there any blinders and boo-boos that make you want to scream? Share them, please. Let’s all try to improve our writing and help our readers enjoy our work.