Your mission, if you choose to accept it…

I’m starting a new thing here on North of Andover: daily (if I can keep up with it, but a few times a week at the very least) examples of “glitchy” writing for you to test your own knowledge of grammar, punctuation, etc. by trying to spot the errors.

The trouble with trying to show anyone how the rules work, y’see, is that you need examples of what not to do. I’m not good at making up examples of bad writing (unless it’s very, very bad, and over-the-top mockery of the worst nonsense ever seen on Teh Internetz isn’t going to help anyone learn the difference between colons and semicolons). So I raided (with permission) a couple of web sites that offer writing prompts, and I’ll be using some of those. (I happen to like many of these prompts, by the way, even if I don’t ever use writing prompts myself. I have shared some of the originals on one of my Pinterest boards; I think they’re interesting and potentially quite useful to writers in search of ideas.)

So here’s the first one:


Can you see what’s wrong here? I’ll give you a hint about what’s missing: an apostrophe, two commas, and a capitalized letter.

Scroll down a few lines for the corrected version, but not until you’ve at least tried to figure it out for yourself…


…And here’s the corrected version.

“No child that age should have gone through so much. It’s a wonder they’re not dangerous.”

“Better keep watch, then, eh?”

The apostrophe in It’s and the capitalization for Better should have been easy. The commas, however… I’ve said it many, many times: lots of people have trouble with commas. Here, both then and eh are used as interrupters — what we called mild interjections back in my day. Interrupters are separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma: Well, that explains it.


About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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5 Responses to Your mission, if you choose to accept it…

  1. Sheron says:

    Got it. But commas are my nemesis

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Writing Glitch #2 | North of Andover

  3. How do you know you’re an editor? You can sit around with other editors arguing the various ways you can or should punctuate a bulleted versus numbered list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry, Marilyn, but I’m not sure if you’re telling a joke or making a polite comment about my complete lack of competence in regard to the written word, so I have no idea how to respond. (Not sarcasm, just me admitting that my brain doesn’t work properly. But you knew that already.)


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