Everyone makes a mistake every now and then; no one's perfect. However, mistakes made repeatedly in one story or in one person's writing will annoy your readers. So I've compiled a list of some of the most commonly made mistakes into a primer of sorts to help fic writers. We can't all have great betas or be grammar gurus so, hopefully, this will head off some of the more common and egregious mistakes I've encountered while surfing some of the QAF fic sites.
People can take this anyway they want to but I didn't do it to embarrass anyone in particular although I could have linked to numerous examples. There are a lot of good ideas out there that are hindered by less than perfect grammar or poor formatting. If the point is to have people read your work, then you want to put your best face forward—not one that's covered in dirt. And if anyone takes this as an invitation or challenge to go through my stories with a fine-toothed comb and point out all my mistakes to me, go for it. I'm sure there are a lot.
People's Names | Place Names | Plurals vs. Possessive Case/Contractions | Homophones | Grammar | Formatting | Miscellaneous
- People's names: If you don't trust my spellings, check out the Showtime site.
- Brian Kinney not Brain Kinney
Michael Novotny aka Mikey not Mickey
Debbie Novotny not Debby Novotny
Lindsay Peterson not Lindsay Petersen
Melanie Marcus not Melanie Markus
Brian lives off Tremont; Trenton is the capital of New Jersey where, as far as I know, no one as fabulous as Brian would be caught dead (apologies to anyone who lives there).
Pittsburgh is where they live, not Pittsburg.
Carnegie Mellon is the name of a university in Pittsburgh; Carnegie-Melon is apparently a new species of gourd.
Curbs are found along the edges of sidewalks; I don't know what a kerb is. **See Incorrect Jargon/Information below
You have dinner in a diner not the other way around.
- Plurals versus the Possessive Case/Contractions:
- In general, the apostrophe indicates the possessive case or a contraction.
- "I love boys;" not "I love boy's."
- "I love boys' asses;" not "I love boys
asses;" or "I love boy's asses." [The last one implies that one boy has more than one ass. If he's a donkey herder, maybe so.]
Its and It's
It's is a contraction of "it is" or "it was"; its is the possessive form of it.
- It's cold as hell inside the loft.
- I love Brian's loft; its look is minimalist.
Your and You're
Your is the possessive form of you and you're is a contraction of you and
are or were
- "I love your ass;" not "I love you're ass."
- "You're a twat;" not "Your a twat."
- Lose and Loose
You may lose your watch if the band is loose around your arm.
Site and Sight
Site refers to a place; sight is something that is seen or the act of
- "I went to this hetero porn web site."
- Brian couldn't believe the sight before his eyes; Justin was beautiful. [Unless, of course, Brian was looking at a porn web site and Justin was featured.]
Too and To
Too means also; to is a verb.
- "I love you too."
- "I am going to the office."
Bear and Bare
Bear is an animal or a hairy gay guy who's into a certain scene; bare is what you are if you're undressed. Bear can also mean to endure or tolerate.
- Correct: Brian gave Gus a teddy bear.
- Correct: Justin couldn't bear any more of Brian's bullshit.
- Incorrect: Justin's bear ass looked good. [I don't think anyone would consider Justin a bear by any stretch of the imagination although he does have a rather hairy butt.]
You capitalize proper nouns such as people's names, the names of places, and brand names of foods, items, etc.
- "Hi, Brian;" not "Hi, brian."
- Brian and Justin live in Pittsburgh not pittsburgh.
- Brian drinks Jim Beam not jim beam.
You don't capitalize common nouns unless they are used as proper nouns.
- "Hi, Mother;" but not "Brian's Mother came over."
- "I brought champagne;" not "I brought Champagne," unless, of course, the brand name is Champagne which would not be very creative on anyone's part.
There should be some sort of punctuation at the end of every sentence. If a sentence trails off or ends abruptly, use an ellipsis/ellipses (…)or a dash (-).
In general, you use commas to separate a person's name from the rest of the sentence in spoken dialogue.
- "Justin, get your ass over here;" not "Justin get your ass over here."
Question marks (?) are used at the end of interrogative sentences; exclamation
marks (!) at the end of exclamatory sentences and periods (.) at the end of declarative sentences.
- "Justin, get your ass over here!" not "Justin, get your ass over here?"
unless Brian's asking him a question instead of telling him to do something.
Punctuation marks generally go inside the quotation marks in dialogue.
- "Brian, what's wrong?" not "Brian, what's wrong"?
