Probably you have realized that one of the limitations of spellcheck is that it doesn’t notice missed words or stray extraneous words. Perhaps more problematic is that it doesn’t do away with word confusions. One possibility is to have someone knowledgeable proofread your work. Another is to recognize that you need to shape up and do something about it.
For each of the following word pairs, write a sentence using each word correctly.
farther/further mantel/mantle anxious /eager. lie /lay
can /may accept/except affect/effect adverse/averse elicit/illicit
among/between advice/advise complement/compliment
eminent/imminent fewer/less if/whether imply/infer liable/likely
nauseous/nauseated morale/moral precede/proceed raise/rear
raise/rise principal/principle stationery/stationary that/which
Check your sentences against a dictionary. Learn the differences. Even one misuse from this list is likely to get your entire manuscript tagged as amateur.
On Saturday, October 2, 1:00 p.m., my coauthor and I will be reading from our recently published book DARK HARBOR: A Chesapeake Bay Mystery. The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Atlee Library in Atlee, Virginia, but it is open to the public, and free.
Identifying unnecessary details is especially difficult for new writers. How do you separate the telling details that add realism and depth from those that distract the reader and slow the narrative?
There is no easy call. All you can do is examine descriptive phrases and ask yourself, “Does it matter?” For example, if a woman is reluctantly delving into a box of memorabilia, does it matter whether she sits down on the edge of a queen size bed? Whether she is sitting down on the beige carpet as she opens the box? Both instances are wordy and weak. They should be tightened up and included only if they contribute to the narrative.
Sometimes it’s a matter of placement: e.g., telling us a character is dressed in baggy jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt with the logo “Too God to be True,” and had hot chocolate made with whole milk and a slice of cold cheese pizza for breakfast could be great character notes. But if these details are tagged on to sentences about resenting a change in routine, or a parent’s death, they feel distracting and irrelevant.
Bottom line: put in details that matter.