One word or two? (Mistake #23)

I doubt there are many editors who would reject work featuring one or more of the following minor bloopers. But I see them a lot. Curiously, I also see inconsistency in close proximity – “every day I get up and everyday I have breakfast” – which always makes me wonder whether the writers must have …

“These markets just aren’t me!” (Mistake #22)

Know the magazine I’d like to write for? Pick’n’Mix Magazine – the monthly for lovers of all forms of confectionary, sweets and chocolate bars. It has 100-odd pages of editorial and the editor actively seeks contributors to write about their favourite candy and review the latest launches from Lindt. Pick’n’Mix pays above NUJ recommended rates, …

Numbers with character (Mistake #20)

It’s summer. Everybody’s been talking about hot temperatures. Here’s the Press Association, here’s Sky, here’s the Daily Record, and here’s the Daily Express, all insisting that a temperature can be hot. But it can’t. Temperature is a number. A number can be high. A number can be low. A number can be average. What a …

“Oh $&#£ off!” (Mistake #19)

A couple of months ago I read a BMJ editorial by Rhona Flin, Professor of Applied Psychology at the University of Aberdeen, in which she argued that experiencing or witnessing rudeness at work makes you more likely to make mistakes. This would seem to be common sense, although it’s not something to which I’d previously …

Book review: The Writer’s Handbook 2011

‘The complete guide for all writers, publishers, editors, agents and broadcasters’ is back with a new edition – almost 800 dense pages of contacts, resources and advice. It’s for novelists, of course, and short-story writers too; poets, as well, and playwrights. But it’s what it has to offer non-fiction writers that concerns me for the …

Not investing in your career (Mistake #17)

I want to say upfront that in my experience British people are not cheap. They are quite happy to spend money on holidays, on home improvements, on clothes, on gadgets, on cars, on … pretty much anything. And they don’t only treat themselves. Brits are notoriously generous when it comes to, say, Christmas gifts and …

Admitting ignorance (Mistake #16)

A weird one this, but I’ve seen it a fair bit, so thought it deserved a few lines. As a writer, you must be authoritative. You might not be an expert in the subject about which you are writing, but for the duration of those 800 or 1,200 words, you need to act as if …

Ampersand Anarchy (Mistake #15)

Okay, it’s a pet hate, but it’s still wrong, and you really shouldn’t do it. This is the ampersand: &. It is stylised from the Latin word for and, which is et. It has very specific uses, and almost always exclusively in the context of proper names, such as in company names, in an artistic …

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