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Style Errors That Scream “Amateur”

Writers, show professionalism by knowing your grammar and style—and by proofreading your work. Recently, I’ve noticed obvious grammar and style errors in both print and online publications. Either they aren’t using editors, or their editors are overworked.

Make sure your work is free of these marks of the amateur.

  • Plural for words ending with “st.” Is it guest or guests? It depends on whether you have one guest or more than one. Correct plural example: “We will have about 40 guests at the party.” I’ve seen published writing with “guest” where it should be “guests.” Remember, you must add the “s” on nouns like list, request, or mast. The rule for plurals is to add an “s” unless the word ends in “s.” See this summary.
  • Exclamation points. Use them sparingly!!!! Many beginning writers think they are adding emphasis by using exclamation points. However, overuse of emphasis defeats the purpose. Rachelle Gardner has a great blog post on the subject here.
  • All caps—avoid them altogether. The proper format for emphasis is italics or bold. Underline is reserved for links. Please avoid all caps. In a work submitted for publication, it will mark you as an amateur for certain. It is the typographical equivalent of shouting.
  • Spacing after periods. If you learned to type on a typewriter, you learned to space twice after periods or other ending punctuation marks. The computer age has changed that. Re-train yourself to space only once at the end of a sentence. When I point this out to the writers I mentor, they just don’t believe me. That’s because they have no experience in publishing. See the this article on this subject.
  • Its vs. it’s. The only time you’ll use an apostrophe with the word “it” is when you are using it as a contraction for “it is.” The word “it” may be the only word in the language that does not have an apostrophe in its possessive form. This error is so prevalent that it’s distressing to grammarphobes like me. For one thing, the spellchecker will not catch this error. I’ve seen it on television captions, campaign literature, and advertising signs. I even caught it on a publishing industry executive’s blog. Review the basic principles here.

Rid your writing of these marks of the amateur. It may take some effort, but it will be worth it in the long run.

Readers, have you caught grammar and style errors in unlikely places? Share in the comments. If you receive this post by email, please click on the title of the post to go to my site. Scroll down to Leave a Reply and comment there.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

2 Responses to Style Errors That Scream “Amateur”

  1. Crickett Keeth September 23, 2017 at 9:57 am #

    Very helpful tips, Emily! Thanks for sharing them.

  2. Emily Akin September 24, 2017 at 8:32 am #

    Thanks for the feedback, Crickett.

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