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Proofreader Pet Peeves List #1

Proofreader Pet Peeves List #1

Proofreader Pet Peeves List #1

Unbeknownst to me, last week was the American Copy Editors Society‘s Annual Conference, an event that I plan to investigate more as a possiblity for me to attend in the future. At this event, Buzzfeed staff thought “this presented a great opportunity to find out what really grinds the gears of some self-professed word nerds” and posted some of their humorous findings.

Reading through the Buzzfeed list got me to thinking about my personal pet peeves as I proofread RPGs and game manuals. Please do not think of these pet peeves in a negative way. I am sharing them to encourage writers and developers to be aware of proper usage and to remind proofreaders and editors to keep a watchful eye.  These first three pet peeves came to me instantly because they are items I identified in many of the books I have worked on recently. I have the habit now that one of the first things I do when proofreading a document is search for the words discussed below. This gives me a quick jump on my proofreading of the document.

  • affect vs effect
    In the most common usage, affect is a verb while effect is a noun. What I have seen most often is effect used throughout a document, even when affect is what is meant. Often affect does not show up in the document at all. This is one that can catch writers because spell checks will not find this error without grammar checking enabled. Some text editors do not have grammar checking, so this error will not be identified at all by those autocheck systems.
  • its vs it’s
    To clarify, its is a possessive pronoun while it’s is a contraction for it is or it has. It is so easy to fall into the pattern of ‘s declaring the possessive element to a name or pronoun. I see this most often used incorrectly in creature and equipment descriptions in RPGs, like “it’s weapons” or “it’s natural habitat.” Sometimes the best option to clarify such texts is to replace the pronoun with the proper name or rewrite the sentence.
  • their vs there vs they’re
    The joys of homophones in the English language. So easy to mistype these words. Much like affect and effect, spell checkers will not even declare their/there/they’re without grammar checking. Most often I see there used incorrectly throughout the document, likely because it is the easiest to type quickly. Autocorrect on many devices will also default to there if you mistype the other two words by leaving out letters or transposing letters.

I am sure there will be a Proofreader Pet Peeves List #2 in the future, but for now, what are your personal word and grammar pet peeves when editing and proofreading? Are there similar lists of pet peeves for art directors or layout specialists?

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12 thoughts on “Proofreader Pet Peeves List #1

  1. Sandy

    “Some text editors do not have grammar checking, so this error will not be identified at all MY those autocheck systems.”
    Err…what word is MY supposed to be in the above sentence from the affect vs. effect section?

    And speaking of affect vs. effect, I dimly remember being taught in grammar school that affect referred to emotions, and effect referred to something physical…has this changed?

    (grinning at catching a possible error by a proof reader)

    1. T.R. Knight Post author

      Good catch on the “my” which should be “by.” Even proofreaders make mistakes, especially in their blogs which they do not read as carefully.

      The definitions of affect and effect have changed over the years to the point both can be verbs or nouns depending on usage. It is the common use of those words that is so often done in error.

      1. Sandy

        I wasn’t asking about noun vs. verb usage. So many words have been verb-ified…(ick, but I don’t remember what the usual word for the changing of a noun into a verb) but as far as I remember affect and effect were always both nouns and verbs. I was asking if the difference in definition/meaning between affect and effect has changed…? Many words that used to mean different things have been elided into each other in the intervening years between my grammar school and now.

  2. David Miller

    ROLF! Excellent peeves!

    My biggest is the lack of proper use of the letter U in many words, such as colour, neighbourhood, humour, rumour, behaviour, armour, and so on.

    *shakes fist in air, yells out “Noah Webster”*

    Don’t get me started on defence, centre, travelled, masque, publick, et cetera

    As a proud French Canadian who honours proper English spelling, I blame any writing errors on being a frog! =p

    1. T.R. Knight Post author

      I don’t consider those writing errors, just cultural uniqueness. :) I make sure I ask the writer/publisher which English I am proofreading before I begin. Interesting to note that a significant portion of my proofreading work so far has been in Queen’s English even though my native language is American English. My wife notes it has begun to impact my personal writing, especially in quotations and comma usage.

    1. T.R. Knight Post author

      Teddy Roosevelt is my favorite US president so I appreciate the “Bully” letter. He established the National Parks in the US. We share initials but I am not named after him.

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