“Except for a tragic accident, the 35th annual Bath Heritage Days parade went off without a hitch.” The Times Record (Bath, Maine). A tragic accident is a minor deviation from going off without a hitch!
“The Patchwork Quilt Guild met to celebrate Christmas with a gift and cookie exchange. Kay Hanley wore a necklace and she was lit up and flashing all during the meeting.” From the Fallon (Montana) County Times. What was in the punch?Each of these examples violates both a rule of grammar and common sense. In this case, forget about the rules, because very few people mentally thumb through rule books as they write. Hopefully you’ll catch these as you reread. Use these tips to up the odds of finding errors like these and other less amusing ones before your general readership does.
“Hundreds of marijuana plants were discovered growing in a south Lakeland home Saturday. Two were arrested.” From the (Polk County, Florida) Ledger. Only two out of hundreds?
“Domestic diva Martha Stewart still needs a crutch to lean on as she recovered from hip surgery during a cocktail party in the Hamptons.” From the Globe. Most of us have surgery in a hospital.
“On All-Star weekend, the city gleamed with banners welcoming visitors hanging from lampposts.” From the Titusville (Pennsylvania) Herald. What about the visitors who persist in walking around?
- Set your work aside for a day or more. A week or month is even better. Letting some time pass weakens the memory of writing those words and refreshes your vision.
- Read your work aloud. If you can get someone to listen as you read, so much the better. If not, read it aloud just as if someone were sitting there. This requires you to focus on each word.
- Trade proofreading with a writing pal. E-mail works well for this purpose.
- Show it to a critique group, local or online.
- Hire an editor. This step is calling in the big guns, not a step you take for casual material.
Write now: if you don’t already have one, find a writing buddy or two, and also a critique group. Do an online search to look for groups. Margot Finke published an excellent article on this topic. You’ll find other suggestions in my post, "What to Do When You Can’t Afford an Editor."