Proofreading for everyone

Tips and hints

common misteak

Duplicate words

It’s easy to type little words twice and, if they end up in the sneakily right place in a paragraph, it’s hard to spot the duplication. Watch out for words like “the”,”of”, “and”, “air”, “salt”, “back”, “butt” and “but” hiding copies of themselves where you least expect them. Even longer words can get into stealth mode – words such as “wheelbarrow”, “submarine” and “international” – although not often.


Misspelling

Commonly misspelled words (shown with correct spelling).

  • sanitory (sanitary)
  • tendancy (tendency)
  • supercede (supersede)
  • accomodation (accommodation)
  • cemetary (cemetery)
  • ecstacy (ecstasy)
  • harrassment (harassment)

How possessive are you, really?

In French, the preposition “de” means “of” and frequently indicates ownership. For example, in the time-honoured beginner phrase “la plume de ma tante”, “de” indicates that the pen (la plume) belongs to my aunt (ma tante).

Fascinating – or not. But here’s a question: how do we indicate ownership in English? Here’s an answer: we don’t use a word at all – we use a letter! “The pen of my aunt” becomes, in our wonderfully efficient English, “my aunt’s pen.” How simple is that?

With an apostrophe, the smallest unit of punctuation (which has probably the longest name of any unit of punctuation), followed by the letter “s”, English indicates ownership of anything by anyone.

It’s brief, easily understood and adaptable to any context. Why the letter “s”? I don’t know, but I’ll investigate and tell you what I find.

In the meantime, remember that the proofreader’s job is to notice when a following “s” does not mark a plural but should be preceded by an owning apostrophe. I think you’ll agree that who owns what should not be obscured by a sloppy omission of an apostrophe.

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