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Goof-Proofing Your Writing

Goof-Proofing Your Writing

Guest post by Sean Dixon

As an editor, I see many errors again and again, ranging from subject-verb disagreement to faulty pronoun usage to problems with punctuation such as comma splices. One of the most common types of mistakes I see is word choice errors. These are also among the easiest mistakes to correct. Here are some words I see commonly confused and how to sort them out:
• Agreeance is not a word. Use agreement instead.
• When what you mean is a result following from a cause, use effect. When what you mean is an action producing a change in something—causing an effect—use affect.
• Lightening something makes it a shade lighter in appearance. Lightning is the spectacular effect of electrical forces in storms.
• Advice is wise counsel that you might give someone to help them out. To advise is the action of giving such counsel.
• You imply something when you suggest it without explicitly stating it. You infer something when you read between the lines to grasp an implication that is not directly stated.
• Your is a possessive pronoun—your shoes, your blues—but you’re is a contraction for you are.
• Its is also a possessive pronoun—a leopard can’t change its spots—but it’s is a contraction for it is.
• Comprise means contain and compose means make up. You can say something is composed of something else because that means made up of, but don’t say is comprised of because that means is contained of, which doesn’t make sense. To say that something comprises something else when it contains it is perfectly fine.
• Lead as in lead weight (and rhyming with said) is an element. Lead (rhyming with need) is a verb in the present tense. In the past tense, it’s led.

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