Top Ten Common Grammatical Errors

Even the most experienced writers still make grammatical errors from time to time. The famous American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne once said that “Easy reading is damn hard writing”.

There are always some common spelling and grammatical errors that pop up to disturb the flow and comprehension of any story. Identifying and fixing these usual suspects will put you ten steps ahead of the writing game.

They’re, their and there

  • They’re is short for. “They’re English.” (“They are English.”)
  • Their is the possessive of they. “I like their English accents.”
  • There indicates a place. “They live there.”

You’re and your

  • You’re is short for you are. “You’re right.” (“You are right.”)
  • Your sits before a noun (word) to show that it belongs to it. “That is your opinion.”

It’s and its

  • It’s is short for it is. “It’s raining.” (“It is raining.”)
  • Its denotes ownership. “A leopard can’t change its spots.”

To and too

  • To denotes distance or movement. “I went to the movies.”
  • Too denotes something in addition to. “I too want to go to the movies.”

Then and than

  • Then denotes time. “We went to dinner, then we went home.”
  • Than compares. “Nike is better than Adidas.”

Who’s and whose

  • Who’s is short for who is. “Who’s that?” (“Who is that?”)
  • Whose denotes ownership. “Whose jacket is that?”

Let’s and lets

  • Let’s is short for let us. “Let’s go to the park.” (“Let us go to the park.”)
  • Lets is a verb. “He lets me use his computer.”

Loose and lose

  • Loose is a noun, as in “loose cannon” or “my belt is loose”.
  • Lose is a verb, as in “don’t lose the race” or “don’t lose your phone”.

Affect and effect

  • Affect is a verb, while effect is when you’re talking about the noun (word) itself. An experience can affect you deeply, while the experience had a great effect on you.

A lot and alright

  • A lot is always two words. Always.
  • Alright as a word for ‘satisfactory’ has grown in popular usage, as opposed to all right, which means ‘everything is fine’. To be on the safe side always use all right.

Does your book need a proofread before going to print? Blitzprint can help. Contact us today for more information at

Check out common mistakes made by self-publishing authors

What Else Goes Inside of Your Book?

Aside from the story itself, here are a few additional suggestions you will want to consider adding inside of your book.

Title Page

It’s always nice to see a clean title page when you open a book.

Copyright Page

This is where you can include your ISBN information, CIP data,  publisher/contact information, and a statement very similar to the following:

“All rights reserved–no part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, or by any information storage or retrieval system except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review, without permission in writing from the publisher.”

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What Does an Editor Do?

What-does-an-editor-doA good editor is imperative to a great story. I’ve said this before, and I will surely say it again. The question that many of you are asking though is, why? What will an editor do for me, and for my story that will make it so much better?

To begin with, an editor is a trained pair of fresh eyes—someone impartial from the outside who can come in and critique your story, without any emotional attachment. He or she is not influenced, as friends might be, by concerns for your reaction to criticism or advice.

There are different kinds of editing; below is a summary. We’re going to assume that you have already written your manuscript.

Copy Editing
Copy Editing is involved with improving the text of the story. Copy editors make sure sentences say what they mean, and mean what they say. To accomplish this, they correct grammar, punctuation, word usage (using the correct words in the correct places), and spelling (ensuring consistency throughout, whether Canadian, British, or American spelling). If sentences are awkwardly expressed or vague, copy editors will rewrite them. They also see to it that the text flows smoothly. Copy editors read the text for sense and check for coherence and internal consistency—for example, making sure a character’s eye colour or the car she drives doesn’t suddenly change a third of the way through the manuscript without an explanation.

Substantive Editing
Substantive Editing, also called structural editing, focuses on the content, organization, and presentation of the entire book. Substantive editors help authors (it’s very much a collaborative effort) shape the manuscript in the best possible way. This may include working with the author on plot and character development. It could mean eliminating extraneous material or asking the author to rewrite material or write new chapters.