It is important to keep verb tenses in the proper sequence so as not to disrupt the coherence of time in your writing.* It is customary not to change tenses in the same paragraph unless you are indicating that something took place or will take place at a different time from the current tense.
- Incorrect: Brian went into the shower. He comes out and sees Justin on the bed. [These are sequential events and should have the same verb tenses.]
- Correct: Brian went into the shower. He came out and saw Justin on the bed.
- It's customary to put line spaces between paragraphs. It's very difficult to read a
story that is single-spaced all the way through even if it's a very short story.
"Where's Sunshine?" asked Deb, taking out her order pad. "Don't tell me you dumped him somewhere?"
Brian rolled his eyes. "I'm not a camp counselor."
"And if you were, what camp would that be?" asked Ted. "Camp Fuck-a-Lot?"
Michael, Em, and Deb laughed while Brian said nothing, just stuck out his tongue.
"So where is the Boy Wonder?" asked Michael, unnecessarily consulting the menu.
Stretching his arm out along the back of the seat, Brian nudged Michael's head and replied, "Having din-din with Daphne."
Deb smiled. "I like her. She's cute. They're both cute." She snorted. "Too bad she doesn't have a cock. Your problems would be solved, Brian."
"How," inquired Michael. "You think Justin would go for her instead?"
"Nah. Just that with two of them to satisfy, he'd be too tired to go out and get into trouble."
The entire table burst out laughing, even Brian.
"So what'll it be, boys? And, by the way, Brian, we're out of your favorite."
Regretting it even as he asked, he said, "And what would that be?"
Eyes twinkling with mischief, she replied, "Chicken."
It's customary to put dialogue spoken by different people on different lines. There are some exceptions, but they are exceptions and not the rule.
Conversely, you don't split up the same person's dialogue onto separate lines unless they're telling a really long story and even then you leave open quotes at the end of one section before continuing onto the next to alert the reader to the fact. The exception is if there is descriptive text between the sections, in which case you can close the end quotes on one section of dialogue before continuing to the next on a separate line. See Fairy Tale for an example.
- Misspelled & Misused Words
A dictionary or spell check are your friends; use them. Most people can tell when someone's purposely making up a word but sometimes it's difficult to know if the author is aware of his or her mistake. Conversely, spell check won't help you if you use a correctly spelled word in the wrong context.
- "copulescent": As far as I can tell this is a combination of copulation and opalescent which means this word means fucking opal.
- "Brian looked into Justin's eyes seeking confrontation.": I think this person meant seeking confirmation. [BTW: I paraphrased the actual sentence; this is not a direct quote.]
- "bet reputation": I think this person meant bad reputation.
This has to do with not doing the barest amount of research in order to appear authoritative. No one expects writers to be experts in everything but the bare minimum of effort is required if you don't want your readers to be thrust out of the moment by careless mistakes. Think of the blue gloves on the emergency workers in episode 22 of season one of QAF. That mistake clued everyone in to the fact that the show is not shot in the US. How many people didn't complain about that?
- "Principal of PIFA": In the US, colleges and universities have deans, chairs, chancellors, and presidents not principals. Principals and headmasters are the heads of schools at the elementary, junior high, and high school level.
- Kerb for curb: Someone sent me an email telling me that kerb is the British form of curb. Here's a heads up: Pittsburgh is in the US not England. Spread it around.
- Justin receiving a PhD in Psychology from PIFA: Art schools don't generally award advanced degrees at the PhD level, especially in non-art subjects. And even if they did, I think it would take longer than four years to get three degrees since you normally have to have been awarded a bachelor's and master's degree before you receive a PhD.
- Brian driving a stick shift with a broken collarbone: As far as I know, it takes two hands to drive a stick shift since you have to shift gears as you're driving which means both hands are employed. I suppose he could drive with his knees.
- Justin graduating from college and becoming an Art Director or Partner in any kind of firm: Yeah, that's just what I'd want, to trust my multi-million dollar business to a 22-year-old no matter how talented.
- Fisting: As the word implies, you have to get your entire hand in there, thumb included, before it counts. Anything less and it's just a good time. If you don't believe me, check with the experts
- Stimulating someone's prostate orally while rimming them: Below is a diagram of the male reproductive system. If Brian can get his tongue up Justin's ass that far and stimulate his prostate, he should replace Gene Simmons in Kiss and Justin's nickname should be Open Air Market.
I will be adding things as I come across them or think of them. If you need additional grammar/style guidance, check out English Usage, Style & Composition
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