Top Ten Writing Mistakes

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Credit: National Library of Ireland

For the next few Mondays, I’m going to blog about the top ten writing mistakes in terms of style (as opposed to overarching things like narrative arc, plot and pacing, and character development). Here is the list:

1. The deadly run-on sentence

2. Don’t count on spell check

3. Those tricky commas

4. You’re mine—all mine! – Using possessives

5. Just hanging out: Dangling modifiers

6. Repetition

7. Sentence fragments

8. Did he lie, or did he lay? Wrong word choices

9. Less is more (or When in doubt, leave it out)

10. Show, Don’t Tell

Today I’m going to write about the deadly run-on sentence, which can trip up even a top-notch writer. A run-on sentence is two (or three) sentences that are run together with a comma or an “and”. The effect is like a breathless person who can’t stop talking. Instead, these sentences should be separated by a period or a semicolon. Here are some examples:

Example 1: Slowly Laura went into the bedroom and opened the curtains, and then she made the bed and picked up her wrinkled nightgown from the floor.

Edited version: Slowly Laura went into the bedroom and opened the curtains. She made the bed, and then picked up her wrinkled gown from the floor.

Example 2: I started to fetch my daughter from soccer practice and just in time, I remembered that she was going home with her best friend.

Edited version: I started to fetch my daughter from soccer practice. Just in time, I remembered that she was going home with her best friend.

You can also use semicolons to separate phrases:

Example 3: I’d read about the band’s excesses, particularly Jack’s, and he was the epitome of the bad boy rock and roller.

Edited version: I’d read about the band’s excesses, particularly Jack’s; he was the epitome of the bad boy rock and roller.

Have a question about writing? Please comment or email me: leslie@lesliewellsbooks.com

Leslie Wells has edited forty-nine New York Times bestsellers in her thirty-year publishing career. She is the author of Come Dancing, a contemporary romance set in New York City in the 1980s. Visit her at www.lesliewellsbooks.com

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