Often Substantive Editing is not necessary, but when it is, it’s an invaluable service. Usually authors know that there is a problem with their story, but they’re just not sure how to fix it. That’s what substantive editors do—they fix stories, and manuscripts, so the authors can get on with their work.

Now, I know you’ve put a lot of time, love, and care into your baby, and it’s only natural that you look askance at someone who comes along and tells you your baby’s got problems. But before you take offense, take a breath. This is their job. While the critiquing may not feel warm and fuzzy, it really is, because it is constructive. The editor is trying to help you to create the best book possible, so that you can really knock everyone’s socks off. It isn’t a personal dig. Incredibly successful authors all have editors who will gladly tell them that there are parts of their story that they need to work on (and the authors are happy to take their advice!).

Proofreading involves correcting production-errors of text and illustrations. This edit looks at such things as typos, omissions, spacing, and page numbering. Once the manuscript has been edited, and the formatting, typesetting, and design is complete, a proofreader will take one last, final look over your book proof (get it, proofreading) to make sure that everything still looks right, and that nothing was overlooked. Once you have the A-okay from the proofreader, you are ready to say those beautiful words: PRINT IT!

Make sure that you are clear about what services your editor is offering you in the pricing. You want to be sure that you know what you are paying for, so that you don’t end up disappointed. Oh, and if you can, please, get the whole meal deal. It will be better in the end.

When Should I Do That?

Clients often come in to us with things a bit backwards, and we help them to get everything in order, before they start going to print. So that you can be prepared, and make the most out of your money, here are some common, “When should I do that?” topics.

get your ducks in a rowEditing
Editing should be done immediately after you have completed your final draft of your manuscript. Before it ever falls into the hands of a formatter or designer, it should have the final edits from your editor. If you take your book to an editor after you have had your book design done, you are going to be paying large amounts of money for changes to your files.

If you are having illustrations done for your book, wait until after your editing is done. Something that is in the book now may not still be there, or you may have decided to change it. You want your book to be in its final form, so that you can be sure that your illustrations will be the final illustrations. This will save you a lot of money, time and headaches.

Design & Format
Design & format should be done at the same time; preferably by the same person, if possible. This should come after editing, and illustrations, but before quoting or proofing. While it is ok to get a price quote for printing before this is done, be prepared to guess at your page count, and to resubmit your specs for pricing, because they will likely be quite different once the files are completed.

Launch Parties & Book Signings
Booking a launch party or book signing before you have your books in hand is literally putting the cart before the horse. Suddenly, you will have a deadline that is urgent ahead of you, which can lead you to rushing your book along. That is a recipe for a book that won’t be as good as it could be. Relax. It took you a long while to write your book, and it is going to take you a long while to go through the motions to have a professional, finished book. Any number of things can arise along the way, so it is best to not put yourself in a position where you will have to call people to cancel your launch. Instead, wait until your books are literally done, and in hand. Then you can go ahead and book a launch for a few weeks or months down the road. You can do all of the preparations for it, and be ready to go, but don’t set the date until you know that you have your books in your possession. This allows for Murphy’s Law to take place, without it causing you any more grief than it has to.

If you are unsure that you are doing things in the right order, give your printer or editor a call, and see what they have to say. They will likely have some good input for you.

Should I Edit My Book?

should-i-edit-my-bookThis is a question that I hear a lot.

In my opinion, yes, you should. I understand that your sister’s, husband’s cousin is a high school English teacher, and that he checked over your books, and that you are an accomplished writer who majored in English in university. I understand that you had everyone in your local writers group look over it and give you reviews. I understand that you have jumped through every inexpensive and free hoop to have others edit your book. However, unless a professional and experienced editor, being someone who went to post-secondary specifically with the intent of being an editor, who dreams of grammar and breathes syntax, and who makes this their bread and butter, works with your book, it really isn’t going to mean much.

But it’s expensive!!!

Ok, so it costs money, and that isn’t something that grows on trees. I get that. I understand that you have put a lot of work into this book, and that you feel like, now, that you have completed the writing process, you are done. You want to get this show on the road, and get this baby printed, converted to an eBook, just on the market already.

