Tips for Writers: Forgivable Errors? (Plus Contest)

Grammar Nazi

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I live in a small town served by a small-town newspaper. The paper is owned by Gannett, however, so in theory it should have pretty high standards of journalism. Usually it does, but too frequently there are errors that are impossible to overlook.

For example, in yesterday’s paper there was an article about vacation homes. It was an interesting piece and I read it closely. In the middle, I came across these three consecutive paragraphs:

The atmosphere was tranquil and peaceful, and the perfect place to lay back in a hammock and enjoy the quiet. Beautifully kept grounds and acres of endless lawn provided the perfect location for my little ones to run to their hearts content without the concern of a busy road or traffic.

 

It truly was the perfect getaway, and it seemed like, for a few days, we had our own little piece of paradise.

 

You may be surprised at the amount of vacation rentals available right in our own back yard.

Are there no editors? Three consecutive paragraphs, each with one or more errors. There are no excuses. None. I don’t care if it’s small-town paper or a high-school weekly. No wonder the skills of readers and writers are deteriorating if experienced journalists find this junk acceptable.

I count at least four, arguably five mistakes in those three paragraphs. Want to play along? Can you spot all five? Post in the comments below. The first person to identify all five wins a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss (although that person doesn’t need it—I should give it to the author of the article instead).

8 thoughts on “Tips for Writers: Forgivable Errors? (Plus Contest)”

  1. Oh dear.

    The atmosphere was tranquil and peaceful, and IT WAS the perfect place to LIE back in a hammock and enjoy the quiet.

    …to run to their HEARTS’ content without the concern of a busy road or traffic.

    It truly was the perfect getaway, and it seemed AS IF, for a few days, we had our own little piece of paradise.

    You may be surprised at the NUMBER of vacation rentals available right in our own back yard.

    1. Katharine, YOU WIN! Those were the 5 errors I saw (although I would have been content to remove the comma in the first line, I like your solution better). I’ll gladly you send you my copy of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.

  2. I probably see some different things, but:

    1. “Tranquil” is “peaceful.” Repetitive.
    2. “Atmosphere” is not a “perfect place.” It isn’t a place at all.
    3. “Lie back” not “lay back.”
    4. Foul called for overuse of the word “perfect”: three times in two paragraphs.
    5. “Hearts content” cries out for an apostrophe.
    6. A “busy road” by definition has “traffic” of some kind, whether it be cars, people, or water buffalo. Again, repetitive filler to boost word count.
    7. “It seemed like” reeks of wishy-washiness (sp?). Either it was a paradise or not.
    8. The “may” vs. “might” crisis, I avoid as much as possible. So who knows for sure? Doesn’t scream at me, but I’d have to look it up to be sure.
    9. “Amount of vacation rentals” should be “number…”
    10. “Back yard” should be “backyard.”
    11. Hopefully all of the “it” and “you” action makes sense within the context of the article. Their use is a bit disconcerting in the stand-alone paragraphs.
    12. I’ll stop now.

  3. I think you guys ( or should I say all of you?) are just a bit toooooooo picky. Can you even enjoy a book without picking it apart? I would hate to be your friend and have to rethink everything I said or wrote. You are missing out of knowing some really great people by only listening to/reading their grammer instead of what the person is trying to convey. Each story is different when it is said/read different. If it were always done perfectly, it would be BORING. Lighten up

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