Ever Embarrassed to Admit Your Mistakes? Sometimes I Am!

At times, my face has been as red as this font. (Except for the examples I use, let me know if I have any errors in this newsletter.) If so, I’ll send you a gift card and try not to be embarrassed.

Common Mistake #1: When parenthetical expressions stand alone, (as in the example in my sentence above) it is incorrect to place the punctuation outside the last parenthesis mark—it is correct to have the punctuation inside the mark. In contrast, a parenthetical expression that is within a complete sentence, punctuation is placed exactly as if the parenthesis were absent, as seen in my sentence below.

We’ve all been there—the report for the regional meeting shows up in hard copy with a glaring grammar mistake or typo (you didn’t catch), even though you proofed it 10 times. You blush with embarrassment when the CEO calls it to your attention during the meeting.

And many have been here—your small company’s brochures final proof was submitted to the printer and is in process. Not until then did the error jump out at you like a red light. How could you have missed it? Your budget for printing is gone, and you berate yourself in frustration knowing it’s too late to do anything about it. Your following quote is good, but oops you mistakenly placed the period outside the quotation marks, instead of inside. See: “We are geared and ready for the upswing”.     … an oops…

Common Mistake #2: Punctuation, whether a period, comma, exclamation point, or question mark is to always be placed inside the quotation marks, unlike the example and error in the last sentence in the paragraph above, where the period outside the quotation marks is like a flashing red light, blinking “wrong, wrong!”

Aggravating scenarios of such events are endless. You’re not alone. They happen to everyone, no matter how carefully you proof. Take notice of errors when you read the newspaper or books. Typos and grammar mistakes are there—even in bestsellers! The number of people who proof your copy will not always prevent errors, but the more the better.

Here are a few other suggestions that may help you achieve a near-perfect final copy.

Five Habits to Help Make Your Final Copy, Fantastic Copy:

  1. Call on other people (who have an eye for spelling, punctuation and grammar) to help you proof final copy, especially if it is a project you’ve worked on for days on end.
  2. Sleep on it. Revise and proof with fresh eyes the next day. I regret it when I don’t!
  3. Print your copy out. Read it carefully. I can’t explain it, but errors jump out on hard copy. I need a psychotherapist to tell you how the brain works on this one.
  4. Read it out loud, in a natural voice and pace. This helps assure your written content is making sense (effectively transferred from brain to paper), and also a great way to catch grammatical errors, or singular and plural mistakes.
  5. Remember you are human, not perfect. My motto is, “I will never arrive and have it all together,” because I am always learning from my mistakes. The same is true for you!

A change of perspective may help you  view your errors differently.When you make a mistake in written copy, consider writing down your error, then the correction in a small spiral notebook. Next time you are wondering where punctuation goes in quotes or parenthesis, and a multitude of other writing protocols, you’ll have your own personal reference guide.

Remember, errors can almost be welcomed when we appreciate how embarrassing mistakes bring valuable writing lessons. It’s one of the best ways to see your writing improve.

If you would like more helpful hints about the “ABC’s” of better writing, please let me know. I’m developing a complete series that will be available this month. I’ll keep you informed.

I encourage you to send me specific questions about writing errors that haunt you, or elements you are simply wondering about. I will follow up with answers and examples in June’s newsletter. Maybe you’re not sure about contractions and possession, capitalization, active nouns and verbs, clauses … hmmm …the list is endless, but I look forward to simplifying it for you!

A professional writer, not a perfect writer!


“If you can’t make a mistake, you can’t make anything.” –Marva N. Collins


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