I have to ask you though, would you do your hair up, or spend some time putting on your makeup, and then proceed to waltz out of your house naked? Not likely. I also imagine that you wouldn’t feel like you had put your time in after a few years of raising your kids, and send them off into the world on their own at five either. I know that these are extreme analogies, but really, it’s true. If your book isn’t polished, then it really isn’t ready for literary consumption yet. Would you think that it would be fair for you to pay for a book and not have it be the best that it could be?

I’m not giving my book up to some stranger, just so that they can mess it up!

I know that it can be a scary thought, as well. Many authors self-publish because they don’t want to lose control over their content. The thought of giving their book to an editor and saying, here you go, do as you wish, it is intimidating. It is important that you find an editor that you are comfortable with, and that you are sure is the right fit. Get them to do a couple sample pages for you, using pages where you are the most concerned about the content, and see what they do. Express clearly to them what you are trying to convey, and what tone you are trying to set. Then, once you are sure that you have the right person for the job, trust them.

They are there to help you, and to help your book. They are only being honest and looking out for you if they tell you that something is wrong with the way that you wrote that sentence, or that you have a part in your book that doesn’t actually pertain to the story. They aren’t trying to bully you. Also, if you get an editor that uses a format like Word, where you can choose to accept or reject changes, you have the power to do just that.  Listen to what they have to say, learn from them, and grow as an author in the process.

At the end of the day, though, I will tell you what I tell all of our authors, the decision is yours to make.

Brushing Up Your English – Part 3

Contributed by Jens Petersen

Here are some more common errors I encounter when editing text. Writers could save themselves money if they carefully reviewed their own manuscripts or articles before submitting them for editing. There are many useful sites on the Internet that list common grammar and usage problems (like my list below). Create your own list and use it to check your manuscript. The “Find & Replace” function in Word is great for finding individual words in a document.

Now you have a checklist to go through, like a pilot preparing to take off—only in your case, you’re preparing to send your manuscript off to the editor.


1/ passed   past

passed” is the past tense of the verb “to pass”. For example,
“He passed the library.”
“She passed the test.”

past” is a preposition (and also an adjective, noun, adverb) but NOT a verb. It locates something in time, and sometimes in space. For example,
“It is half past two.”
“My house is just past the library.”

Write “The train passed the village.” NOT “The train past the village.”


2/ sew   sow 

sew” refers to working with a needle and thread or a sewing machine.

For example,
“I sewed a button on my coat.”

sow” means to scatter or plant seeds.

For example, the following well-known sayings,
“You reap what you sow.”
“He wanted to sow his wild oats.”
When “sow” is rhymed with “cow”, it means an adult female hog.


3/  affect  effect

a] “affect” is a verb that means to have an influence on. For example,
“The drug affects his ability to concentrate.”

b] “effect” is a noun that means a result or influence. For example,
“The drug had no effect on him.”

effect” can ALSO be a verb that means to achieve or bring about. For example,

“Her organization wanted to effect major changes in society.”


4/ Here are some other small errors I find all the time in manuscripts and articles.

NOT “I had a couple beers.” BUT “I had a couple of beers.”

NOT “There were every day sales.” BUT “There were everyday sales.”
(“everyday” is an adjective describing a noun, whereas “every day” is an adverb describing a verb, for example, “She went to school every day.”

NOT “The book has a short forward.” BUT “The book has a short foreword.”
(I get this one a lot—“forward” is the opposite of “backward”.)

NOT “She found the cereal in the third isle.” BUT “She found the cereal in the third aisle.”
(A small island is an “isle”.)


Jens Petersen is an editor with a wide range of clients. He primarily edits books, but also articles, brochures, advertising, etc. For more information, check his LinkedIn profile at
He can be reached at

Brushing up Your English – Part 2

Contributed by Jens Petersen

1. its  it’s

“its” is a possessive pronoun adjective like my, her, his, our, etc., and does not have an apostrophe, for example, “The dog wagged its tail.” If you use the apostrophe, what you are really saying is, “The dog wagged it is tail.”

