Mistakes So Bright I’ve Got to Wear Shades

Glaring Errors that Blind the Reader

Previous blogs have discussed “vial trolls” who aren’t captured by the machine grammar/spell-checkers.  Other errors can also escape the machine.  Some of them even escape us.  Here are three identified glaring errors:

1st: Irregular Verbs

2nd: Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers (coming up next)

3rd: Clear Pronoun Reference (coming up after)

Let’s play.

  • Irregular Verbs

Some fossils are interesting.

Some fossils are scary.

Irregular verbs are fossils from Old English, when the language itself was a dialect of German, waiting eagerly to be intermixed with Norse and French.

We often spot other people’s problems with the common irregular verbs.

TAKE >> I take, I took, I have taken:  Not “have tooken”, sweetheart; taken.

BUY >> I buy, I bought, I have bought.  Now I’m broke.

SLEEP >> I sleep, I slept, I have slept.  I am going to sleep again!

SWIM >> I swim, I swam, I have swum in the past and want to do so again on this hot day!  Whew! But not with that scary fossil.

We know the balloon burst (not bursted—or busted)!

We’ve got that the shoes stink and stank and have stunk up the entire house.

Some fossils have altered over time.  LEAP once had “leapt” but now is “leaped”.  SLEEP, however, is not becoming “sleeped”.

Even with all our knowledge, irregular verbs can trip us up.

Why, oh why, oh why?

It’s the not-so-common irregular verbs that slink into our writing and fling our readers across the room when we use them improperly.

SLAY (Watch out, writers of historical novels and fantasy) >> I slay the trolls.  I slew the trolls.  I have slain the trolls and will do so again.

BID (Here is the perfect verb to use when using dialog to create a sense of history.) >> “I bid you goodbye.”  “Look, Agatha, he bade her goodbye.”  He has bidden her goodbye and left hours ago.  Catch him before he turns into a fossil.

STRIVE >> We strive.  We strove.  We have striven.  (I encounter the error “strived” constantly in books by one author and keep intending to write an email.  Maybe it’s better if I don’t.)

WEAVE >> She weaves when driving while drunk.  That driver wove over the center line.  Because she has woven off the road, we dialed 911.

English has a lot of fossilized words, some of them no longer in use except in crossword puzzles and idiomatic expressions.  “Eke” and “wend”, the “kith” of “kith and kin”, and other words are ones that we often give “short shrift” ;).  Check them out.  Type “fossils of English language” into a search engine and up they pop (along with images of scary fossils).

Language fossils can be the very thing to give a historical or interesting touch for your setting or one of your characters.  {BUT avoid the Yoda gimmick, discussed in the last blog, “Switch It Up”.}

It’s up to you to determine if language fossils are interesting or scary, help or hindrance.

As it is, if you notice—or someone kindly tells you—that you have problems with
certain words, it will never hurt to check a dictionary, whether a walking dictionary or an “official” one in print.

My walking dictionary never failed to tell me when my use of “prove” and “proved” was invariably wrong.  I miss my walking dictionary.

Dictionaries are your friend.

And online dictionaries are really fast!

So, here’s my tribute to my walking dictionary.