A few months ago I wrote about some of the most common mistakes my students make when writing articles. Since then I’ve run the class three more times, and so, naturally, I am back with even more mistakes my freelance writing students make on the regular.
Inverted Comma Splice
Ha! I just made that up. It probably has an actual name. Here’s what I mean:
So, a comma splice is when you combine two complete sentences with a comma. For example: ‘Tarquin went outside today, he wanted to see if it was warm.’ It’s annoying and incorrect and it’s oh so common. But something else I’ve seen cropping up too much lately is the exact opposite: One sentence being split into two… in a really weird way. Oftentimes it’s fine to break up a long sentence into two shorter ones. But why the fuck would you do it when it literally – yes, really quite literally – doesn’t make sense?
EXAMPLE: ‘If you did this to make up your word count. Go back and find some more information.’
I don’t know, maybe it’s a slip of the finger, but I’ve seen it too many times to ignore it.
‘In this article we’re going to look at…’
Why oh why oh why oh why would you ever begin an article that way? Talk about a waste of words. And therefore a waste of your readers’ time. Not cool, dude. Just talk about what you’re going to talk about, and get the eff on with it.
Clichés, jargon, and other nonsense that doesn’t mean anything often makes an appearance in my students’ work. This is probably because they’re trying to meet their word count or, more likely, because they haven’t put an awful lot of thought into what they’re saying and they’re like, hey, this’ll do.
Capitalising Random Words
Oh my god, this happens ALL. THE. TIME. It happens so often that I now alert my students in advance that when I write ‘no caps’, I’m actually saying ‘you have capitalised random words that should not be capitalised’, because I got so sick of typing it out.
But why does this happen? Haven’t the faintest. Well, that’s not true; I have my suspicions. Often people will mistake regular old nouns for proper nouns. Proper nouns are names of things. Like John, Oxfam, and The Daleks. (Don’t ask me why I threw a Doctor Who reference in there. I don’t even watch it.)
Maybe this is exclusive to my students, because they know I will pick up on all their mistakes for them, but I doubt it. I can guarantee there is a mistake in this article right now. I mean, there won’t be by the time you read it, but right now there 100% is.
Proofreading is so ridiculously crucial, but a lot of people simply don’t bother with it. But it’s the thing that will help you find all those other mistakes you’ve made, you know? So if you take one thing away from this, let it be: PROOFREAD.