By Holly Atkinson On Oct 14 2013, 8:53 am
Since becoming a Samhain editor, I’ve been asked to participate in interviews, present to local groups and speak at a regional convention. At each of these venues, I inevitably get asked some form of the following question: what are the mistakes I most commonly see in manuscripts? I’ve given it some thought, and came up with a modest list.
1.) Dangling modifiers/participle phrases—Incredibly common little buggers. This is essentially an ambiguous grammatical construct. Most commonly, authors intend to have the modifier refer to the sentence subject, but phrase it in such a way where it refers to the object. An example would be: “Walking toward a grove of trees, the clouds made swirling patterns in the sky.” We have a narrator who doesn’t identify his/herself, and grammatically speaking, the clouds are doing the walking.
2.) Simultaneous action—Also incredibly common, and often (but not always) a result of a dangling modifier. A simultaneous action, when marked by an editor, typically denotes two actions that structurally transpire concurrently when such is otherwise physically impossible. An example would be, “Mandy unlocked the door, kicking it closed behind her.” Structurally, Mandy is unlocking and closing the door at the same time, which is quite a feat.
3.) Fun with semi-colons—Semi-colons are discouraged but not outright outlawed, and one of the reasons is the many ways this poor punctuation mark has been abused. Semi-colons unite two complete sentences, but many authors tend to use them as placement for an emdash or a comma. If the clauses on either side of the semi-colon cannot survive independent of one another, then a semi-colon is not the appropriate mark. Read more…