“it’s” is a contraction of it is or it has, for example, It’s not my dog”, or “It’s got a cute face.”

2. Their  there  they’re

I often find writers confusing these three words.

“their” is a possessive pronoun used to show ownership, for example, “Their house is for sale.”

“there” is used with the verb “to be” to indicate the existence of something, for example, “There is a sale at the mall.”

“they’re” is a contraction of they and are, for example, “They’re closing the mall.”

3. loose  lose

“loose” is an adjective (and also a verb). As an adjective, it means the opposite of tight or contained, for example, “I have a loose tooth.”

“lose” is a verb that means to suffer the loss of, or miss, for example, “Don’t lose your keys.”

One way to remember the difference between the two words is to think that “Lose has lost an ‘o'”.

4. Many writers nowadays have a terrible time forming plural nouns and possessive nouns.

Here is how to form plural nouns. When you are talking about more than one boy, you simply add an “s”, for example, “The boy came this morning”, becomes “The boys came this morning.” (DO NOT USE AN APOSTROPHE WHEN FORMING A SIMPLE PLURAL, i.e. DO NOT write, “The boy’s/boys’ came this morning.”)

Here is how to form singular and plural possessive nouns. If there is one boy with a hat, you would write, “The boy’s hat is red”, or if there are several boys with hats, you would write, “The boys’ hats are red.” For nouns that are already plural, like “children”, you form the plural this way, “children’s”.

Jens Petersen is an editor with a wide range of clients. He primarily edits books. For more information, check his LinkedIn profile at can be reached at

Brushing up Your English by Jens Petersen

your-is-not-equal-to-youreIf you need to brush up on your English, there’s an easy and painless way to start. Here are four common errors I encounter when editing books. Study them well and check them in your own work.

1/ your you’re

your” is a possessive adjective like my, her, his, our, etc. Write “Here is your book.”

“you’re” is a contraction of “you are”. “You’re welcome” really means “You are welcome.”

Remember: “Your writing will improve if you’re careful about this.”

2/ peak peek pique

peak” can be a noun, referring to “a high point”. It can also be used as a verb meaning “to reach a high point” or an adjective meaning “excellent”.

Write “He is at the peak of his career.” “That mountain has a high peak.”

peek” can be a noun meaning “a quick look” or a verb meaning “to take a quick look.”

Write “Take a peek at my website.” “Close your eyes; don’t peek.”

pique” is a verb meaning “to arouse or stimulate”.

Write “Her speech piqued my interest.”

3/ off of, could of

The preposition “of” is often misused.

In the phrase “off of”, the word “of” is redundant.

Write “He jumped off the pier.” NOT “He jumped off of the pier.” “could of” should be “could’ve” or “could have”. In speech the “ve” in “could’ve” sounds like “of”—hence the misspelling.

Write “I could’ve come to the party.” NOT “I could of come to the party.”

4/ lie lay

To use these verbs properly, you must first memorize their principal parts.

lay laid laid

The action of this verb always acts on some other object. There is always an answer to the question “Laid what?”—it’s a transitive verb.

“He lays [what?] the book on the table.”
“He laid [what?] the book on the table yesterday.”
“He had laid [what?] the book on the table before you came in.”

In these examples, the book is the object acted upon.

lie lay lain

The action of this verb does not act on some other object. You cannot “lie” something. The verb is intransitive.

“He lies on the bed.”
“He lay on the bed yesterday.”
“He has lain on the bed for several hours.”

The tricky bit with these verbs is that the present tense of the first verb (to lay) is the same as the simple past of the second verb (to lie).

Write “He lay down on the bed yesterday.” NOT “He laid down on the bed yesterday.”

Write “Why don’t you lie down on the bed.” NOT “Why don’t you lay down on the bed.”

Jens Petersen is an editor with a wide range of clients. He primarily edits books, but also articles, brochures, advertising, etc. For more information, check his LinkedIn profile at He can be reached at