Solid grammar and sentence construction skills are extremely important. They make your manuscript look more professional, and can make a difference in whether or not an agent or editor acquires your work. If you are weak in this area, either utilize a freelance editing service or find a critique partner who excels at it.
Can you find the errors in the following sentences? There is 1 error per sentence; the answers are below. Don't peek! Give yourself one point for each correct answer.
1. He looked all over, but couldn't find his violin or it's case.
2. As far as Diane could tell, their wasn't anything wrong with this sentence.
3. I squint, and notice that a ribbon and a sweater dangles from her hands.
4. I thought the person who left their sweater in the hall picked it up yesterday.
5. Jogging at a leisurely pace, the lake appeared in Mara's sights long before she expected it.
6. The squeals and laughter of my sister spills across the room like auditory sunshine.
7. She should of gone to the dentist last week.
8. Nick ran toward the old woman, who's basket of flowers was about to fall.
9. He was the same person that yelled at me last week on the bus.
10. Everyone started talking all at once, their hands waving in the air.
11. Joan could have went to the party last night, but she didn't.
12. He got a much needed haircut yesterday.
13. The ladies coats hung in the hall closet.
14. After her trip to town, Gramma needed to lay down.
15. Your really not going to go to school dressed like that, are you?
These are all common mistakes, some more insidious than others!
1. Its, not it's. An apostrophe tells you something is missing--the i in "it is."
2. Their vs there. Their is a pronoun that describes the noun "case"; there is a location.
3. Dangle. A ribbon and a sweater are 2 things, so the verb must match. If you're not sure, substitute the word "they" for your items: They dangle (NOT they dangles).
4. Person is singular: The person who left his (or her) sweater, not their sweater.
5. Dangling modifier. Immediately following the comma of the intro phrase "Jogging at a leisurely pace," you need the person doing the action. To reword: Jogging at a leisurely pace, Mara saw the lake appear in her sights long before she expected it.
6. Spill. Squeals and laughter are 2 things, so the verb must match. Tricky, because "of my sister" makes spills sound correct. Ignore prepositional phrases when you're trying to figure out your verb tenses.
7. Should have is the correct usage. NOTE: it's okay to use poor grammar in dialogue.
8. Whose. Who's means who is. The apostrophe indicates the i is missing.
9. A person is a "who," not a "that." The person who yelled.
10. Everyone is singular. Use his or her rather than their. And since that sounds odd here, you'd probably have to rephrase or avoid using that sentence altogether.
11. Could have gone. Not could have went.
12. Much-needed is hyphenated; both words are an adjective unit to describe haircut.
13. Ladies'. The coats belong to the ladies; this is possessive, so you need an apostrophe.
14. Lie down. Don't you just want to stab this verb? I know I do.
15. You're. The apostrophe means something is missing: the a in you are.
How did you do--did you find all the mistakes? Care to share your score?
Can you think of any other common grammar or sentence construction mistakes?
Did you learn anything new?